Attended Conference at the Ludwig von Mises Institute

Human Action

During the summer of 2010, I attended the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago with the intent to obtain a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Filmmaking. Despite taking the math course Concepts of Modern Mathematics that covered the behavior of markets, I was dissatisfied. Perhaps, being unemployed after my involuntary termination from Starbucks, I had difficulty in finding paid work. So, I was under the impression that I had limited opportunities due to my financial circumstances. I decided to work as an unpaid production assistant for an independent film called Emmett’s Last Stand directed by David Schmudde, who also directed the film called Refuge in the 46th Annual Film Festival. I attended the Theatre Arts in Economics lecture presented by Diane Ragsdale (a member of the Andrew Melon Foundation and a doctor in Cultural Economics), sponsored by the Arts Alliance Illinois. Then, I realized my dissatisfaction came from studying the arts instead of studying the social sciences. I thought I might be better off focusing on a degree that required History, Political Science, Economics, Government, and International Relations.

Another opportunity presented itself. I did a 180 or full circle in the opposite direction. My acceptance to the Ludwig von Mises Institute came with a recommendation from a sponsor. However, I was judged on intellectual merits. I had to write an essay, send my unofficial transcripts, and requested an academic recommendation from Dr. Richard Murgo, the Dean of the Political Science Department at Tallahassee Community College (that sponsored my trip to the New York Model United Nations conference in 2007). After completing those requirements, I received a notification of my acceptance for a scholarship to attend the Mises University 2010 (July 25-31) conference in Auburn, Alabama. The following paragraphs will explain how I came across this opportunity.

I added the (IHS) Institute for Humane Studies to my list of non-profits, through one of my social networks. I made provocative commentary through my Facebook posts on individual liberty in the attempts to network with people whom I have not had the opportunity to meet in person. The people I had the privilege of meeting at past seminars like the Presidential Classroom Future World Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. (2003), and the Model United Nations conference at the secretariat headquarters in New York (2007), were mostly interested in individual liberty and free markets. As a result of those interactions, I became interested in classical liberalism and the free markets. 

A fan of the institute browsed my profile. Dr. Kenneth Ronald Rice recommended that I take a look at the Mises University 2010 Austrian Economics program at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It was a weeklong program devoted to the study of Austrian Economics: the website I was told that the Mises programs were more rigorous than the Institute for Humane Studies program. Through the guidance of Dr. Rice, I learned about the private institution connection to the Philadelphia Society that is libertarian right in nature and had many “old right” conservative members. It is composed of members like the President of IHS, Dr. Tom Palmer, to the President of the Mont Pelerine Society, Alex Chafuen, to some of the leading free market economists, like Walter Williams, to most of the scholars at the CATO institute.

Dr. Rice response to my own meager understandings prompted my decision to attend Mises: “Fiona, it is refreshing to see that you have read so many great minds. What are you doing studying fine arts? You should consider studying philosophy. If Marx’s interpretation of Hegel is indeed correct, the history of class struggles inevitably culminates in the triumph of socialism, then why is there a need to promote it?”

I responded: “The practice is not necessarily the reality, although we have policies that claims to promote freer markets. We also have protectionist measures in place out of the belief that capitalism can be guided without an invisible hand. At a seminar hosted by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs Geopolitics of the Global Financial Crisis, I noticed a precocious student (at the age of 10) asked during the Q&A section of the lecture, “When is free too free?” I hope complete freedom in the markets is not based on capitalism –the maximization of profits for wealth and profiteering that means the “haves” can create a division for the “have not’s”, while the bottom half grows hungry for the sake of a livelihood and that philanthropy becomes a trend for the global elites, etc. etc.”

Then Dr. Rice responded: “The fact that you recognize various efforts to simplify the current state of politics and reduce the arguments to clichés is impressive. The current political and economic course of the United States is not socialism. It is America’s own unique form of Corporate Statism that is an amalgamation of various totalitarian ideologies. Both parties seek to mask their intentions by the mantra of caring for the poor or defending individual liberty, while pursuing corporatist agenda . . . As for a free market, a market that is guided by the voluntary exchange of individual market participants is foreign to the current political culture. The idea that, as Friedrich Hayek pointed out, “civilization develop through the spontaneous order of the peaceful actions of individuals” is a foreign concept. The very institution, government, which men have established to guarantee an environment absent coercion, fraud, and force is now the agent committing those actions and defending private institutions who commit those actions against individuals.” 

Fiona, you have great insights and this is not something that I say lightly. You are able to get right at the fundamental premise . . . Most scholars develop the ability to understand the authors themselves over the course of years. However, the esoteric aspect is difficult to discover. Great minds have throughout the centuries disguised their true philosophical positions by writing esoterically. You have a gift for seeing the esoteric and not get side tracked by the surface elements of a text. You see through the metaphors. You will enjoy your time at the Mises Institute. I sincerely look forward to the opportunity to meet in person one day and have an extended conversation.”

Despite my many, one too many, failed attempts at pursuing higher education and having an academic achievement, I began my pursuit of the Truth. I attended the Mises University 2010 program to study Austrian Economics on the economic business cycle.