Economics Retreat Gives Students Space to Contemplate Larger Issues

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Students from New Jersey City University School of Business recently attended a week-long workshop in Vermont, led by NJCU’s Joe DiFiglia, to discuss economic principles based on the work of Milton Friedman. Courtesy NJCU.

By Joe DiFiglia

Thirty years ago I befriended an economics professor who changed the course of my life. I now sit on the back porch of Capitaf, the former Vermont residence of the late Milton and Rose Friedman, reflecting on a week that I am sure will prove to be a life-moment for six special NJCU School of Business undergrads.

These Jersey City area-students, who were strangers to each other when we boarded the Amtrak Vermonter in Newark last Monday, were willing to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones and together, delve into the scholarly work of a most influential Nobel economist.

The purpose of the Capitaf retreat is to offer a contemplative space to “perpetuate Milton Friedman’s legacy – the application of the economic way of thinking and classical liberal ideas to policy issues that people living in a free society must grapple with each day.”

None of these students were economics majors, at least not yet. All were intellectually curious. A student from Chile was there to help strengthen her case against the Marxist ideology embraced by her peers back home. Another admitted that the colloquium in the mountains was simply a personal respite from 18 months of urban COVID living.

Prior to their arrival, the NJCU Scholars were required to read Milton’s classic book “Capitalism and Freedom” (1962). Each student was responsible for leading two chapter discussions during the week. The conversations were topically broad and philosophically deep. The level of intellectual discourse exceeded all expectations. On some evenings, the students even chose to continue their econ conversations into the early morning hours at the guest house library. Yes, it is amazing to see the wondrous human interactions that occur when there is limited cellular and Wi-Fi service!

I am so proud of these students and thankful to be affiliated with NJCU School of Business. Thank you to Dean Bernie McSherry, Professor Andrew Bossie and the NJCU economics faculty for helping me coordinate the program.

We are truly grateful to the Free to Choose Network and the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation for offering this unique opportunity to our students and for providing them full scholarship support. We hope to participate in the FTC economics colloquium for many summers to come.

Joe DiFiglia is the director of the New Jersey Council for Economic Education at New Jersey City University. NJCU recently opened a campus in the Oceanport section of the former Fort Monmouth.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9-15, 2021 print edition of The Two River Times.