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Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Anne Bradley on the Moral Foundations of Economic Freedom


Join Roger Ream ’76 in this week’s Liberty + Leadership Podcast as he sits down with Dr. Anne Bradley, the vice president of academic affairs at The Fund for American Studies.

Anne discusses what it’s like on the front lines teaching economics to younger generations, how taking a field trip to the grocery store is a great way to learn about the market economy, and the connection between economic freedom and a moral foundation in society.

Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley is the George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic Education and vice president of academic affairs at TFAS. She also teaches at The Institute for World Politics and George Mason University. She is currently an Acton Affiliate scholar and is a visiting scholar at The Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. Anne earned a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University in 2006, during which time she was a James M. Buchanan Scholar.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni, supporters, faculty and friends who are making a real impact in public policy, business, philanthropy, law and journalism. Today, I’m joined by Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley, TFAS’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and the George and Sally Mayer Fellow for Economic education and is also a Professor at the Institute for World Politics and a Fellow at the Acton Institute. Previously, Dr. Bradley served as the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute of Faith, Work and Economics. We’re going to hear more from Anne about what it’s like to teach economics today, the connections between markets and human flourishing, and how what we call the economic way of thinking can help us understand many things in life. Anne, thanks so much for joining me. I’m really looking forward to our conversation.

Anne Bradley [00:01:08] Hi, Roger. Thanks for having me. This will be fun.

Roger Ream [00:01:11] Well, let me begin with your approach to teaching economics. I know you approach it as something much more than just prices and supply and demand and money. That it’s more about human behavior and human action and how we all as human beings work within the environments we’re in to try to improve our lot. So let’s begin the conversation with you explaining what the subject, or dare I say science, of economics entails.

Anne Bradley [00:01:43] This is a great place to start, and I think so relevant for what we do at TFAS. I think that what we want to have people understand when we’re getting them to think about economics and why it matters – I always joke, we live near Washington, D.C., Roger, so there’s wonky policy talk all the time and that kind of dinners and receptions – but I still say that despite that, if you walk up to someone and just start droning on about GDP, it’s the best way to get them to walk away from you. So if you want to end a conversation, you know, get technical about GDP growth or decline and people just aren’t interested. That’s what I tell my students on the first day of class. I want them to be enthusiastic about learning economics, and I would say this is beyond the classroom, and what we do generally, because economics is about how human beings make decisions, we’re making decisions all the time, we’re trying to maximize our own benefit and minimize our own costs. So we can put it in that framework for people, then we can help them understand that it is relevant to their lives. It’s hard for people to think that tracking GDP and the technical aspects of that is relevant to their daily affairs, but it is relevant to their daily affairs. Do they have enough money to send their kids to college or to take a vacation or to put groceries in the refrigerator? And so that’s the stuff of real life. Economics is about that stuff. So, I really want to get them excited about that, so we make it about human beings, about the quest for human flourishing and about the choices that entails. I try to bring it always back to those principles.

Roger Ream [00:03:30] We often use the phrase around TFAS: the economic way of thinking. I think it was coined by Paul Hayne, you can correct me if I’m wrong about that, but how do you describe what that means, the economic way of thinking?

Anne Bradley [00:03:45] I think you’re right about that, and I think that the way that I try to talk about this idea is that there are certain realities that economics imposes upon us because of the nature of human beings and the realities of the world. We have to recognize and operate within a system that respects and acknowledges those realities, and if we don’t, we’re going to suffer in a variety of ways. So what are those realities? Well, let’s start with human beings and human nature. I always like to start there because, again, I think none of this is rocket science, but I think it’s often missing from the bigger conversation of economics. I think if you go into a micro-macro class, the first class of your college career, are you talking about human nature on the first day? Probably not, but I think you should be because that’s part of the economic way of thinking. So, some of the realities are that we as human beings are limited, we need each other, we must find ways to cooperate, we do that. One way that we cooperate is trade and trade as part of kind of market systems. We are self-interested. So we must realize that both the possibilities of human nature, which includes that amazing power of human creativity, but we also have to understand the limitations of people that we’re finite, that we’re imperfect, and that we’re self-interested, which means we’re going to try to maximize our own benefit and minimize our costs. Those are just a few of the basics of human nature. I start with that and then I say, okay, what are the realities of economics? The first, and I think probably most important, is that we live in a world of scarcity, which means there’s countable things in the world, there’s not unlimited amounts of things. If you take the truths of human nature, which is that we want what’s best for ourselves, but we have this desperate need to cooperate in order to thrive, and we have finite things, finite resources, and we really have to rely on the skills and talents of other people, then we can really start kind of understanding how these truths of human nature align with the realities of what we call the economic way of thinking. And so any economic system, political system, legal system that rejects those realities is not going to put us on the path of increasing our own well-being or our social well-being. It’s not going to let us get more prosperity or more human flourishing. So that’s how I kind of broadly think about this phrase, the economic way of thinking.

