Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog


James Ledger – Foundation for Economic Education | Week 8

James Ledger, 27 February 2017

Last weekend I flew to Washington, D.C. for the first time for the 10th anniversary of the International Students for Liberty Conference.

I met up with other Mannkal scholars who are also in the final weeks of their internships in the US and Canada, from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan to the Institute of Liberal Studies and the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation in Ottowa.

The Mannkal contingent became stronger still with the inclusion of scholars from organisations in Washington itelf.

Washington DC Suburbs

Washington DC Suburbs

It was a wonderful weekend with no shortage of inspiring speakers and, quite surprisingly, some controversy.

Not controversy in the way of speakers advocating for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) or increased taxes at a libertarian conference, but in a heated discussion (argument) between FEE’s own Jeffrey Tucker and ‘Alt-Right’ leader Richard Spencer over his tendency to deny, not promote, every individual the freedom that he enjoys to therefore be at odds with the principles of ISFLC.

It eventuated with Spencer being removed from the venue. I didn’t expect that at a conference! You can read more and watch footage of it here.

Fellow Mannkal scholar, Jackie & I at ISFLC

Fellow Mannkal scholar, Jackie & I at ISFLC

Taxation is Theft at ISFLC

Taxation is Theft at ISFLC

On a brighter note, it was great to catch up with friends from home and we reflected on our internship experiences so far.

I managed to see a thought-provoking talk on how one can be both Christian and libertarian, while also listen to Mannkal’s friend at Indianapolis’ Liberty Fund, David Hart, speak about the significant influence of economist Frédéric Bastiat.

I attended a panel discussion about how to be the best libertarian writer you can be, while also seeing a debate on whether a Universal Basic Income could work. You can probably guess who won the debate, but there were some solid points that had me thinking if there’s a better way than the status-quo.

I wasn’t convinced, but the welfare bill in America is out of control and certainly needs reform.

For example, if a UBI was implemented for citizens who earn under $20,000 per year, for every dollar over $20,000 the payment would decrease – as you’d expect. The figure put forth was $5000.

It would replace Social Security and only apply to people who earn under the threshold, which is significant because currently there are loopholes that people jump through to access welfare when they don’t need it. Same in Australia.

It could cut administrative costs and shrink the size of the crazy governmental regulatory bodies as well. That said, libertarian principles are fundamentally against such a socialist method of wealth redistribution, so I’ll need much further persuasion before I can support it.

ISFLC Debate on a UBI

ISFLC Debate on a UBI

This is my last week at FEE, and while it feels like I’ve been away from home for 6 months it also feels like I only arrived yesterday. I’ve had a great time and made some incredible friends in the office.

I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Ron Manners and the team at Mannkal for granting me this wonderful opportunity and I urge anyone considering to apply for an internship to do it. It’s enormously satisfying reaching the end of an international internship knowing you’ve successfully lived alone in a foreign city for the first time and that you’ve given it everything.

I’d like to also express my deepest gratitude to the staff at FEE who made me feel welcome and for giving me such a brilliant work environment. Lawrence Reed, the President of FEE, will be visiting Perth in early March and I look forward to seeing him again.

It’s now time to pack my bags and get ready to fly to the other side of the world!


James Ledger – Foundation for Economic Education | Week 7

James Ledger, 20 February 2017

The second article I wrote during this internship was published over the weekend.

In short, it argues that unless parliament significantly reduces corporate taxes – further than the 25% proposal – Australia will seriously struggle to attract foreign investment going forward and will be stuck in years of economic decline.

We’re currently seeing the lowest level of international capital coming into the country since the recession in the 1990s, and if Trump succeeds in reducing America’s corporate rate from 35% to 15%, which I hope he does, we desperately need to become more economically attractive to avoid skyrocketing unemployment and eroding living standards.

It would be disastrous to have a corporate income tax of almost double such a powerhouse like the USA.

If you’re interested you can read it here.

