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Wisconsin's Free-Market Evangelist

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04/14/2015Aaron Ensley

THE AUSTRIAN: Why did you decide to apply for and attend Mises University?

AARON ENSLEY: Honesty compels me to admit that my primary motivation for attending Mises University was to receive the final “seminar” credit that I needed to graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy. However, independent of this credit, I was in fact eager to attend Mises University because I was familiar with many of the speakers and very much looked forward to hearing them speak and getting the opportunity to meet them personally.

TA: What effect has your work with the Mises Institute had on your academic career?

AE: Although I still have and frequently reference the many pages of notes I took while attending Mises University, I would say that I probably learned more from the Mises University podcasts that I often listened to while operating a small business (a lawn mowing service). Don’t tell my graduate professor this, but without question, I learned more about economics by listening to podcasts while mowing lawns than I ever could have in school. Over the course of a few years, I listened to hundreds of podcasts and audiobooks on a variety of special topics that pertain to Austrian methodology and economic history. However, it is worth noting that I probably would not have listened to so many of these podcasts if the speakers were not so entertaining (e.g., Tom Woods, Walter Block, Joe Salerno, and Charles Adams). Also, these podcasts not only gave me a more robust understanding of subjects like American history, anarcho-capitalism, entrepreneurship, and tax history, but the speakers usually cited other books and articles that I would often look into later. To say it plainly, the Mises Institute became a Pandora’s box of excellent resources that I reference often.

TA: How has your knowledge of Austrian economics impacted your work as an economics instructor?

AE: I have had the unique privilege of working for institutions that are explicitly supportive of Austrian economics, so unlike many other instructors, I am generally free to teach Austrian economics as the primary methodology for my economics courses (of course, I do discuss other schools as well).

I may be a bit unique to the “academic world” in that I have never considered myself an academic, but more of a “free-market evangelist” that had a revelation of how markets work and I have been eager to share this knowledge with others ever since. When I began teaching at Northwood University and later at Brookfield Academy, I probably had more passion than book-smarts, but I had a good foundation and a broad understanding of the importance of free enterprise, limited government, and entrepreneurship, which caused me to focus mostly on the fundamental concepts in micro, macro, and international trade. Although I now teach Advanced Placement economics courses as well, I still use Austrian economics and its methodology (praxeology) as the foundation for the courses, even though some of the AP content deviates from what I might like to emphasize (e.g., calculating elasticity, cost curves, the Lorenz Curve, etc.). I generally find that once students are presented with Austrian ideas that make sense, they tend to see how much more useful Austrian economics is than the more modern focus of the economics discipline, which is often illogical and not particularly useful.

TA: What reaction have you received from students to the Austrian method of analyzing the economy?

AE: Students who have a natural curiosity and desire to learn generally enjoy my classes and appreciate the methodology used to analyze the economy. I always let students know in advance that my class will not likely be what they are expecting (they are always prepared for the worst). I also let them know that I disliked the first two economics courses that I took when I was an undergraduate because the subject was presented through the lens of graphs, rather than through the lens of logic or philosophical reasoning, but I learned to love it once I had a teacher that presented the latter methodology. This generally sets students at ease and I have received a lot of feedback that indicates that they did in fact appreciate my methodology. More importantly, I believe that the students who leave my class will forever see the world differently and will have an appreciation for what freedom really means as it pertains to our standard of living and overall well-being.

If you want to see what many of my students have said about my courses, I would encourage you to take a look at some of my student reviews at RateMyProfessor.com.

TA: You recently invited Mark Thornton to Wisconsin to participate in a discussion on drug prohibition. Can you tell us more about it?

AE: I serve on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Forum (WisconsinForum.org), a nonprofit free-market advocacy group based in Milwaukee. At my suggestion, we invited Dr. Thornton to address the members and guests of the Wisconsin Forum at a dinner event (we generally do this five times a year). Dr. Thornton delivered excellent content on drug and alcohol prohibition and we were very glad he came. I also arranged for him to speak to our upper school students at Brookfield Academy, but at the last minute, there was some concern (and perhaps panic) from the administration that some of the students might misinterpret Dr. Thornton’s presentation and then the school would have a problem with parents.

As a result, Dr. Thornton modified his talk and focus to alcohol prohibition, rather than drugs. The message is the same whether you are talking drugs, alcohol, commerce, or money: the market works better without government intervention.

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Cite This Article

Aaron Ensley, "Wisconsin's Free-Market Evangelist," The Austrian 1, no. 1 (January-Febraury 2015): 12–14.

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