Roger Ream [00:06:27] Well, let’s talk about that a little more, because when people talk about the free market system, the emphasis is often on competition, and competition is very important. It drives people to innovate and to lower prices, become more efficient. But you are emphasizing this opposite idea of cooperation, which we often neglect. I think it’s a very important part of a free enterprise system, the kind of cooperation that takes place. It seems that a market economy is very much bottom up, not top down. There’s this famous essay by Leonard Reed, “I, Pencil,” about the thousands and tens of thousands of people that have to cooperate to produce something as simple as an ordinary pencil. You like to emphasize the grocery store as an example in class. Could you talk a little bit on what you do with that example of the grocery store?

Anne Bradley [00:07:22] Absolutely. I will say that no matter who I’m talking to, graduate students, undergrad, high school, my favorite new volunteer activity is that I help run the economics club at my kid’s school. So, teaching economics to seventh graders is a challenge. But the way that I did that in the beginning of the year, we went to a grocery store, and we just started to ask big questions. I mean, if you are born in the United States or another industrialized rich economy, then you take grocery stores for granted. I think we should not do that. I think we should rethink and appreciate the grocery store in ways that we don’t always. And so I say, “Let’s go to the grocery store,” I show pictures of the grocery store and I just start asking questions: how did this stuff get here? Who decides? One of my favorite things to do is just show a picture of the produce section. I encourage everybody who’s listening to, just next time you go to the grocery store, go in with these things in mind and say, “How did anyone decide how many apples?” Just apples. There’s just tons of varieties of apples, different colors, different prices. You can buy them in a bag. You can buy them individually, and how did we get there? A lot of my students will say, “Well, the produce manager or the person that runs the grocery store, they know a lot about apples and the quantities and the prices,” and this is true. They probably know the most of all of us. As you mentioned, Leonard Reed’s famous essay, which we also read – “I, Pencil,” – it’s asking these big questions of how did all this stuff get there? The idea is that in a market economy, no one can be in charge. These things happen organically through the process of both competition and cooperation. One of the things I like to emphasize is that you are not in competition with your grocery store. You are in, as a consumer, cooperation with your grocery store. I think this is a very counterintuitive idea for people, right? Because I like to pay zero for the apples and the grocery store would like to charge me $1,000 per apple if they could. So we have different interests as far as what we’d like to give up and what we’d like to get. The mutual interest is that the grocery store shows up every day to give me the things I need, and I show up when I need it, and that is the cooperative element of the consumer and the firm in the grocery store. This is a unique attribute of a market economy. If you don’t have markets, then you have to ration scarce resources. Remember, we always ration because we live in a world of scarcity, some way or another. You’re not going to be able to use grocery stores run organically through the price system. You’re going to have to use something else, and typically what’s used is force and arbitrariness, right? People just make up prices and see what happens. And that, as we know historically, does not go well at all.

Roger Ream [00:10:23] Well, I stopped this morning on my way in and bought a cup of coffee, and it was that experience you have every day when you go to the grocery store or a coffee shop – they hand you the coffee, you give them some money, and you say thank you and they say thank you. It’s a double thank you moment because the owner of the coffee shop, at least, and the worker there want the money. You’re going to give them more than the coffee and you want the coffee. So, you’re both very satisfied. It’s also interesting that that grocery store example goes beyond just all the produce that’s there. It’s the fact that those people got up before the sun was up in the morning to make sure the shelves were stocked. They were ready for you to come. Your former colleague Russ Roberts, used to be at George Mason, in a talk to our students once talked about the fact that if you go to the grocery store on Super Bowl Sunday, the day when more pizzas are produced than any other day of the year, but if you go to the grocery store in the morning and ask for a bagel, they still have bagels. They haven’t diverted all the dough and all the flour into making pizzas that day. It’s as if they know you’re coming in that morning for a bagel, and they have it there. So, I think there’s so much you do illustrate so effectively with that grocery store example. And you also have an interesting example, the toothbrush. Is that to illustrate the same thing, or is that a little different example about international trade and cooperation?

