Independent Institute hosted their Challenge of Liberty Seminar this past week at UC Berkeley, and it was a great opportunity to network with other students and professors. Through the week, I saw lectures from Tom Bell, Mark Thomas, James Bailey, Lawrence H. White, Ryan Yonk, Robert Higgs, Abby Hall, and Kyle Swan, professors from various universities across the United States. Overall, the week was a blast and I enjoyed all the lectures that were given. I figure I would give my highlights and leave it at that.
One lecturer that I especially enjoyed was Lawrence H. White, a professor out of GMU and the author of several notable economic texts (one of which I am currently reading). His lectures touched on the history of economic thought and Austrian business cycle theory. Both lectures were fantastic and touched on topics that I especially enjoy. Austrian economics remains a heterodox approach to economics, and having someone skilled like Professor White lecture on Austrian theory was a definite treat. In the time between lectures on Monday and Tuesday, I also got to talk to Professor White, and I really enjoyed the conversations we had. Of the topics mentioned, the 2008 financial crisis was one (almost inevitable, given White’s status as a ‘free banking’ economist) and Professor White’s analysis was especially interesting. As best as I can remember, White suggested that instead of the bailouts provided by government, the Fed should have blasted an immediate round of quantitative easing to keep the money supply moving while letting the financial sector figure itself out. Despite my limited knowledge on such a complex event, I believe Professor White was right to recommend the hand off approach to the financial crisis. Rather than engender moral hazard, selective treatment by regulators, and possibly systemizing greater financial insecurity, the government should have allowed insolvent institutions collapse and selloff their assets. The one role government would have played would be to ensure nominal spending continued as stable as possible.
James Bailey is a young professor at Creighton University, and he specializes in healthcare and labor markets. Professor Bailey is a really cool guy, and on top of his great lectures, he also allowed me to talk his ear off on whatever topics came to mind. Of his lectures, I really enjoyed both his entrepreneurship and health-care lectures, both of which provided some great insight into topics I’m rather ignorant of. Professor Bailey was well versed in the current health-care/wage literature and was able to provide multiple sources to students, a fact I quickly appreciated for my own research and future reading.
Unlike many of the other professors who stayed a few days to speak and watch other lectures, Tom Bell came by Friday to provide the last round of lectures by himself. A professor of law from Chapman University, Mr. Bell is an awesome and passionate lecturer on legal theory. His lectures reflected his interests well by covering criminal law, special economic zones, and future forms of governance. Professor Bell is so involved with his work that he actually provides legal advice to Liberland, a nation-state-hopeful that exists between Serbia and Croatia.
Another professor who I have not seen yet and enjoyed was Abby Hall from the University of Tampa. Her lectures focused entirely on the issues of government surveillance, foreign policy, and government power in of itself. Like Professor Bell, you could tell that Professor Hall absolutely enjoyed her job and topics of research, and gauging by the intensity of student debates, her lectures clearly appealed to the audience at the seminar. Another fun fact of Professor Hall is that she works with Chris Coyne of George Mason University, another great professor and author of several books (one of which I will be publishing a review for soon enough).
Finally, but not lastly, was Robert Higgs’ keynote speech on Wednesday night. Mr. Higgs is the senior editor at Independent Institute, as well as a significant writer in the libertarian tradition of economic thought. His book Crisis and Leviathan is a major piece of literature in theories of the state, and Higgs has written on countless other subjects through the years. During the summer before my senior year of high school, I met Mr. Higgs in St. Louis FEE college and high school seminars. It was at the college seminar, where Higgs spoke and socialized, that I decided to switch to economics as a major. Robert Higgs is an amazing person to talk to, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet him one more time before he moves off to Mexico.
The speeches provided by Kyle Swan, Ryan Yonk, and Mark Thomas were also great, and I loved getting to talk with them on the side. Professor Swan comes from Sacramento State University, and he teaches classical political thought with an emphasis on ‘liberal neutrality’ and non-consequentialist political theory. Professor Thomas comes from Creighton, like Professor Bailey, and his lectures revolved around public choice theory and its implications on the policy making process. I have already talked about Ryan Yonk in a previous travelogue, and his presentations were basically the same as last time (I don't blame him for not changing his lecture for the few KFP members there, haha).
Outside of the lectures, Independent provided socials, and I hung out with other students and the other fellows from Independent. It was a fun week, and I honestly learned a lot. UC Berkeley was a pretty campus and I enjoyed the student life in the town when I ventured down from the Clark Kerr campus. I will be posting soon about my reading updates and fellowship with Independent, but this is it for now. Till then.