Advancing Capitalism at the New Intellectual Forum

Yesterday, my colleague Fred Smith and I co-hosted the New Intellectual Forum, an exciting event that brought business leaders and free-market intellectuals together for a discussion of how both groups can more effectively work together to advance economic freedom.

As Fred has long suggested, the defense of a free economy requires an alliance of both “Doers” and “Thinkers” to be effective. Both groups have good reasons for staying focused on their own familiar realms, though, so it was a testament to the open-mindedness of the many participants that they embraced the idea of working across professional boundaries. CEI hosted the even in conjunction with the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, a part of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Andrew Sherman frames the gap between business and the academy at the New Intellectual Forum

We started the day with a welcome from Jones Day partner Andrew Sherman and Snider Center managing director Christina Elson, and moved around the room with introductions. The distinguished group included professors, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit executives who had come from around the country to share their experiences. We talked about the disconnect that many participants felt existed between the business world and the academic world, even among those academics who teach in business and law schools. Andrew was particularly eloquent in lamenting the gap between many university researchers who are coming up with valuable new data and insights and how little of that executives and board members are seeing come across their desks.

The groups also discussed how to bridge that gap. Sabbaticals in industry generated a lot of enthusiasm, in which professors would spend a break, a semester, or a year working as an on-the-ground advisor to an existing firm, both contributing as an employee and then using their experience as fodder for future research and publishing. I and other speakers also urged businesspeople to compile both data and anecdotes on how government regulations impact their operations, for sharing with public policy groups like CEI. Big picture studies on the cost of regulation, like Wayne Crews’ 10,000 Commandments, have enriched free market advocacy for many years, but compelling stories about how overbearing red tape is holding back specific companies add a new dimension to the discussion.

The energy and connections generated by the discussion were impressive, so I have great hopes for the projects this group of allies will take on in the future. In the meantime, recent columns from Fred and Snider Center director Prof. Rajshree Agarwal will give you a good idea of where we’re heading.