Anne Bradley [00:11:57] Yes. I mean, it’s both about this kind of idea that markets are emergent, right? There’s no toothbrush czar. Nobody has to be in charge of making sure we all have toothbrushes and it’s in our interest to make sure that we have them, but because of a market economy, that means that it’s also in the firm’s interest to make sure they supply them to us. The reason I like the toothbrush example, and I think you have good examples of this too, there’s just so many. When you think of someone like George Washington, he is a very powerful person. He’s the first president. He’s a military leader. So he has a lot of resources available to him. If you look at his writing in his diary and if you go visit Mount Vernon, he was kind of obsessed with dental care and the reason he was is because he didn’t have the ability to go to the grocery store or Amazon and just click a button and put a variety, one from any variety of toothbrushes, in his digital cart and make sure it showed up right on his doorstep two days later. He didn’t have anything remotely close to that. So he thought that innovation in dentistry was one of the most important innovations that was being developed at the time, and how often do we appreciate the toothbrush in that regard? One thing I say to my students all the time, not to make them worried about toothbrushes, but to reaffirm their confidence in the anonymous exchange that exists here as I say, “Look, when you open that toothbrush out of the box, you don’t even think about anything that happened to that toothbrush before it enters your mouth, right?” You blindly use it and trust that it’s clean, that it has been sanitized in the proper way, that there’s all these kind of production methods that have been adhered to to make sure your toothbrush, which you’re going to use and put in your mouth, is trustworthy, safe, right? What does a toothbrush cost? It’s probably under $3 for a basic toothbrush. This is a remarkable thing, and if we look back in human history just to George Washington’s time, it shows you the amount of innovation that’s brought to ordinary people like you and I. We don’t have to be the president of the United States to have access to good dental hygiene. We can all have that and that’s because of a market economy.

Roger Ream [00:14:16] Well, let’s shift a little. You’ve contributed essays to several books that relate to the moral foundations of a free economy. One is “Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.” You also contributed an essay to “For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty.” What do you think about the connection between economic freedom and the need for a moral foundation in society?

Anne Bradley [00:14:45] I think this is so essential and we have to talk about it. I think we can’t talk as if markets can be, and we’ve already talked about this a little bit today, but markets can’t be crafted by someone, right? No market economy is the product of any one person’s mind, but markets do have certain requirements for them to operate well. So, this, I think, goes back to Adam Smith as maybe the world’s first economist, we might say. But I think it goes back and, in those books, we were talking about thinking theologically about human flourishing, too. This goes back to very old principles of private property rights. So, that’s an example. Markets cannot be scaled up and reach their full potential without certain virtues that undergird them. No, I think markets also promote virtue. Markets can induce this virtuous behavior where we trust each other. We generate lots of social capital. I like to talk about markets and neighborliness, right? Because when we engage in market activity, think of the toothbrush example we just used, so a stranger is serving me. I’m never probably going to meet them. We might not share the same religion or cultural heritage, but we come together anonymously in this toothbrush transaction, and that creates this social trust and social capital that’s so important. I think markets reinforce virtues that are so important, but I think that there’s a bedrock of virtue that’s necessary, including respect for human dignity, respect for human autonomy. And that those things first certainly pre-exist the state and these virtues have to undergird markets. And then again, I think markets also scale up and generate greater adherence to those virtues and that’s what makes them work.

Roger Ream [00:16:50] Anne, it seems like support for a free market, support for capitalism is kind of at a low ebb right now. You see polls, of course, of young people who favor socialism over capitalism. There are certainly murmurings among conservatives that have been more critical of markets and economic freedom and think too much emphasis is being put on free market to the detriment, I guess, of family values or cultural values. The accusation, I guess, is that those who are unapologetic about the benefits of capitalism, I’ve heard it said worshiping at the altar of the free market. Is that a fair charge? Do we need to temper our support for economic freedom in order to promote family values?

