As markets and countries become freer, more people are being lifted out of poverty and need. But material wealth alone is insufficient to drive human flourishing.
A peaceful and prosperous society requires the free exchange of ideas as well as the free exchange of goods and services. Today, the protectionism that threatens the growth of free markets exists as much in the marketplace of ideas as it does in trade between countries. Public discourse is too often characterized by increasing hostility toward (and lack of empathy for) those who disagree with us, and committed advocates for individual freedom are, unfortunately, not immune to the temptation to restrict the free trade of ideas.
What is the most effective way to encourage civil conversation between individuals with differing values and experiences? Can we combine the local knowledge of "entrepreneurially-minded" people in the community with the expertise and scholarship of college faculty and other specialists to better address societal problems? Will conversation prompt further learning, discussion, and action? How do we connect participants to new opportunities to explore their own role in a free society?
The Center for the Study of Liberty will conduct 26 events and distribute a monthly newsletter, all of which are designed to produce conversations about freedom among those with an entrepreneurial mindset. Working with scholars and our audience, we will engage our target audience in ongoing inquiry and activity. Our hypothesis – that civil conversation will encourage participants to learn more and/or to act within their communities – will be tested by facilitating, observing, and analyzing various formats of conversation and conducting extensive follow-up to these events.
If this project succeeds, it will increase the frequency, openness, and civility of exchange in the marketplace of ideas, and it will engage many new "customers" who can effectively apply the results to their communities.