Campus Debate on the Ethics of Free Markets at IUPUI

This post is long overdue. In October, YAL @ IUPUI held a campus debate on the ethical issues surrounding a free-market economic system which we co-sponsored with the Leadership Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The speakers included Robert Murphy, an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute who took the libertarian perspective; Richard Brake, the National Director of Education at ISI who took the conservative perspective; and Marc Bilodeau, a professor of economics at IUPUI who took the liberal (actually, socialist) perspective.

The event was a success in more ways than one!  We had a good turnout for an event of this type. Indeed, IUPUI is a commuter campus with a small percentage of students actually living on it, so the uphill battle was even steeper to get people to the event.  Nevertheless, we saw new faces who have since been active members of YAL @ IUPUI.

The event went very smoothly.  Each speaker was given 30 minutes to speak and we left 30 minutes at the end for questions and answers. Each speaker gave a great defense of their viewpoint and the audience was very engaged throughout the question and answer session.

Afterwards, Robert Murphy joined the chapter at a local bar where we discussed, at length, various libertarian ethical topics, economics, and, of course, the Krugman-Murphy Debate.

Yes, the overall event was a success, but it was the planning and preparation that served as the most valuable experience.

This was the first event that was built from scratch by the YAL @ IUPUI chapter and it was a powerful learning experience. Since this blog is particularly for YAL members, here are some lessons I learned:

  • Don’t make the topic too specific. I had originally planned on a fairly esoteric topic on Austrian economic method vs Neoclassical method. That would have been interesting, but I also probably would’ve been the only one there.
  • Get started WAY in advance.  Not everything can be done early, but I cannot say enough for how having months to get any kinks out of the event with ISI, the speakers, the chapter, etc, saved a ton of stress.
  • Think very carefully about format. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how much you may overlook about an event and forget about until the day of. Will you need a stage? Will you need more than one mic? How will you determine speaking order? Do you need an introductory speech?
  • Every day should have time reserved to work on fundraising.  When organizing speakers, you have to have a deadline, but this deadline can wreak havoc on your stress tolerance when raising money doesn’t seem to be keeping up with everything else.
  • Always look to co-sponsor with other student organizations. Our event was one where any political group on campus would have been obvious to co-sponsor with, but, admittedly, we waited too long to get the ball rolling on this front and lost out on the possibility for strong partnerships with other organizations.
  • Promote. Promote. Promote. Seriously, this should consume the bulk of your time.  Promote on campus, promote in classes, promote with the faculty, promote off campus, promote everywhere.  Send press releases more than once (maybe even more than 3 times).  Follow up on everything.  Have more than one person dedicated to promotion because, trust me, you’re going to want more than one person’s level of effort when it comes to promotion.
  • Obviously, if you don’t get pictures then it didn’t happen.
All in all, the event was a success.  It wasn’t as large as a Ron Paul experience, but it was fun and it helped establish our chapter on campus as active and growing.
Plus we got to hang out with Bob Murphy.  That is a win in an of itself.
Photos of the event (full set can be viewed here):
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