Anne Bradley [00:17:36] I do not think we need to temper our support for economic freedom. I agree with you. I think that there’s a growing hostility to markets. You know, I think this comes both from the political right and the political left, from different arguments made there. The first part of what you said, which is people on the left advocating for socialism or a kinder, gentler version of socialism, right? Not Stalinism, that would allow us to have stuff but also have a more equitable society and maintain a democracy. So, these are, of course, important theoretical and economic questions, empirical questions as well. I would say that socialism, if you don’t understand the economic way of thinking, socialism sounds good on paper because it sounds as if we can design a society that’s going to avoid the things we don’t want and really focus on the outcomes that we do want. So more equity, income equality, these types of things that people tend to argue for when they’re advocating for socialism, and the historical record is very clear that this is not the set of outcomes that you get and there’s a reason for that. The reason has everything to do with economics, and it has to go back to what we talked about at the beginning, which is a proper understanding of human nature. Human nature is not fungible. We can’t just distort and move people around on the chessboard as we see fit. But actually, people are self-interested and they’re going to respond to incentives. So, market economies and economic freedom relative to all the alternatives give people the best opportunity to be human beings and to be social, to be neighborly, to both benefit from and contribute to human flourishing. I really think that we need to be loud on this topic. I think we need to be clear, articulated, winsome, as expositor of economic freedom and economic way of thinking. I think we need to put it into human terms. I don’t think we need to advocate for economic freedom because it gets us economic growth, because again, most people would say, “Well, I would trade off economic growth if I could get more fairness.” What I think we need to help people understand is that’s not the tradeoff that you get. When you trade off economic freedom, you get more authoritarianism, you get more winners and losers, you get more cronyism and favoritism and all the things that we are saying we want to avoid.

Roger Ream [00:20:16] In the classroom, at least at TFAS, you have quite a range of students. Some are economics majors, some have had one course in economics, and it was probably one that focused on a boring approach to teaching economics, not the exciting approach you take in the classroom. How do you meet that challenge of having such a range of students in the TFAS classroom?

Anne Bradley [00:20:40] It’s a challenge. I think my training at George Mason University really prepared me very well for this because I think at GMU the economics department puts a strong emphasis on this idea of the economic way of thinking and training up good teachers, good promoters of the economic way of thinking. I think there’s a couple of things that are important, which is, and I say this all the time, but it’s really important to not just say it but to mean it, which is we have to meet people where they are. When I get students in my classroom, I always ask them questions on the first day, which is, “Is your first economics class, is it your fourth economics class?” And really, even if it’s their fourth economics class, you can’t even assume necessarily that they understand some of these basic truths, because economics is taught in very different ways across the country. In many ways, there’s just a very a mathematical approach. Maybe they’ve never even heard of Adam Smith or talked about him. So, I think we have to say, “This is a class where you can succeed, and you’re going to succeed because this economic way of thinking framework that we think is so important is relevant to your life,” and when we do that and we communicate through discussion, through examples, through stories, and through helping them build up critical thinking as economists – I always say, “I’m going to judge you on your ability to think like an economist” – I think that we can get them not just to do well in the classroom, which is great, but really to walk away from this experience and say, “I learned some things and I’m going to be able to take that through the rest of my life, through my career, and think about things differently.” I want them to be able to pick up a Wall Street Journal article about the minimum wage or anything like that and say, “Hmm, how would an economist approach this?” I think those are really goals that we can meet. I think that those are reasonable goals that we can hold our students to, and I think when we do, they get excited, and that is my favorite part. I just like to see them come alive in the classroom, get excited about it and say, “I’ve never heard of this before, I’ve never thought about it this way before.” It’s not our job to convince them to think about policy in a certain way; it’s our job to train them and equip them with the economic way of thinking so that they can come to their own conclusions about policy.

Roger Ream [00:23:16] You’ve given a partial answer to my next question, and that is how you approach students who are particularly hostile to economic freedom, to capitalism. I know I’ve heard stories from students in your classroom who’ve said they’ve never had a professor at their home university who was skeptical of socialism, and you turned on a light bulb in their heads and got them thinking about free markets in a way they never did before. How does that come about?