Weekly FEE Staff Meeting

Weekly FEE Staff Meeting

Earlier in the week I was connected to the senior Chief of Staff to Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrats. He’s coming to FEE later in the year, so I thought it would be prudent to introduce myself in an attempt to express my interest in helping the party in the upcoming WA State election and more generally in the future.

As the only libertarian senator ever elected into the Australian parliament, Leyonhjelm’s popularity seems to be growing (from what I can see, at least) and the appetite for less regulation, smaller government and a return to common-sense public policy seems to be getting stronger with every absurd suggestion our politicians and media deliver – see here, here, here, and here for entertainment.

I really hope they can gain enough support next month to drive support away from parties like One Nation and other minor parties. The voice for freedom needs to be louder in WA, especially with the Nationals now preferencing the Greens over the Liberals.

Tonight I’m boarding a flight to Washington, D.C. to attend this weekend’s International Students for Liberty Conference. I’ll be there alongside several other Mannkal Scholars who have also been interning at American and Canadian think-tanks for the past two or three months.

I’m told it’s a great weekend, jam-packed with thought-provoking speakers covering a broad range of topics. Among the speakers include Dr Tom Palmer, Rand Paul, Steve Forbes, FEE’s own Jeffrey Tucker and Liberty Fund’s David Hart, who is set to give an interesting speech about influential economist and developer of the economic theory of opportunity cost, Frédéric Bastiat.

I’m also particularly interested in a seminar about how it’s possible to be both Christian and libertarian, as many believe the two are mutually exclusive. I disagree, and it’s a topic important to me so I am looking forward to it greatly.

I’ll let you know how it goes next week (which will be my last)!

Street Bookshop

Street Bookshop

James Ledger – Foundation for Economic Education | Week 6

James Ledger, 13 February 2017

Another week has passed at FEE, with a lot of the office reeling over a new Georgia-based backing to tax online sales in and out of the State.

The House Ways & Means Committee approved House Bill 61, sponsored by the panel’s chairman, Jay Powell, R-Camilla, which would force online retailers with at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year in Georgia to either collect and remit to the state sales taxes on purchases or send “tax due” notices each year to customers who spend at least $500 on their site.

As reported by a local newspaper, ‘The owners of retail stores — who have a lot of political clout at the Capitol — have long said they are handicapped by the fact that they have to charge state and local sales taxes on what their customers buy, while many online customers don’t.’

Although this may seem fair, as libertarians we should always oppose new taxes or tax increases. After all, basic economics will always win, with online shops just passing the cost onto consumers.

As you can imagine there were a few frustrated faces around the place this week!

A few weeks ago myself and some other staff were tasked with going through old files which had lists of FEE seminar attendees from the 1980s and 1990s. The lists had their names, addresses and phone numbers (if they had one back then).

When that was completed, the web development team ran it through a program which updated the information correctly to the present day, using electoral roles and drivers’ licences as sources for up-to-date data.

So at the start of this week, I was added to a new campaign called the ‘Welcome Home Project’. The aim of the program is to use the information to contact old alumni to see if they are still interested in FEE.

Over the next month or so this will involve myself and others cold-calling over 3000 people to try to re-engange them – whether that means gaining them as a new donor or just receiving their email address so they receive FEE’s daily or weekly emails.

This took up most of my week but I managed to finish my latest article too, which is being published this weekend.

I visited Georgia Acquarium – the world’s biggest acquarium – and my local shooting range this weekend as well, which, as you can imagine in the deep south state of Georgia, was an experience in itself!

The difference in Australian and American attitudes towards firearm ownership was evident as soon as I walked in, with people just browsing the aisles for their next glock or shotgun. I love this country.

Until next week!

Whale Shark in Georgia Acquarium

Whale Shark in Georgia Acquarium

Studdards Range & Guns - Local Gun Range

Studdards Range & Guns - Local Gun Range

Local School Bus

Local School Bus

James Ledger – Foundation of Economic Education | Week 5

James Ledger, 6 February 2017

New York City is an extraordinary place.

With only a few days over the weekend to tick off the countless things I wanted to see, it was difficult making enough time for it all. I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend, Georgia, visit for a little while so this made seeing the Big Apple all the more special.

