Phi Beta Cons

Shouldn’t Businesspeople Also Learn How to Defend Capitalism?

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw writes about Northwood University’s recent Freedom Seminar and about the school itself, a business-oriented institution in which students are exposed to the economic and philosophical arguments in favor of capitalism.

This interests me greatly, because I was among the speakers at the seminar and also because I taught at Northwood from 1980 to 1989. That experience had a huge impact on my views regarding the utility of mass higher education.

There are lots of colleges and universities at which students can learn about the world of business, but in most of them, the learning is not tethered to any overarching conception of the role of business in a free society, as it is at Northwood. That’s why, I believe, so many American business leaders are utterly craven when it comes to defending the rights of business organizations to operate without deadening government control over nearly every aspect of their operations. They have no idea that there is any case to be made in favor of laissez-faire capitalism. They’re quite content with crony capitalism and eagerly look to the government for favors. Very few are willing to oppose the nation’s drift into ever-increasing politicization.

At least some Northwood graduates absorbed the lessons. One of the attendees at the Freedom Seminar was a student of mine who graduated in the early 1980s. He now works for Chrysler. At the time when the firm was on the brink of bankruptcy, he had the gumption to say that a government bailout was plain wrong, even though it was in his own interest for the feds to keep the company going with cash transfusions. Too bad that most people who study business get their degree but no understanding that without the freedom to make your own decisions and either succeed or fail, our economic system will slowly sink into the muck of governmental control.

I suggest that alums of business programs that don’t emphasize the connection between freedom and prosperity take a look at what Northwood does and start clamoring for the inclusion of a course that gets students to understand it.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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