Anne Bradley [00:23:50] I think this is a real challenge, especially in living in the digital age in the 21st century. I always have to giggle a little bit on the first day because when your student walks into your classroom, they know a lot more about you than you know about them because they’ve Googled you. I had a student who, after the first day, really all we did is go over the syllabus and some very basic ideas, and the student came up to me afterward and said, “I see that you’re a neoliberal, but I’m still going to come to class.” So the students have pegged you in a certain way that may or may not be accurate, and I think you have to keep the classroom about economics, not about your politics. It’s really a challenge. It’s hard to do. I think this is kind of the vision of Walter Williams in his classroom when he taught first year Ph.D. students – we’re going to learn about supply and demand. We’re going to learn about price theory. So, I think when we do that and it’s hard because we’re also going to talk about supply and demand as it relates to minimum wage. I think you have to be careful to say, “What I’m doing is teaching you the basics of economics, and then I’m going to ask you to be able to apply that to important policy ideas or questions in the world.” When we can create an environment where they feel encouraged and safe to speak up, safe to challenge me, safe to challenge the readings, safe to challenge each other, but in a way that’s respectful and courteous. I mean, it’s not an easy thing to do, and I think it takes all semester to get there. But it’s just exciting. I think even the most hostile student on the first day will stick with you. They’ll stick with you through the class, and that’s really all I can ask them to do. I’m not trying to make somebody vote in a certain way or have certain conclusions about policy. My job is to teach them economics and then it’s up to them. And I think if you make a commitment to doing that, they view us as genuine, which is what we want to be, and then I think they’ll continue to learn from you.

Roger Ream [00:25:59] There is a colleague of yours who teaches for us, who puts a strong emphasis on teaching price theory in his courses and I have two data points. One was a young woman sitting next to me on an airplane flight a few weeks ago who was majoring in economics at an Ivy League university, and another a friend whose son is getting a Ph.D. at an Ivy League university who both said they’ve gone through economics and never learned price theory, which sounds astounding to me. You want them to learn the role of prices and price theory classes. What is it you’re teaching when you’re teaching about prices?

Anne Bradley [00:26:41] I think that this gets to the heart of what we’re trying to help them understand and it goes back to that idea that the economy is not the product of someone’s mind. There’s no architect, there’s no czar of the economy. It’s an emergent order. Prices are an emergent part of the market process, and they are so, so fundamental because they give both consumers and firms lots of information. As prices change, our information about the world changes and both production and consumption patterns change. This is a core set of ideas. I mean, you could spend a whole semester just on those ideas. I have them read a little bit about F.A. Hayek on prices and the importance of prices. That’s a tough article for most students to read, but I want to expose them to these deep, deep theoretical ideas about prices, because that gets us to the question you just asked me a few moments ago, which is, can we have democratic socialism? When you have students come in the room and they have those ideas, their priorities are living in a world with more democratic socialism because it’s going to get  these outcomes that I want. If we can teach them a little bit about price there, this is an undergrad class after all, a little bit about price theory, I think it challenges them to have to reconcile those truths about the market with their ideals, about what they want the political system and the economic system to look like. I think this is very effective because, again, it’s not an ideological point, it’s an economic point, and that’s what we want them to learn. I think price theory is so important for learning how and why markets work. It also helps us address questions like, What happens when we constrain markets? You used the phrase free markets earlier, I’ve kind of reverted to talking about constrained markets and unconstrained markets. So, what happens as we start to constrain markets more, whether it’s through total constraint, outright socialism or not socialism, but lots more intervention in the economy through regulations and quotas and trade agreements and all these kinds of things? What happens when we constrain markets more and more and more? So again, I think that this could be a very effective teaching tool for them.

Roger Ream [00:29:03] I asked somewhat of a rhetorical question, wanting to get that answer, and she said it so beautifully and about the merchant orders. I love that constrained and unconstrained framework for looking at markets. Can I ask, what’s the article by Hayek? Is it “The Use of Knowledge in Society?”

Anne Bradley [00:29:23] This is “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” yes. It’s a great article. It’s the toughest one they’ll read all semester. I think it’s also very effective to have them read his Nobel Prize lecture. I also have them read “I, Pencil,” as you already mentioned, alongside that article and then we do a lot of teasing out the principles.

Roger Ream [00:29:42] Are there any other books you might recommend to any listeners who just want to get a a good introduction to economic freedom? I was going to say free markets to unconstrained market economics.

Anne Bradley [00:29:55] Sure. One that I’ve used in the classroom a lot over the years is called “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell. I just think he’s such an effective communicator and he speaks in a way that you don’t have to have a baseline of economics, you don’t have to have taken a bunch of classes. It’s not incredibly technical, but very effective, very straightforward and he uses lots of examples. So, I think that’s a great book. I think “Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt is a very effective book. I already mentioned “I, Pencil” by Leonard Reed, which is short. You mentioned Russ Roberts. I really encourage my students, and I would encourage others, to listen to Econ Talk. I think there’s just so many years of archived material, but you can go and look it up. You know, he’s had Walter Williams on, Thomas Sowell on, and they’re just incredible communicators of these basic principles. I encourage anyone when you have time in the car, put on a podcast in addition to Roger’s podcast, of course.

