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Opinion | Free enterprise is a privilege on college campuses

Andrew's Assessments

By Andrew Geisler
On April 28, 2014

It's often been said America is the first country in the history of creation to be founded, not on the whims of a despot, but on an idea: the pursuit of happiness.

The power of this idea is self evident, and so too are the preceding truths found in the Declaration of Independence, but as Ronald Reagan knew, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. Each generation must work hard to preserve the liberty protecting institutions our Founding Fathers fought to create. Each generation must make the case for the genius of republican government, all while considering how our country can maximize the happiness of her people.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a Washington D.C. based think-tank committed to doing just that. AEI's founding mission is to: "open inquiry, lucid exposition, vigorous debate and continuous improvement in the institutions of American liberty."

AEI President Arthur Brooks has written extensively recently on how Americans can best pursue the happiness they may lack. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Brooks writes: "To pursue happiness within our reach, we do best to pour ourselves into faith, family, community and meaningful work. To share happiness, we need to fight for free enterprise and strive to make its blessings accessible to all."

And, it's important to note, free enterprise does not deserve the bum rap it gets from many in our ivory towers, in fact, as Brooks writes in the same op-ed of free enterprise, "This is hardly mere materialism, and it is much more than an economic alternative. Free enterprise is a moral imperative."

This year, AEI launched a campus program, of which Miami was on the ground floor. AEI On Campus, along with the JANUS Forum, brought in Jonah Goldberg, a syndicated columnist and AEI fellow, to discuss the role of government in a free society. In his book, "Liberal Fascism," Goldberg writes: "The Government cannot love you, and any politics that works on a different assumption is destined for no good." He brought this message to Miami by defending with vigor the merits of capitalism, federalism and the limited role for government in the American system.

The organization also joined with Project Green Room (PGR) to sponsor their inaugural case competition, which gave Miami and Ohio State students the opportunity to work in teams to fix our budgetary crisis. PGR is an organization founded by two Miami students who know our generation needs to be mugged by reality, as Irving Kristol would say, before our budgetary situation gets any worse than it already is.

The idea of free enterprise is far too often under attack on college campuses - organizations combating this bias against free market capitalism have an important role to play.

The animating principles of the modern conservative movement, which largely sprung from the pages of National Review, began with founder William F. Buckley's book, "God and Man at Yale," first published in 1951. The young Buckley argues that Yale, in the 1950s, did their students a disservice by focusing on collectivism, and not giving conservative alternatives a fair hearing.

The late Allan Bloom, the brilliant political philosopher whose book "The Closing of the American Mind" made the case that modern higher education "impoverishes the souls" of it's students, writes that a free mind, "requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities."

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol channeled Bloom this week in his column entitled "The Closing of the Academic Mind." He argues the "commissars of Liberal Orthodoxy," by "protecting the 'university community' from discomforting thoughts," are not giving their student bodies the liberal education they deserve.

This phenomenon leads to a continuation of Bloom's students with "impoverished souls."

In order, to make sure free enterprise's blessings are accessible to all; college campuses need voices making the case for the importance of it.

Especially at schools like Miami where, fortunately, it is not an uphill battle to freely discuss the big issues in our campus' public square. Our school shows an admirable commitment to allowing students to hear a variety of perspectives on the issues of the day, and the big issues of the soul.

Students here are lucky our administrators do not suppress the free exchange of ideas like many around the country do today. Because of this, students should all mobilize around the ideas they believe in.

If free markets and open debate are ideas you believe in, consider joining AEI On Campus next year. Miami's team will have an ambitious agenda to promote free enterprise - bringing in speakers, planning events and promoting these important ideas in every way possible.

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