Liberty, Free Markets,
and Moral Character
• What is the moral basis for a free market?
• How do individual rights function in a capitalist society?
• What are the moral and philosophic underpinnings of economic thinking?
Details on the 2015 Liberty, Free Markets, and Moral Character conference—which will be held over Memorial Day 2015 (May 21 - May 24) — will be posted in late Fall 2014. Please check back then for more information.
Information about the Summer 2014 conference appears below.
The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism is pleased to announce that it will be holding its eighth annual summer conference for undergraduate and graduate students on Liberty, Free Markets and Moral Character over Memorial Day Weekend 2014 (May 22 - May 25) on the campus of Clemson University in Clemson, SC. For the first time, this event will be co-sponsored by the Foundation for Economic Education.
What is the connection between liberty, free markets, and moral character? Economic thinking provides powerful insights about the world by explaining thatpeople make choices and are driven by incentives. However, it does not tell you why people must make choices or, more importantly, what choices to make.
This seminar turns economic thinking on its head by looking at its foundations through a philosophic lens. What are the moral and philosophic underpinnings of economic thinking? Why do we have to make choices and how does moral character determine the choices people make?
Thursday, May 2212:00 pm – 6:00pm: Dorm Room Check-in6:00 pm – 8:00 pm: Seminar Check-in and Social
Friday, May 237:00 am – 8:30 am: Breakfast8:00 am – 8:30 am: Check-in8:30 am – 9:00 am: Welcome9:00 am – 9:45 am: Value: Subjective or Objective? A central claim in modern economics is that “value is subjective,” which seems to create a difficulty for philosophical attempts to talk about morality or political institutions in an objective way. This turns out to be no more than a surface disagreement about terminology. When we look more closely at what these claims mean, we see that not only are they not incompatible, they actually complement each other and are mutually reinforcing. The economist’s subjective value theory is shown to be an integral part of the philosopher’s objectivity in moral/political values. (Dr. Aeon Skoble)9:45 am – 10:00 am: Break10:00 am – 10:45 am: The Source and Nature of Rights Craig Biddle will discuss the need for and nature of an objective, observation-based, demonstrably true theory of rights. He will survey common theories of rights—including “God-given,” “government-granted,” and “natural” rights—along with various problems with these theories. He will then discuss the requirements of an objective theory of rights, identifying the conditions that must obtain if a theory is to be grounded in perceptual reality, facts we can see. Finally, he will discuss Ayn Rand’s theory of rights, the observations and integrations that give rise to it, and the scope and meaning of the rights involved. (Craig Biddle)10:45 am – 11:00 am: Break11:00 am – 11:45 am: How Society Orders Itself The natural world affords many examples of order without planning. Does human society? Classical liberalism answers, "Yes--and how!" Spontaneous orders such as language, prices, and even the law result from human action but not human design. These and other spontaneous orders have a powerful but often misunderstood impact of social life. (Dr. Tom Bell)11:45 am – 1:15 pm: Lunch1:15 pm – 2:00 pm: Discussion Groups2:00 pm – 2:15 pm: Break2:15 pm – 3:00 pm: The Relevance of Property Rights Different and sometimes inconsistent conceptions of rights are analyzed, and a coherent conception is defended. Rights to private property turn out to be both morally justifiable and socially beneficial. I argue that a functioning and just society requires robust protection of property rights, but that property rights should not be understood as mere legal fictions, rather as fundamental moral concepts which need to be accounted for in the political/legal order. (Dr. Aeon Skoble)3:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Break3:15 pm – 4:00 pm: The Trader Principle The trader principle stipulates that individuals should voluntarily exchange value for value—whether in material or spiritual form--by mutual consent and to mutual advantage. Why is this a virtue? It upholds an individual’s right to his own life and the pursuit of his own happiness—he makes the exchange only if, in some form, it benefits him. Similarly, the trader principle upholds an individual’s right to his own mind—he makes the exchange based on his judgment, and nobody else’s. Consequently, it limits the power of the state, which then cannot dictate the types of exchanges in which private citizens and companies might properly engage. (Dr. Andrew Bernstein)4:00 pm – 4:45 pm: Discussion Groups4:45 pm – 6:15 pm: Dinner6:15 pm – 7:00 pm: Reading Discussion Groups7:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Social