Roger Ream [00:31:00] Well, I listen to F.A. Hayek regularly. It is my favorite podcast, so I don’t mind you plugging that one. He’s even had Mike Munger on I think, a time or two.

Anne Bradley [00:31:12] Many, many times.

Roger Ream [00:31:15] That’s his popular guest. Anne, you’ve done some work in the past on applying the tools of economics to the topic of terrorism. We don’t have a whole lot of time, but could you touch on what that work involved and maybe a few of the conclusions you reached?

Anne Bradley [00:31:33] Yeah, my pleasure. This research – I never planned on doing it. 9/11 happened when I was in graduate school, and so this ultimately was the study of my dissertation, which was trying to apply this basic economic way of thinking to terrorism, the idea being that when there’s problems with terrorism that are explosive since 9/11 in terms of the policy responses, people don’t call economists. They don’t call an economist on the phone and say, come help us. I think that’s a mistake. I think that economists have something to offer. So, just to kind of give some very basic ideas, my approach is that if we want to have less terrorism in the world, we have to view terrorism through the lens of supply and demand curves, which is not radical for an economist to say, but it’s kind of a big concept to wrap our heads around, I think, because what it required me to do was to think about, well, who are the demanders of terrorism, right, and who are the suppliers of terrorism, and what needs or what goals is terrorism trying to meet? I think ultimately a lot of our policy response in the post-9/11 world has been dedicated to mitigating the supply of terrorism. So we have more security at airports, for example, all those types of things. Those were certainly needed responses after 9/11, but mitigating the supply curve doesn’t really solve the ultimate problem, right? If you want less terrorism, you have to think about how you’re going to shift that demand curve backwards. Because supply, as Steve Horowitz always said, supply is demand in disguise, which means what it means: supply is a response to what people want. People aren’t going to fund terrorist groups if terrorist groups are irrelevant or unnecessary. That’s the world you want to live in, is a world where what terrorists do or being part of a terrorist organization, whether it’s through physical volunteering or financial donations or otherwise, is just too expensive or costly of a choice. There’s other ways to solve social problems. Usually that’s what terrorists are after; they’re after some sort of social or political change. My research is not just about what the policy response should be, but more it was initiated as this is how economists can bring a new way of thinking to this problem. I’m actually working on a book with Chris Coyne, who is also a TFAS faculty member, and Abby Hall that will be forthcoming next year on the topic.

Roger Ream [00:34:20] Yeah, Chris Coyne has been a guest on Liberty and Leadership Podcast just a month ago. That’s great.

Anne Bradley [00:34:27] He’s great. Very good friend.

Roger Ream [00:34:29] Working on a book! It’s a fascinating subject and your approach to it is certainly a typical approach we’ve seen on that subject. I’d like to ask you about a couple of other things in the time we have remaining. You’ve spent a great deal of time this past year traveling to college campuses. We’ve sent you out to lecture to audiences large and small. What has been the response there? Can you talk a little bit about that experience of hitting the campus speaking circuit?

Anne Bradley [00:35:00] Sure. Hitting the road, as I say. I really enjoy it. I think that’s what’s helpful from – think about the professors that are on the ground that are usually inviting us to be there – I think what all professors need, and I do this in my own classroom, is another voice to buttress what you’re saying in the classroom, especially when we’re talking about some of these tough topics that we deal with that are just kind of part of economics. So, tough policy topics, for example, like terrorism. A lot of times I will speak on terrorism or the relationship between economic freedom and human flourishing. Part of the goal is to get students really excited about what we’re doing at TFAS, and certainly some of these topics might be more controversial today than they were ten years ago. I think that’s because of the trends that we’ve already talked about, which is younger generations have had different experiences than, for example, my generation, they are not going to being raised in the Cold War and worrying about nuclear war and the fall of the Soviet Union, all these types of things that defined a part of my youth, at least, they have a different lived experience. So, I think they have different expectations about what socialism versus capitalism can deliver, and so that’s really the purpose. I enjoy it very much, and I think it’s fun to see what questions they ask because you don’t always know what they’re thinking. When you’re able to deliver a talk like this and they can ask any question they want, which is of course the hardest part of any talk is the questions, because you don’t know what you’re going to get. I’m interested to hear their responses. I don’t think they have totally bought in hook, line and sinker to socialism. So, I think we have to give this generation some credit. I think they have a lot of questions, though. I do think back to a question you asked me before, should we temper our support for capitalism? I try not to even use the word capitalism. I talk about economic freedom. We talk about what it means. I don’t really talk, especially at the beginning of the course, you know – this is what capitalism is, because it’s such a loaded term. I want them to understand how markets work. That goes back to our price theory conversation. If we can use that language and then apply it to these big issues, I think it opens doors for us. So, that’s what I’ve seen in my time, being able to travel to different universities and speak to students. They’re ambitious, they’re thoughtful about the world, they want to live in a world that has more human flourishing, they just have questions about how we get there. I think that’s a really good thing. We want to encourage those questions. So, I try to get them recruited to TFAS in the summer so that we can spend more time with them and hash that out over the summer.

