Communicating Freedom to the Next Generation

Ideas run the world. Wrong ideas can be fatal, right ideas can be life-saving. Mackinac Center analysts have been effectively communicating the ideas of freedom and liberty for 20 years, and have experienced countless victories on this front. It is crucial to continue to convey and defend these ideas — now and in the future — to ensure right thinking, right policy and a better quality of life.

That is why the Center has launched Students for a Free Economy. SFE’s goal is, quite literally, to change the world. Specifically, SFE aims to communicate free-market ideas to college students and other young people.

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Ideas can easily dissipate as generations pass. For this reason it is also crucial to convey these ideas to the next generation; those who will one day be making policy decisions and leading families, businesses and communities. Each generation communicates differently and is motivated by different things, so ideas must be broadcast in new ways to each, while maintaining fundamental truths.

Young people today care about the important issues. In fact, I would argue that college-age students often pay more attention to the big picture than older generations, as they are not busy with the responsibilities of home and family and careers and are searching for what they believe in. Students can be quite passionate about alleviating poverty, improving health care, protecting the environment, ending world conflict and spreading freedom. They may lack information, but not desire.

Sadly, many college campuses do not provide much in the way of information. Oh, there are facts aplenty; it’s easy to become numb to the din of figures and data that must be memorized and regurgitated in lecture halls. But when a student has a question, a true and deep inquiry, a set of data hardly suffices. Questioning students are quickly met with ‘answers’ when they should be encouraged to keep digging, questioning and challenging. A population flush with only memorized answers will not very well solve any complex problems.

SFE wants to create and encourage a host of new questions rather than provide the same old textbook answers. By causing students to ask questions like: "Is there a better way to alleviate poverty?" "Would government-run health care really improve our lives?" "Is profit really such a bad thing?" and letting bright and inquiring minds discover the answers, we will advance freedom far more than a set of facts ever could.

In an era of bumper stickers, catch phrases and clever slogans, new methods of communicating these questions and principles must be used if we want to compete with the noise of the culture and reach new audiences. In addition to reaching new audiences, SFE wants to provide those who are already asking the right questions with the resources and materials they need and connect them to others who share their ideas.

While there are many active student groups on campuses across the state, most advocate specific political agendas, parties or candidates. SFE does not seek to replace or counter these groups. Instead, we hope to work with all of them by providing speakers, books, contests, internships and many more opportunities that convey the broader ideas of freedom and free markets. Not attaching to any one party or issue allows us to spread our ideas to a wide range of students and rise above any partisan or personality cliques.

The next generation has every bit of the intelligence, passion and ability needed to lead the world. But in what direction will they take it? SFE will present them with new questions and challenges that will hopefully lead them toward understanding that liberty can make all the difference in the world.


Isaac M. Morehouse is director of campus leadership for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.

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