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Session Details

International Trade

Free Trade, Trade Agreements, and Trade Barriers:

What Serves American Interests?

Link to Readings 

Stefani Smith, PhD

Tensegrity Law Group LLP

International trade policy makes for strange bedfellows, where the political left and right are often united in protectionism and the political middle is fraught with indifference. Given the near universality of economists' appreciation for free trade, what pressures are preventing trade liberalization from being a policy priority? Do political institutions such as trade agreements, the WTO, and the Export-Import Bank tend to liberalize or restrict trade? What steps can the US take to move toward freer international trade? Join this discussion to develop fluency in the economics of trade and to contribute to a practical policy agenda.

Free Enterprise

Power of Free Enterprise:

Enabling and Empowering the Individual
Link to Readings



In current political discourse people seem to use the words "free market" and "free enterprise" as either some sort of mantra or some sort of curse. What does it mean, and not mean, to have a free market system? Is the free market just the survival of the fittest played out in cut-throat competition where the losers are left to languish? Or is it a magnificent cornucopia of goods and services offered up to the almighty consumer by cooperative shopkeepers? The truth is that the free-enterprise system is a massive cooperative effort, and, while it does not eliminate all bad behavior and hardship, the free-enterprise system is the only system that has proven to create opportunities for everyone, even the most vulnerable.

Jennifer Dirmeyer, PhD

Ferris State University, College of Business

Healthcare (Session Full)

Where are We Heading?

Link to Readings




American medicine is by some measures the best in the world, but its costs have been rising for decades, creating problems of access and affordability and suppressing wage growth. Reforms, like Obamacare, were meant to address these concerns. Did Obamacare work? Why are prices still rising? Is there a better way?

Angela Braly

The Policy Circle

Higher Education Reform (Session Full)

Anxieties about Higher Education

Link to Readings

Something is amiss in our colleges and universities. News articles reveal that tuition is soaring, student debt is harming graduates' ability to launch careers and buy homes, and there is increasing evidence that the college experience is not as rigorous as it used to be. New terms like "trigger warnings" and "micro aggressions" along with controversy over prominent speakers like Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright all point to a narrowing of intellectual discourse on campus. This panel will consider how serious these problems are and what might be done about them.

Jane Shaw

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education

K-12 Education Reform

Education, Parents, and the State:

Who's Getting the Squeeze?

Link to Readings



Since the Founding Era, America has been a strongly pro-education nation. It is widely believed that our republic cannot function well in the absence of an educated citizenry. Yet for decades now, serious concerns about our system of public education have continually been raised. Education is a difficult policy issue, in part because its primary focus is on minors, but also because of the many competing interests involved. How have we gotten to the point we're at today, and what can be done to improve our schools to best effect? Please join this discussion to consider how we may make our own voices, and the voices of our fellow citizens, an effective force for change.

Amy Willis

Liberty Fund, Inc.

Poverty (Session Full)

Towards a Free Society Approach to

Poverty Alleviation and Economic Mobility

Link to Readings



How can we bring those who live on the economic margins into the free enterprise economy? For too long, free market proponents have talked about poverty and economic mobility primarily from an economic perspective. How often have you heard “A rising tide lifts all boats….economic prosperity is a boon for all”? It’s an insufficient and incomplete argument for those who live and operate outside of the free enterprise economy. A rising tide does little, for example, for the third generation welfare teen who has little educational or work expectations. We might more productively ask: Can we build a “Free Society Approach to Poverty Alleviation and Economic Mobility?” What does it mean to be poor and what are the barriers that prevent people from achieving prosperity? What are some of the civil society approaches that are successfully helping people transition to self-sufficiency? Join this discussion to explore how we can craft a policy agenda that promotes earned success and economic independence.

Jo Kwong, PhD

The Philanthropy Roundtable

Regulation and Entrepreneurship

What is the Real Cost of Doing Business?

Link to Readings




What is the real cost of doing business, in the US and in other countries? Regulations are important, but they only tell part of the story. Firms must deal with what is in writing, what is done in practice, and everything in between. How do regulations affect firms at different stages of their existence? What about firms which might grow, innovate, or export? Can the regulatory environment encourage or discourage corruption? Do the effects of regulation vary based on traits of the owner or manager, characteristics of the sector, broader sociocultural context, or the national business environment? This discussion will focus on comparative regulatory questions across countries, and on how we can disentangle some key questions for firms to better understand “real” cost of business.

Sameeksha Desai, PhD

Indiana University, School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Taxation and Fiscal Responsibility

Controlling the Purse Strings:

Spending, Taxes, and National Priorities

Link to Readings




How do we pay for government and where does all the money go? What does this tell us about our nation’s priorities? Governments carry out their primary functions by taxing and spending. The size and scope of government is directly controlled by a government’s budget. How government’s carry out their taxing and spending functions has significant implications for individuals, families, business, and the economy at large. With much of the budget growing on autopilot, how can we regain control of the purse strings?

Romina Boccia

The Heritage Foundation

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