Craig Biddle: I am speaking with C. Bradley Thompson, professor of political science at Clemson University and the executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC). Dr. Thompson received his Ph.D. at Brown University and has been a visiting scholar at Princeton and Harvard as well as the University of London. He is the author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, and coauthor (with Yaron Brook) ofNeoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. His most recent TOS article is “Liberal Education and the Quest for Truth, Freedom, and Greatness,” in the Fall 2016 issue.
Thanks for joining me, Brad.
Bradley Thompson:My pleasure, Craig. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and your readers at The Objective Standardabout our work at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.
Biddle: Given the worsening political environment in America—as evidenced by our alternatives in the impending presidential election—advocates of free minds and free markets are as alert as ever to the urgency of educating Americans about the nature and value of capitalism. We need to make capitalism a known ideal. The Clemson Institute is one of the few organizations dedicated to this cause. So I’d like to give our readers an overview of the Institute and its programs.
What is the CISC? How did it come to be? And what is its mission?
Thompson: The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism was founded in 2005 with a generous start-up grant from BB&T, under the direction of its then chairman and CEO, John Allison.
At the time, I was a visiting scholar at Princeton University and was offered the position to serve as the Clemson Institute’s first executive director. I was impressed with the vision for the program as presented by John Allison and the people at Clemson. There were, however, two potential risks for me in taking the job. The first was that the job did not come with tenure, or even with the promise of tenure. (At the time, I was a tenured, full professor at Ashland University in Ohio.) The second risk was that the “Clemson Institute” did not yet exist; it was simply a budget line at Clemson and had no official status on campus. There was no guarantee the university would approve its creation. Still, given the potential I saw, it was an easy decision for me. And I’m pleased to say it was the best professional decision of my career.
My first job when I arrived at Clemson was to usher what was then called the “Clemson Capitalism Initiative” through the approval process to become an officially recognized institute. I spent my first few months at Clemson introducing myself to faculty and administrators and explaining to them what we were hoping to create with our program.
I made three things clear to everyone I spoke to: first, our program would adhere to the highest academic standards possible; second, we would create a marketplace of ideas free of indoctrination and dogmatism, where the best ideas and the truth would be allowed to win in the battle of ideas; and third, we would not be “ghettoized” or shunted to a dark corner of the university. I insisted that our program be fully integrated into the intellectual life of the campus. . . .