Saturday, May 247:00 am – 9:00 am: Breakfast8:30 am – 9:00 am: Check-in9:00 am – 9:45 am: Is Money the Root of All Evil? The conventional belief is, and has long been, that money is the root of all evil. A variation on this theme is the belief that the love of money is the root of evil. But, in reality, the exact opposite is true: Money, properly understood, is the root of only good things; the rejection of money is evil. (Dr. Andrew Bernstein)9:45 am – 10:00 am: Break10:00 am – 10:45 am: The Origins and Nature of Law When you think about the law, you probably think about what lawmakers enact, what police enforce, and what judges decide. You probably think, in other words, about State power. Many thinkers in the liberal tradition, however, advocate a broader view of the law. This lecture reveals their thinking, revealing how the law predates the State and even today exists beyond its control. (Dr. Tom Bell)10:45 am – 11:00 am: Break11:00 am – 11:45 am: Activity: The Trading Game11:45 am – 1:15 pm: Lunch1:15 pm – 2:00 pm: Power Corrupts: How Good Intentions Pave The Road to Serfdom Nobody's perfect. And yet a lot of people think that if we just get the right people in power, things will be a lot better. The "right people" never seem to appear in our capitals. Partisan politics and state power create certain incentive structures... so what is the nature of those incentives? How do the rules of the game (law) change our sense of what's right (morality)? And how is political behavior different from market behavior? We'll take a look at what happens when big business and government colludes--including who chooses, who pays, who benefits and what's just. (Max Borders)2:00 pm – 2:15 pm: Break2:15 pm – 3:00 pm: Self Interest Rightly Understood Capitalism stands or falls on whether it can be defended morally, and the moral defense of capitalism must confront the question of selfishness or self-interest. Virtually every moral philosopher for the last 2,500 years has argued that selfishness is evil and self-sacrifice is good. In his lecture, C. Bradley Thompson’s examines the intellectual status of self-interest in the history of political thought focusing on Plato, Adam Smith, and Alexis de Tocqueville. The core of Thompson’s lecture argues that it is in one’s self-interest to be moral and to live one’s life according to a strict moral code. (Dr. Bradley Thompson)3:00 pm – 3:15 pm: Break3:15 pm – 4:00 pm: Entrepreneurship: Creating Value in a World of Uncertainty and Big Government The entrepreneur has been demonized. Few people are able to see the difference between those who got successful taking risks and creating value (the Makers) and those who got successful through buying political favors (the Takers). It's time we took a closer look at the Makers and the Takers. What's special about each of these species? And is it still possible to find any real entrepreneurs in an environment that increasingly rewards businesspeople for becoming politically connected? (Max Borders)4:00 pm – 4:45 pm: Discussion Groups4:45 pm – 6:15 pm: Dinner6:15 pm – 7:00 pm: Reading Discussion Groups7:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Social
Sunday, May 257:00 am – 9:00 am: Breakfast8:30 am – 9:00 am: Check in9:00 am – 10:30 am: Activity: Find a Better Way10:30 am – 10:45 am: Break10:45 am – 11:30: “The Arena” Debate: TBD11:30 am – 11:45 am: Break11:45 am – 12:30 pm: Rights-Protecting Government and Objective Law Craig Biddle will discuss the need for and nature of a government strictly limited to the protection of rights. Working from the objective theory of rights discussed in his earlier lecture, he will focus on how a government can be limited to the protection of rights; the kinds of laws morally permitted to such a government; the kinds of agencies involved; and how these would apply to issues such as regulation, speech, education, welfare, war, guns, drugs, pornography, and prostitution. Finally, he will touch on how a rights-protecting government can be funded entirely voluntarily. (Craig Biddle)12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Closing Remarks1:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Lunch2:30 pm – 6:00pm: Check out of rooms
Professor Tom W. Bell earned his J.D. from the University of Chicago School of Law in 1993, where he served on the Law Review. He practiced law first at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the largest law firm in Silicon Valley, and then at the Washington, DC office of Harkins Cunningham LLP, where he had the distinct pleasure of helping to shut down the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1998, following a stint as Director of Telecommunications and Technology Studies at the Cato Institute, Bell joined the faculty of Chapman University School of Law.
