Since 2000, ICSEP seminars “The Free Market and its Critics”—based on Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose book and films—offer university students a primer in the theory and practice of market economics. The seminars are offered at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. The students are drawn from all faculties, and are mostly third-year and up and on the Dean’s List. There are also doctoral candidates among them.
The only Israeli students who receive instruction in market economics are those who take economics as a major or minor field of specialization. But they study mostly economic techniques, not philosophy. Other university students, especially in law, the social sciences and in the humanities are mostly ignorant of economics and of market realities, an ignorance that impairs their career decisions. Since they also lack the tools to analyze government policies, or to ask what their costs effectiveness is, they cannot act as enlightened citizens or decision makers.
The students in the seminars read Free to Choose by Rose and Milton Friedman, and other materials, such as works by Hayek, Irving Kristol, Thomas Sowell and others. They are required to prepare weekly essays based on these readings. The films based on Free to Choose are shown to the students to launch class discussions. At the end of the course, groups of students prepare presentations on various economic issues of their choosing.
The seminars are based on a continuous dialogue between lecturers and students. We encourage discussion in the context of the daily preoccupation of the students as prospective wage earners and citizens. The students also have discussions with business leaders and public figures, such as former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lord Kalms, President emeritus of Dixon’s and Sam Zell of Zell Enterprises, as well as various Israeli entrepreneurs.
Close to two thousand students have graduated from our university seminars and hundreds more are on waiting lists. These graduates have changed the atmosphere on the university campuses from outright hostility to market thinking to a great curiosity about, and increasing acceptance of classic liberal thought.
Our alumni participate in promoting free markets ideas in the public arena outside campus. Some have founded a not for profit organization “Citizens for True Social Justice” and have undertaken many activities on behalf of economic reforms. (See letters from former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and from Dr. Yossie Bachar, Director General of the Finance Ministry as well as letters from visitors and students commenting on these seminars and activities).
We are now designing an extension course that will deepen the students’ understanding of market economics and provide them with skills for their public promotion. We are also forming an alumni association that will focus on the formulation of a reform plan for the housing industry that will be presented to the Knesset for action. Since housing is the biggest ticket item for young Israelis (who have to spend nine years of salaries to buy a modest apartment), this work may be the beginning of a true pro-reform grass roots movement that could have an immense impact.
ICSEP regularly initiates research projects on major issues of the day.
Some research has also been done in cooperation with other bodies, such as the International Center of Economic Growth (on Political Business Cycles, published in Public Choice, 1992), and the Koret Foundation (on Small Businesses in Israel).
ICSEP regularly undertakes original studies in order to prepare detailed reform plans for Israel’s policy-makers.
In the mid-1980s ICSEP laid the groundwork for the anti-inflationary policies that proved so successful and for the privatized immigrant absorption policies that enabled the successful integration of the vast majority of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Since 1998, ICSEP has run economics classes at several Israeli high schools in which over 2,000 students have participated.
The courses teach the students basic economic concepts and theories, as well as how economics affects their daily lives and career prospects.
The students also go on at least one field trip to an Israeli enterprise.
ICSEP periodically brings leading foreign experts to Israel to share their knowledge and experiences.
ICSEP’s distinguished guests have included Nobel laureates, senior diplomats, Supreme Court judges, renowned editors and prominent businessmen.
ICSEP organizes seminars and conferences for decision-makers on such topics as deregulation, privatization, tax and capital market reform, immigrant absorption, housing, small business development, and pension fund, labor market and healthcare reform.
Attended by thousands and discussed in hundreds of media items, ICSEP seminars have profoundly affected public discourse on economics in Israel.
ICSEP serves as a clearinghouse of economic expertise, knowledge and resources and as a facilitator for groups and organizations such as the Israel Chambers of Commerce, universities, the Israel Supreme Court’s Institute for Judicial Studies, and the Israel Management Institute.
the Israeli public
ICSEP has translated seminal works into Hebrew, such as Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose and James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup’s What Everyone Should Know about Economics and Prosperity.