While we managed to see all the main tourist-y attractions like Wall Street, the 9/11 memorial, the One World Observatory and Times Square (among many others), we also had time to briefly check out the free market think-tank on Broadway, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

As their website says, the organisation ‘is a leading voice of free-market ideas, shaping political culture since our founding in 1977.  Ideas that have changed the United States and its urban areas for the better—welfare reform, tort reform, proactive policing, and supply-side tax policies, among others—are the heart of MI’s legacy. While continuing with what is tried and true, we are constantly developing new ways of advancing our message in the battle of ideas.’

Mannkal really does have friends all over the world.

Back at work, we started the week with Mike Rowe’s podcast going live. I wrote about this last week. Turns out my prediction that 500 free copies of ‘Economics in One Lesson’ wouldn’t last long was absolutely correct. Since Tuesday, 430 copies have been sold for $1.00 each, along with the 500 free ones, to mark 930 in only a few days. Add to the mix 2074 PDF downloads, thousands of online readers and 1565 mp3′s, I was reminded (yet again) of the real committed following FEE has.

I’ve also been fine-tuning my article on the need to reform Australia’s corporate tax rate, which I wrote about last week as well. Since FEE is fundamentally American, having an article purely on the unknown land of Australia will probably not attract too many readers. To that end I’ve been trying to make it more interesting to American readers. Hopefully I’ll have another published article that I can share with you early next week.

This marks the end of my 5th week at FEE and I only have three to go. In two weeks I’m attending the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington D.C., which a few weeks ago seemed like an eternity away. Yet at the same time it seems like I only arrived in the States yesterday. This trip is going so quickly.

See you next week!

Georgia & I in a snowy Central Park

Georgia & I in a snowy Central Park

Times Square

Times Square

Outside Trump Tower

Outside Trump Tower

James Ledger – Foundation of Economic Education | Week 4

James Ledger, 30 January 2017

The office has been feeling empty this week, with several staff members heading down to Florida for a summit of like-minded organisations. With that, though, came a bigger workload for me and more responsibilities.

We’ve been working on a promotional feature with Mike Rowe, the narrator and host of the Discovery Channel series ‘Dirty Jobs’ and the CNN series ‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’. I hadn’t heard of him before I came to America but I’ve since learnt that he’s quite a big deal.

I was tasked with helping create two landing pages on the FEE website for the promotion, which invites readers to fill out a brief survey about FEE and Mike Rowe to receive a free copy of FEE co-founder Henry Hazlitt’s book ‘Economics in One Lesson’. It’s limited to the first 500 people which to me sounded quite significant, but since seeing that Mike has over 4.5 million Facebook followers I don’t think it will last long!

I also started writing two articles this week. The first is about Airbnb in the wake of another attempt to further regulate it in Australia (I’m looking at you, Daniel Andrews). I plan to argue that this pillar of the sharing economy is already regulated, though just not by government. It’s privately regulated the same way Uber is, by reviews and ratings systems. If a consumer is unsatisfied with their stay they’ll write a negative review. This will caution others against staying but also incentivise the host to up their standards into the future. This is beneficial to everyone. Indeed, Airbnb doesn’t have to operate within the strict regulatory framework that hotels do. But if the service is something people want – which they do – then it would take a seriously ambitious government (Andrews) to discourage its place in the market. The rise of Airbnb may even force governments to reduce the regulatory burden on hotels to ensure their competitiveness. This is what they should do instead of increasing taxes on both.

The second article argues in favour of the Coalition’s proposed company tax reduction targets, but also states they don’t go far enough. In the wake of the US withdrawing from the TPP, Australia needs to find other ways of being economically attractive to business despite the trade deal’s actual effectiveness being questioned.

Given the prospect of a 15% corporate tax rate in America, moving the Australian rate to 25% in ten years doesn’t appear too ambitious. But it may not be that beneficial, either. Britain plans to further cut their taxes to 17% by 2020, and with Singapore at 17.5% and Candada boasting 15%, the current Australian rate of 30% is wildly noncompetitive. I think 25% in ten years will be too late. ‘That horse has already run’, they’ll say.

