I am currently sitting at Reagan Washington National Airport with three hours to burn till I take my flight to Oakland, California. The KFP opening seminar finished up last night and everyone went their separate ways across the states or in the D.C. area for their respective fellowships. The KFP seminar experience was fantastic, I have made tons of new friends from all over the country, and I finally am beginning to get a taste for what life past undergrad might feel like (I know, I’m just a sophomore).
Over the course of the seminar, lots of additional lectures were given on a huge range of subjects. Ranking them would only do a disservice to the quality of the speakers, so I am going to pick a few of my favorite highlights from the previous days.
Of those lectures, Professor Wenzel always managed to give great presentations that were informative and fun to listen to. Of Wenzel’s lectures, my favorite was his analysis of Hayek’s theory of knowledge and its implications for policy making. Hayek’s argument on knowledge dispersion is extremely important because society needs to understand the difficulty, and naivity, of managing social/economic interaction. No one knows how to make a pencil, so how can someone (or congress) know how to run a country? While there may exist justification for a few government interventions, Professor Wenzel reminds that skepticism should always be used when analyzing policy considerations. Rarely does a government program solve one problem without causing several others, and the knowledge problem forms the basis for government failure.
Another lecture that really challenged the KFP crowd was Professor Marcoux’ presentation of ‘soft’ paternalism in policy making. Marcoux describes soft paternalism as a policy development from the 1900s ‘hard’ paternalism, where social planners transitioned from forcing individuals to make certain decisions to simply ‘nudging’ them towards choices. The dilemma, for libertarians, comes from the nature of choice and free will. No one technically forces these decisions on individuals, and, as is often the case, the decisions tend to increase the social efficiency of society. Regardless of the result, however, soft paternalism builds itself from the same type of central planning old progressives advocated, basing decisions on the expertize of technocrats and enlightened rulers.
Finally, Mr. Burres’ the ‘Statrix’ presentation was another lecture that made it to the top of my list. Through the entire KFP conference, lecturers spoke on the problems of state intervention and control, and Mr. Burres decided to provided the closing lecture on ‘what to do’ about that control. Mr. Burres defines the ‘Statrix’ as when individuals can no longer imagine a world without the state intervening into every facet of their existence. Mr. Burres analysis showed how the state’s existence becomes an epistemic fact for people, and in turn makes its removal an extremely difficult task. The solution revolves around subverting state control and innovating, like entrepreneurs, to show how the world can be without the state. I talked with Mr. Burres after the lecture and was delighted to hear that a video form of his presentation is in the work, which I will post the moment it becomes available.
Overall, the opening seminar for the KFP was a great experience and opportunity to meet new and like minded people. Everyone had fun, the University of Mary Washington was hospitable, and there was plenty to discuss because of the great lecturers. The next part of my summer transitions over to Oakland, where I will begin my research fellowship with the Independent Institute. Till then.