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Friday, June 10, 2016

Students From Around the World Learn About the Power of Capitalism

With FEE and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism


This past Memorial Day weekend, FEE and the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC) partnered to host the “Capitalism: Unlocking Human Potential” seminar at Clemson University. This three-day seminar kicked off FEE’s Summer Seminar series and brought together sixty-seven students to discuss the biggest myths about markets and explore the social, cultural, and moral outcomes of a thriving commercial sector. 

Speakers included FEE’s president, Larry Reed; editor of The Objective Standard, Craig Biddle; Executive Director of CISC, Dr. C Bradley Thompson; former editor of FEE.org and The Freeman magazine, Max Borders; and author of The Capitalist Manifesto, Dr. Andrew Bernstein. 

Friday morning, Larry Reed opened the seminar with his lecture, “Seven Principles of a Free Society.”  Mr. Reed’s speech immediately grabbed the students’ attention as he supported his points with stories from history that effectively demonstrated ideas such as property rights and individual liberty. Students seemed hooked by Mr. Reed’s speech and discussion flowed after the lecture.

Craig Biddle followed with his talk “The Source and Nature of Rights,” introducing an Objectivist perspective into the discussion about human rights. Mr. Biddle emphasized the crucial nature of human rights in any functioning society and how these rights ought to stem from logic and reason. 

Another voice for Objectivism, Dr. Thompson spoke about how self-interest is a force for good. In his lecture “Self-Interest Rightly Understood,” he provided an important reminder that actions rooted in self-interest work for the benefit of others as well. Dr. Thompson demonstrated through several real-life examples how acting in one’s self interest is good for society as a whole and that if someone abuses this principle they will also suffer. 

The last lecture of the day was “The Trader Principle,” given by Dr. Andrew Bernstein. Dr. Bernstein began the lecture by introducing the idea that trade benefits both parties involved and that it is not a zero-sum game. Through trade, both parties can receive something of greater subjective value for something of lesser subjective value.

Later in the evening, students gathered in downtown Clemson to get to know each other better and to discuss ideas. Conversation was lively and students and faculty mingled and networked for most of the night.

After students grabbed some breakfast and coffee, Craig Biddle opened day two of the conference by talking about “Rights Protecting Government and Objective Law.” Mr. Biddle discussed the different kinds of government and the importance of a government that respects individuals’ rights. He concluded that social development can be significantly hindered by a government that removes individual rights.

This was then followed by a debate between Craig Biddle and Max Borders, on whether moral diversity was an asset or a liability when making the case for capitalism. Coming from a position of rational egoism, Mr. Biddle argued that different moral backgrounds and beliefs ultimately hinder the growth of freedom. Alternatively, Mr. Borders defended his position that different belief systems can find unity through liberty. The debate was spirited and the students were very active in asking questions at the close of the debate.

After the debate, Dr. Bernstein gave a lecture on “The History of Capitalism in the 19th Century.” His lecture provided a history of the growth of capitalism through outlining several “power-players” who helped to push capitalism forward during the 1800s. Dr. Bernstein also showed the positive effects that capitalism had on the people of that time.

Max Borders presented his first talk on the topic of political corruption. As even he admitted, the topic can be defeating to discuss as the presence of corruption just continues to produce even more corruption. He explained that corruption interferes with capitalism and impedes the fairness of the market. 

The day concluded with Dr. Bernstein’s question, “Is Money the Root of all Evil?” Dr. Bernstein clearly demonstrated that the only logical answer to that question is, “No!” Money is a utility that helps facilitate free trade between individuals.

Following another evening of socializing, Max Borders began the final day of the conference by talking about the importance of “Entrepreneurship & Creating Value.” Mr. Borders lecture filled the students with hope as they learned about the role entrepreneurship plays in pushing society forward and creating wealth. Mr. Borders also explained how entrepreneurship can help to combat controlling governments. 

Bookending the seminar, Larry Reed gave the final lecture titled, “The Moral Defense of Capitalism.” Mr. Reed again used historical examples of individuals who defended freedom and liberty no matter the personal cost. His lecture, coupled with the lecture given by Mr. Borders, instilled hope in the students, inspiring them to go out and accomplish great things in the name of liberty.

Throughout the seminar, students had the opportunity to discuss the themes and ideas presented to them. Whether it was during scheduled discussion times, nightly socials, or free time on campus, the students found time to engage in lively discussion with each other as well as the faculty speakers.

“Capitalism: Unlocking the Human Potential” was a rousing success. Both students and speakers felt that the conference helped to explain key issues, offered new and intriguing perspectives, and provided an environment to debate core principles. The students left the conference knowing more about how capitalism can make the world a better place and how they can be the ones to help achieve that goal.


  • Elizabeth Sorby is a 2015 graduate from Kennesaw State University, where she majored in International Affairs, concentrating in International and Diplomatic Service, and minored in Peace Studies.

  • David Kirk is a Summer Programs Associate at FEE. He currently attends Grove City College where he is pursuing a degree in Political Science. David has had a passion for free markets and individual liberty ever since he attended his first FEE seminar as a freshman in high school. He hopes to pursue a career as a lobbyist after graduating in May of 2017. David's hobbies include eating ethnic food, hiking, listening to music, and eating more ethnic food. He is honored to work for FEE and help them reach more students who, like himself, treasure the importance of liberty.