Is Free Ever Free?

Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright Discusses Socialism, Free Markets, and the Importance of Free Speech

IHS President and CEO Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright appeared on the She Thinks podcast with host Beverly Hallberg and discussed socialism’s recent surge of popularity within the younger generation, as well as the inherent importance of free markets and freedom of expression.

Having recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on democratic socialism, Chamlee-Wright opens the interview by highlighting how the ideological crossroads of socialism and capitalism are an opportunity to have a discussion and to shed light on their differences.

“When we take something that paradigm shaping, like the idea of socialism, it’s an opportunity to really open up doors for learning,” says Chamlee-Wright.

Today, students and young people appear to have a newfound interest in socialism and that it stems from a desire for solutions. Chamlee-Wright notes that it is incumbent upon educators to highlight how the bottom-up approach to entrepreneurial free markets can foster the change needed to enact those solutions.

Highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit, she focuses on how market activity drives new ideas and solutions, while also explaining the obstacles faced in a free market by regulations, which most often negatively impact those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

“And they [young people] want to see solutions, so in that respect, that is where those who favor more market-based outcomes have fallen short in being able to explain how it is, and why it is, that markets are the source of the prosperity that they do currently enjoy, and that they want for others.” Chamlee-Wright goes on to explain how this bottom-up approach can be challenging to grasp but imperative for understanding income growth and social progress.

“Income growth only comes from market coordination… when we see the big upward shifts of human well-being, it has always been because we have had bottom-up, entrepreneurial discovery emerging,” she stresses. “Each of these upward trajectories has only come about because people have had the relative increase in freedom to be able to engage in market activity.” 

As the conversation shifts to free speech, Chamlee-Wright mentions the two most important factors for a constructive conversation and debate: critical thinking and sympathetic listening. Both require respect for reason and evidence, while also working to understand the point someone else is trying to make.

“I may not persuade you, you may not persuade me,” Chamlee-Wright begins, “but at least I know why this other person, who is a smart person looking at the same world that I’m looking at, comes to a different conclusion. If I understand that, then that’s been a productive conversation.”

While this concept and mode of conduct may seem simple enough, it’s not always easy in practice, especially given our current, argumentative climate. “There’s only so much heavy lifting that first amendment principles can do for us, the rest of the project for creating positive, productive dialogue, is more of a cultural project.”

You can listen to the full She Thinks interview on iTunes, SoudCloud, or YouTube. For more thought pieces by Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright, visit her professional biography, and for additional information and guides to helping foster free speech on campus, download the Institute’s “A Framework for Campus Free Speech Policy,” here.

See more posts: Civil DiscourseIdeasIHS NewsInterview 

You Might Also Like