In my spare time this week I explored the uptown area of Buckhead and the Atlantic Station district, and started educating myself on Bitcoin after years of semi-understanding it. If you’re interested, I suggest reading Steve Patterson’s ‘What’s the Big Deal about Bitcoin?’. He explains it in laymans terms which is wonderfully refreshing.

I hope everyone enjoyed Australia Day! See you next week.

Milton & I

Milton & I

Larry the Liberty Pencil

Larry the Liberty Pencil

Atlantic Station Shopping District

Atlantic Station Shopping District

James Ledger – Foundation of Economic Education | Week 3

James Ledger, 23 January 2017

I started reading two new books this week – both offering much-needed brain food after a weekend in Las Vegas.

The first is Lawrence Reed’s latest publication, ‘Real Heroes: Inspiring true stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction’. As Senator Rand Paul said, ‘it’s a great book from one of liberty’s own heroes’, and the inside cover even presents the book to Mannkal’s own Ron & Jenny Manners. He writes that Ron and Jenny are a special couple, ‘heroes of impeccable character who work tirelessly to advance the right causes, especially liberty and entrepreneurship’. Amongst a total of forty stories, Larry reflects on the lives of people like Augustine, Cato the Younger, William Ewart Gladstone and perhaps most significantly, Anne Frank. It’s an inspiring book from start to finish and adds to Larry’s wonderful read ‘Are We Good Enough for Liberty?’, which I encourage everyone to read.

The second book I started was a thought-provoking read by Nick Spencer titled; ‘The Evolution of the West: How Christianity has shaped our values’. Careful not to overstate the Christian role in shaping our lives and always alert to the mess of history, the book explains how the values of Western civilisation have been created from the influence of the Church. These include human dignity, the rule of law, democracy, human rights, science, and even paradoxically, atheism and secularism. Even if you don’t support present-day Christianity, any supporter of liberty should know the roots of the movement and this book explains it succinctly.

At the office, I finished writing an article for FEE about how Australia should learn from America regarding the proposed introduction of a sugar tax. Philadelphia recently added a levy to their soft drinks and the results have been predictable but worrying, with businesses struggling to hold down a customer base as people simply drive outside the city limits to buy their drinks. Though the tax was ‘only meant to tax wholesalers’, in an unbelievable twist the cost has been passed onto the consumer. You can read my article here.

See you next week!

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

My Neighbourhood

My Neighbourhood

James Ledger – Foundation of Economic Education | Week 1

James Ledger, 9 January 2017

Hello from Atlanta, Georgia!

Having never been to the USA before, stepping off the plane into an airport of the deep south on New Years Eve was an experience in of itself. Despite Atlanta boasting the world’s busiest airport, I’d never before seen so much security and thoroughness given to every single arrivee.

On New Years Day I attended my first NFL match between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Luckily for me, the history between the two teams has a long-standing rivalry so the atmosphere within Georgia Dome was electric, especially since Atlanta won. Again I was privy to the unbelievable security afforded to major events – so much so that I had to swap my bag for a clear plastic bag (and pay a cool $10 fee for the privilege) so security guards could see the contents. Though it makes sense to reduce the risk of crime, the red tape reminded me of where I was and how seriously they take surveillance and precaution.

Before I started work at FEE on January 3, I managed to complete most of the main ‘touristy’ attractions Atlanta has to offer – the home of Coca-Cola, Centennial Park, the College Football Hall of Fame and – most interestingly – the CNN Centre.

On my first day at work I witnessed an interesting presentation by a Venezualan man named Javier, who’s in America seeking political asylum after fleeing his country out of fear for his safety. He’s been an long-time activist against the socialist Maduro government and has been targeted and hospitalised as a result.

