Mercatus Center Launches John Stuart Mill Fellowship to Develop New Breed of Philosopher-Entrepreneurs

Arlington, VA — The Mercatus Center at George Mason University today announced the launch of the John Stuart Mill Fellowship, a one-year program for entrepreneurs to study the philosophical underpinnings of big ideas relating to markets, politics and society.

“The Mill Fellowship offers technology, business and social leaders the opportunity to discuss the key texts in political economy with their fellow entrepreneurs as well as with some of the most creative classical liberal thinkers working in political economy,” said Tyler Cowen, Mercatus Center Faculty Director. “Leaders will leave the fellowship better equipped to use the insights of classical liberalism to understand an increasingly complex world.”

The inaugural class of fellows includes founders of venture-backed AI, finance and healthcare startups, as well as nonprofit founders in the foster care, publishing, education and food sectors. Fellows are chosen based on their entrepreneurial success, commitment to driving positive social change, and interest in the insights gained from philosophical reflection. To be selected, candidates must be nominated by recognized for-profit, non-profit or academic leaders.

Starting in late September, fellows will participate in three colloquia discussing foundational works and ideas of thinkers like John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, Montesquieu, F. A. Hayek and James Buchanan. They will explore the benefits of free markets, the importance of limited government intervention and the potential for bottom-up social change.

The fellowship was developed with support from Brendan McCord, the Mercatus Center’s first Entrepreneur in Residence, along with Virgil Storr, Vice President, Academic and Student Programs at Mercatus.

“After selling two AI startups, a life-altering moment of introspection sent me down a path of immersing myself in classical liberal thought to learn about the principles of human progress from the greatest thinkers of the past,” said McCord. “With the Center’s reputation as the leading research center for markets-based thinking and its track record for building educational initiatives, I knew Mercatus was the right intellectual platform for transforming successful founders into ‘philosopher-entrepreneurs.’”

Since its founding in 1980, the Mercatus Center has supported graduate students interested in the Center’s approach to political economy. Within the last decade, Mercatus has expanded its fellowship offerings to support undergrads, high school students and early-career academics. The Mill Fellowship is a further expansion of the Center’s programming and is the first fellowship offered to professionals with careers outside of academia or public policy.

“Mill Fellows will have the opportunity to study the work of dozens of philosophers. My hope is that the fellows will return to these philosophical writings again and again as they seek to better understand the world and apply their entrepreneurial talents to improve it. I look forward to working with each of the fellows throughout the year,” said Storr. “The tremendous growth in our fellowship programs in recent years has been driven in part by a desire among students, junior scholars – and now entrepreneurs – to learn about the foundation of the big ideas debated in our society.”

More information about all Mercatus Center fellowships and programs is available at The applications for most programs open in the fall.

For more information about the Mill Fellowship or to request a media interview, please contact Matthew Boyer at 703-993-8094 or [email protected].


John Stuart Mill Fellows for 2023-2024

Mark Johnson, Chief Technology Officer, Stand Together

Maggie Lin, Co-founder and Executive Director, Foster Nation

Brendan McCord, Entrepreneur in Residence, Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Michael O’Leary, Partner, L Catterton

Bill Schindler, Founder and Director, Eastern Shore Food Lab & Co-Founder Modern Stone Age Kitchen

Caroline Vik, Communications Director, Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party

Peter Wang, Co-founder & CEO, Anaconda, Inc.

Zoe Weinberg, Founder & Managing Partner, ex/ante

Daniel West, Director, SCF Partners

Will Young, Co-founder & CEO, Sana Benefits

Jason Zhao, Co-founder, Story Protocol