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Free markets are the most moral economic system in existence because they allow for individual freedom, which is essential to human flourishing. Yet a recent Harris Poll found that 61% of Americans between 18–24 have a favorable view of socialism. In the wake of the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, that number is likely higher today.

AEI will launch a new project focused on making a moral case for free markets to leaders around the country through our Leadership Network (LN). We will pursue a variety of activities, including commissioning new essays from top AEI scholars such as Robert Doar, Yuval Levin, and Michael Strain; developing a multipart seminar with the essay authors as well as Arthur Brooks and Mark Perry on the morality of markets; hosting an essay competition for Leadership Network members; and organizing two private working group meetings to discuss and build on successful application of these principles in communities across the country.

This project builds on a long history of similar work at AEI and is urgently needed today, especially in light of an increasing and troubling mistrust of free markets coming from both the political left and the political right. AEI’s LN is a bipartisan and diverse network of leaders who are interested in and paying attention to our work. Leaders will explore which mechanisms have led free markets to be the most effective poverty alleviation mechanism known to man, which kind of supporting institutions are needed for free markets to lead to a moral society, and how they can use the strengths of the free market system to address its drawbacks and weaknesses. By focusing sustained attention on how and why free markets are not only economically efficient, but also moral, we will help educate and equip a new generation of leaders to make these arguments in their communities.