It was a fascinating presentation on his own experiences and it was shocking to realise how little most people know about the true plight of Venezualian politics. Since then I went to dinner with Lawrence W. Reed – the President of FEE – who took me to the most amazing restaurant overlooking the entire Atlanta metro area. I have started to make friends with the FEE staff, started writing an article on Australia’s peculiar paintball laws (if you want a paintball marker you need a firearms licence), and gone on a sensational Bicycle Tour of the suburbs – something I try to do in every city I visit.

Javier giving his presentation

Javier giving his presentation

It’s been a fabulous first week. Onwards and upwards from here!


Lawrence, Javier, Pedro & I

Lawrence, Javier, Pedro & I

American Flag outside the FEE offices

American Flag outside the FEE offices

Max Formato – Week Five

Max Formato, 3 August 2016

After five wonderful weeks, my internship has come to a close!

Arriving outside FEE's office for the last time!

This last week has been productive and diverse. To start off the week, I worked closely alongside Max Hill and Michael Hodges on the task of reviewing the correspondence archives between FEE and other organisations. This provided the opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the history of the think-tank, whilst gaining exposure to the pressing economic, political, and social climate at the times of writing.

With FEE's Web Projects Manager, Jason Kelly

Complementing this endeavour, I aided the web development team with their latest online venture: ‘FEE Community’. We tested the website on several mobile devices with the task of identifying website bugs prior to its approaching public release. This project has been in the works for the last few months and it was particularly exciting to be of support during its final development stages.

After a bustling first half of the week in the office, I was lucky enough to score cheap tickets and attend a Guns n’ Roses show at the Georgia Dome. It was the first time the band had reunited in twenty years which attracted a debaucherous and fervent crowd at what was the largest domed structure in the world upon its initial opening.

Behold; Georgia Dome!

To cap off my final week in Atlanta, I had the privilege of working alongside the Programs team at the Southeast Homeschool Expo. This convention is the largest of its kind in the United States and provided the opportunity to introduce parents and students alike to FEE’s online courses, seminars, and educational resources. Working as a team, Elizabeth Sorby and I gained dozens of emails for FEE’s mailing list and met numerous leaders in the home-schooling community of whom were enthused at the prospect of working with FEE in the future. We also gave out a tonne of lollies, merchandise, and had an enjoyable time showing all the children our signature ‘Plinko’ game to win a prize!

FEE's merchandise at the Southeast Homeschool Expo!

My sincere thanks goes out to the entire team at FEE for their gracious Southern hospitality and for allowing me to work with some of the brightest minds in the libertarian world.

Goodbye Atlanta! You will be missed.

The experience has been intellectually invigorating and profoundly educational and I have Mannkal to deeply thank.  In particular I would love to express my gratitude to Scholarships Coordinator Kate Wagstaff, Chief Executive Officer Paul McCarthy, and Chairman Ron Manners for funding and organising this occasion in the first place. It has been phenomenal.

It is now time to board my flight to Chicago, Illinois and make my journey back to Perth! Farewell!

Max Formato – Week Four

Max Formato, 25 July 2016

Another week has come to an end!

Following a spectacular weekend at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas, I flew back to Atlanta on the red-eye flight on Sunday evening. After a quick rest, I was eager to arrive at the office to hear about the success of ‘FEE Day’ at last week’s conference. It was fantastic to hear about the team speaking with several established donors of the organisation, along with tales of poker winnings and clubbing, that had emerged from the boisterous weekend!

Walking back through the entrance at FEE HQ!

During the week I was enlisted to aid other interns in the digital development team on one of the major tasks at hand. This involved delving into the ‘’Briefly” pamphlets that were originally issued in the mid-1940s by authors including V. Orval Watts. This allowed for me to gain significant exposure to the philosophical underpinnings of rent control, in conjunction to their applicability to the modern housing market.

Fittingly, this week marked the 99th birthday of Bettina Bien Greaves! Bettina was an early associate of FEE and played a key role in the recording and publication of Ludwig von Mises’s economics seminars in the mid-twentieth century. I had the opportunity later in the week to encounter much of her work including her compilation entitled, “Austrian Economics: An Anthology”. This publication provided elucidatory insight into the principles of Austrian economics and their evolution over the last century.