Roger Ream [00:37:54] I think what you said is very important because if you see the surveys that say young people favor socialism over capitalism, but if you ask them socialism versus free enterprise, you get free enterprise does much better than capitalism. And also, if you ask follow up questions: Do you favor high confiscatory tax rates? Do you favor a heavily regulated economy that might diminish entrepreneurship and opportunities for economic advancement? Do you favor providing welfare and government payments to people who don’t work and all those things? They don’t favor many of the aspects of socialism that they seem to favor when they say they like socialism. So, I think getting out there and really explaining these things and using the right language can really have an impact. Could you touch on our new plan for this fall? That after our summer programs, this summer in which we’ll have over 300 students here for eight weeks, we’re going to be doing some new things with the students once they leave to make sure that they get continuing education. So, talk about these reading groups.

Anne Bradley [00:39:09] I’m very excited about this idea because I think it’s another set of touch points that we can have with students. I think it’s very fun for faculty members, me included, to engage in reading groups. So, we’re going to run two in the fall and we’re going to see how they go. We’re going to have a select group of students who are going to participate in a reading group probably over a month. So, we’ll pick a book, and we’ll assign the readings spread out for the whole book over a month of time, and then it will be virtual, which is great because the students will be perhaps in school. Some of them might be starting their new jobs but this meets them where they are and allows them to participate, think about ideas and really get a discussion going. I can say that we experimented with some of this, just I think across higher education in COVID because we had to. Everything was online. We didn’t have ways to interact with students. So, I think this is an idea that comes out of that environment where we can be virtual. Sometimes it’s appropriate, we can pick a book, we can make the students part of this group where they have really a lot of ability to run the discussion, to participate, to come with questions, so I’m very excited about the fall and hope that it goes so well that we do more in the spring.

Roger Ream [00:40:32] I also have a very exciting announcement that you haven’t heard yet that you’ll appreciate, Anne, because you’ve been teaching our fall and spring semester programs, but we were just awarded a significant grant that will enable us to fully scholarship up to 20 students in our spring semester program. We can work with our faculty contacts on campus to really select 20 strong emerging leaders to come to Washington for the spring semester to be in the classroom with you and your colleagues and have top rated internships, and we can really work with them to develop them into courageous leaders who have a commitment to America’s founding ideas and the principles of economic freedom. I really think this is going to be an exciting new program of ours.

Anne Bradley [00:41:20] That’s very exciting news. I look forward to that. 20, that’s a great number.

Roger Ream [00:41:26] We may have funding to do more if we raise some additional funding for that, but that will enable us to be very selective. I view it somewhat like a Rhodes program where we can really go out there and competitively pick 20 outstanding students to take advantage of this opportunity. So, we’ll work with our partners to make sure we have great students in the classroom for you to teach.

Anne Bradley [00:41:51] That’s great.

Roger Ream [00:41:52] Well, this has been a real pleasure talking with you today. I wish we had time to go deeper into a lot of these topics, but we’re running up against the clock here. We’re so grateful for your teaching for TFAS, your leadership as our academic director and serving as the George and Sally Mayer Fellow at The Fund for American Studies. Anne, thank you so much for all you do for us.

Anne Bradley [00:42:15] Thanks, Roger. My pleasure. Happy to be on the team.

Roger Ream [00:42:19] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it. And if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host Roger Ream and until next time, show courage in things large and small.

About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.


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