Johnson Center conference examines reopening the economy after COVID

The Manuel Johnson Center for Political Economy hosted a conference in Birmingham recently that drew experts from around the country. (TROY photo)

The Sorrell College of Business’ Manley Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University hosted “Reopening the Economy in the Age of COVID” in Birmingham Feb. 25.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to businesses not just in Alabama and the Southeast, but across the world.  Business leaders have struggled to protect the health and welfare of their employees and consumers while providing needed services and delivering products that improve our quality of life,” said Dr. Allen Mendenhall, Associate Dean of the Sorrell College of Business and it’s Grady Rosier Professor.  “The pandemic has devastated certain sectors of the economy while wreaking severe consequences on other sectors.”

The conference focused attention on the economic and legal issues involved with the different government responses to the pandemic and how they have impacted businesses.

Mendenhall, who also serves as interim executive director at the Johnson Center, said the genesis of the conference stemmed from a conversation between he and American Institute for Economic Research director Brad DeVos, who said his Massachusetts-based organization had been wanting to host such a conference.

Restrictions and regulations in place in Massachusetts made hosting a conference there unviable for the organization.

“I suggested AIER come to Alabama and cohost the event with the Johnson Center,” Mendenhall said. “It turns out that other organizations in Alabama, including Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Policy Institute and the Business Council of Alabama, were interested in the topic and wanted to co-sponsor the event.” 

In addition, the Heartland Institute based in Chicago also signed on as a co-sponsor and the Birmingham Chapter of the Federalist Society hosted the one-day conference’s luncheon.

“Before I knew it, we had the funding and the people involved to make the event special,” he said. “The response to the conference has been great. I’ve heard from lawyers, business leaders, administrators in higher education, and elected officials who attended and were impressed by the experts’ data-driven, animated presentations.”

Those presenters included Matthew Denhart, president of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation’s Coolidge Fund, and a panel of experts entitled “Costs and Consequences of Lockdowns” that included Dr. Stephen Miller and Dr. Daniel Sutter of the Johnson Center, and Dr. Phil Magness, senior research fellow at AIER, and RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny, who is vice president of FreedomWorks.

A second panel discussion entitled “Liberty, Lockdowns, and Law” featured Michael DeGrandis, senior litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance; S.T. Karnick, director of publications for the Heartland Institute; Andrew Graham, senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute; and former State Sen. Phil Williams, now chief policy officer and general counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute.

Center for Industrial Progress founder and author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” Alex Epstein also provided remarks to the conference.

For more coverage of the day’s discussions, here’s a link to a story from the Yellowhammer News