This weekend I braved the 40-degree heat and made my way to Piedmont Park on Saturday for the Atlanta Ice-Cream Festival. I had originally planned to merely pop by the outstandingly populated event, however, ran into a guitar luthier named Bobby, and his wife Brianna. This quickly led to over four hours of conversation and gave me the chance to pick up an electric guitar (a superbly customised Stratocaster at that) for the first time in over a month! It was certainly an uplifting experience playing for the thousands of festival goers that walked past the stall over the course of the day.

A glorious day at the Atlanta Ice-Cream Festival!

Playing a customised stratocaster with Robby from Weybach Guitars!

On Sunday, I visited Ponce City Market in the gentrifying Old Fourth Ward and then made my way over to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial District. The aura of this district was invigorating to say the least, and provided a nice moment to ponder the similarities between the liberating teachings of this modern American icon, and those embraced by the political philosophy of libertarianism.

Above Ponce City Market's food hall for lunch!

Outside the renown Ebenezer Baptist Church in the MLK Jr. Memorial District!

That’s all for this week! I will be checking in once again for my final week in Atlanta soon; stay tuned!

Max Formato – Week Three

Max Formato, 20 July 2016

The beginning of this jam-packed week featured an exciting Monday morning in the office. After a weekend of vivacious articles published by the FEE team, website traffic was high, and everyone was in fantastic spirits. Office discussion revolved around the upcoming Freedom Fest, along with reviewing the success of FEE’s recent student events in Georgia. During working hours, I encountered and dealt with several publications by writers such as Murray Rothbard and Hans F. Sennholz, along with previous issues of The Freeman Magazine. Complementing these experiences were a series of stimulating conversations with Jason and Max of FEE’s digital development team concerning the ethics of government intervention and dynamism of the ‘right/left’ political spectrum.

The fantastic start to the week continued bright and early on Thursday morning. I made my way to the airport and caught a flight to Las Vegas to attend Freedom Fest with several other North American Mannkal scholars.

Viva Las Vegas!

Amongst vibrant conversations involving our internship experiences thus far, the group revelled in the knowledge of many of the festival’s speakers and attendees. The range of seminars I attended spanned from Jeffery Tucker’s passionate insight into American fascism to Chris Casey’s outlook on bond investing to Anthem Blanchard’s dissection of crypto-currencies.

Rand Paul Lunch!

Another highlight of Freedom Fest included the Rand Paul luncheon of which helped elucidate my understanding of his political journey and classical liberalist tendencies. Being an economics student, it was also invigorating to hear (and meet!) one of my inspirations in George Gilder. George is the co-founder of the Discovery Foundation and author of the monumental ‘Wealth and Poverty’ in 1981; he spoke fervently on the value of currency and the brilliance of Bitcoin’s block-chain technology.

Meeting George Gilder!

Needless to say, Freedom Fest provided a fantastic environment for us all to further our understanding of the applicability of libertarian thought in society whilst mingling with some of the most innovative minds contributing to the discussion today.

Aside from time spent at the conference, visiting Las Vegas’ attractions also advanced the weekend’s enjoyment and helped foster bonds amongst the North American Mannkal scholars. We visited sights including the Bellagio Fountains, Stratosphere, Fremont Street, and explored the multiplicity of themed casinos. My favourite moment of tourism, however, was found in an awe-filled climax to the weekend. Michael McKenzie, Chad Bensky, and I had the opportunity to undertake a road-trip to the Grand Canyon! Along the way, we visited Hoover Dam, the beginning of Route 66, as well as the towns of Boulder City and Kingman. It superseded all of our expectations and provided an opportunity to reflect on what had been a particularly enjoyable (and educational!) last few days.

At the grandest of all canyons!

All in all, the past week across Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona has been magnificent. My sincere thanks must go out to Ron and the team at Mannkal for allowing me to have such an opportunity to ascertain more knowledge on public policy and the free-market.

I am now about to board my flight back to Atlanta for what I am sure will be another exuberant week. Stay tuned!