Bell coined the term “polycentric law” and has cultivated the field both as an academic and as a consultant to companies building legal systems for new cities. Though best known in academia for his work on high-tech and intellectual property law—winter 2014 will see publication of his book, Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good—Bell has taught a wide range of classes, including Contracts, Property, Torts, Corporations, Business Associations, and Law and Economics. He frequently writes for The Freeman on issues related to startup cities.
Andrew BernsteinAndrew Bernstein holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Graduate School of the City University of New York. He is the author of The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic, and Philosophic Case for Laissez-Faire (2005); Objectivism in One Lesson: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (2008); Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights (2010); and Capitalist Solutions (2011). He has taught Philosophy at SUNY Purchase, at Marist College, at Hunter College, and at several other New York-area colleges. He has lectured at Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and many other outstanding universities. He is the 2013-14 Hayek Visiting Scholar at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University, where he is writing a new book, entitled: Heroes and Hero Worship: An Examination of the Nature and Importance of Heroism.
Craig BiddleCraig Biddle is editor of The Objective Standard and author of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It. He is currently writing a book on the principles of thinking in principles. In addition to writing, he lectures and teaches seminars on ethical and epistemological issues from an Objectivist perspective.
Max BordersMax Borders is editor of The Freeman magazine and director of content for The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He is also co-founder of the Austin-based Voice & Exit event whose mission is to explore, celebrate, and implement ideas that maximize human flourishing. And Max is author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor. A writer and innovator with a decade of experience in the non-profit world, Max works daily towards a condition of peace, freedom, and abundance for all people.
Aeon SkobleAeon J. Skoble is Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, and a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute. He is the author of Deleting the State: An Argument about Government (Open Court, 2008), the editor of Reading Rasmussen and Den Uyl: Critical Essays on Norms of Liberty (Lexington Books, 2008), and the co-editor of Political Philosophy: Essential Selections (Prentice-Hall, 1999) and Reality, Reason, and Rights (Lexington Books, 2011). Besides his academic work, he has frequently lectured and written for the Institute for Humane Studies and the Foundation forEconomic Education. His main research includes theories of rights, the nature and justification of authority, and virtue ethics. In addition, he writes widely on the intersection of philosophy and popular culture, among other things co-editing the best-selling The Simpsons and Philosophy (Open Court, 2000). Originally from New York, Prof. Skoble received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MA and PhD from Temple University.
C. Bradley ThompsonC. Bradley Thompson is a Professor of Political Science at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study Capitalism. He received his Ph.D at Brown University, and he has also been a visiting scholar at Princeton and Harvard universities and at the University of London.Professor Thompson has published five books, including• Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea;• Freedom and School Choice in American Education• and the award-winning John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty;He is currently writing two books, one on “The Ideological Origins of American Constitutionalism” and another to be entitled “Our KillingSchools: How America’s Government Schools are Destroying the Minds and Souls of our Children.”Dr. Thompson lectures all over the U.S. and around the world, his op-ed essays have appeared in dozens of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, and he appears regularly on television and radio. He is a homeschooling father of 3 children and, most importantly, hesupports Arsenal Football Club. In a former life, Dr. Thompson played on the 1978 Queen’s University national championship football team in Canada, and in 1980 he placed third in the long jump at the Canadian Track & Field Olympic Trials.
Feedback from Past Years
“This conference was one of the most interesting and intellectually stimulating experiences I have had—I had the opportunity to meet and engage in intelligent discussions with other students who had my passion for learning, for philosophy, and for the use of reason.” - 2010 Attendee
“The conference was an incredible experience; it is easily the best weekend of my life….The sheer amount of content packed into the lectures was spectacular” - 2010 Attendee
“Everything I wished my college education would have been.” - 2007 Attendee
“Without a doubt, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t think that I got much more than 3 hours of sleep on any given night. Each day was completely stocked to the brim with profound discussions, as well as lectures that were among the best that I have had the pleasure of experiencing. “ – 2009 Attendee
“I cannot begin to explain how refreshing it was to hear professors and students advocate values other than relativism and collectivism.” – 2009 Attendee
“This conference left me more personally and morally enlightened than I have ever felt leaving one of my college classes.” – 2009 Attendee
Printable conference flyer
This year's conference is co-sponsored with the Foundation for Economic Education: