In 1938, the American Enterprise Institute was founded for the purpose of “bringing about a greater public knowledge and understanding of the social and economic advantages accruing to the American people through the maintenance of the system of free, competitive enterprise.”
Over the past 80 years, AEI has changed in many ways—adding new policy areas of focus, upgrading our communications strategies, and expanding our outreach to new audiences beyond Washington, DC. What has remained constant, however, is our guiding philosophy: that expanding freedom, increasing opportunity, and bolstering free enterprise are what will give the most people the best life. These are unchanging truths that underlie all that AEI does.
Adam Smith called it “the system of natural liberty,” but the free enterprise system is not guaranteed to us, and it cannot be taken for granted, even in America. For it to survive, it requires the understanding and consent of the public and of leaders in education, government, business, and the media. At the same time, leaders must cut through ideological and political rhetoric and empirically demonstrate the advantages of free enterprise and American leadership for all people, especially those at the margins of society.
AEI’s role in making not just the empirical but the moral case for free enterprise has never been more urgent. We are taking the lead in advancing a moral consensus in our country, predicated on the principles of human dignity and human potential and finding common ground by developing a policy agenda that pushes opportunity to those who need it the most.
Over the past year, AEI scholars engaged in new research and developed innovative reform ideas designed to solve some of America’s greatest challenges: leveraging the right tools in US trade policy; addressing the scourge of opioids in communities across the country; narrowing America’s skills gap; thwarting transnational threats emanating from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia; and undergirding American national defense.
Coupled with this work has been an ambitious effort to educate today’s and tomorrow’s leaders about the values of democratic capitalism. AEI’s Leadership Network now includes more than 600 mid-career executives across 40 states who span careers in local government, nonprofits, and community organizations and who have received policy, communication, and leadership training from AEI. Our Academic Programs team has reached thousands of college students across the country, arming them with the intellectual resources and leadership skills to advance the competition of ideas on their campuses.
The competition of ideas and freedom of speech itself are, dangerously, under attack today, as seen not only on college campuses but also in political debates, in the media, and even among friends and families. Americans must commit to stand athwart this trend, not by abandoning strong policy positions, but rather by engaging in open and civil debate. AEI conducts all of our work by engaging in a respectful but vigorous competition of ideas because we understand that spirited disagreements, expressed with civility, strengthen a democratic and pluralistic culture. In the months and years ahead, AEI will continue to promote a competition of ideas while making the moral case for free enterprise. We know that AEI’s community will similarly continue to stand with us in this pursuit.
|Arthur C. Brooks
|Tully M. Friedman
|Daniel A. D’Aniello