Conference Topic

Political Theory

FEATURED CONFERENCES

Equality and Liberty in Tocqueville and Rousseau

Via a reading of key texts by Tocqueville and Rousseau, this conference explored the relationship between liberty and equality as revealed through history, as played out in political life, and as manifested in the entanglements between politics and religion in the modern world.

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Tocqueville and Mill on Liberty in a Democratic Age

This colloquium studied Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill. The readings encouraged comparison of these two thinkers’ understandings of liberalism, particularly the place of religion in modern politics, and the nature and extent of freedom within liberal democracy.

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Liberty and Rights in Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”

This conference examined Nozick's seminal text on the proper scope of government and individual liberty, along with critiques from a variety of perspectives both sympathetic and antagonistic to his project.

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Machiavelli and Montesquieu on Rome: History, Virtue, and Liberty

This conference examined the rise and fall of Rome as analyzed by Machiavelli and Montesquieu.

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ALL Political Theory CONFERENCES

Liberty, Conservation, and Reform in the Thought of Edmund Burke

Conferees explored the relationship between liberty and reform in the thought of Edmund Burke, who defended constitutionalism, rule of law, and the importance of separation of powers while rejecting imperialism, mercantilism, and the worst excesses of protectionist policies.

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Law, Liberty, and the State

This colloquium considered the relationship between law, liberty, and the state by examining the central arguments of three books that addressed the core tenet of the classical liberal tradition that liberty is necessary for human well-being, and to explore the way that the existence of the state renders that liberty…

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Liberty and Violence: From Auberon Herbert to Steven Pinker

This conference explored the relationship between liberty and violence, with emphasis on exploring the view that there has been an overall decline of violence throughout human history. The relationship between individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace was also considered. The conference made ample usage of Steven Pinker's book…

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Liberty and Statism in Latin America

After their independence, the new Latin American republics entered a long period of civil wars and attempts to organize stable institutions that would guarantee progress and civil liberties. Classical liberalism became one of the most influential currents of thought. Unfortunately, different forms of authoritarianism and state interventionism replaced liberalism as…

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Hobbes, Liberty, and the Rule of Law

The conference, held in Spanish, examined Hobbes's underappreciated views on the rule of law. Conferees discussed the importance of the rule of law in the context of Latin America's perennial struggle with populist and discretionary forms of government.

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Political Hero Worship, Intellectuals, and Freedom

Conferees explored and tried to explain Western intellectuals’ reverence for modern dictators.

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Demagoguery, Oratory, and Liberty in the Classical World and Beyond

The conference examined the exercise of power through persuasion and the danger of demagoguery. Conferees considered how the thinking of the ancients might have affected thought in political leaders in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America, who had read the ancient historians and philosophers extensively.

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Freedom of Thought

This conference was based on original papers exploring freedom of expression defined as the right of every individual to hold opinions and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas without interference. Discussion focused on how the resulting ideas affected the free society.

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History, Religion, and Freedom in the Thought of Herbert Butterfield, Michael Oakeshott, and Maurice Cowling

In England, history and religion have supported liberty and sustained opposition to interference by the state. The conference evaluated this long-standing discussion about these three themes in works of twentieth-century authors Herbert Butterfield, Michael Oakeshott, and Maurice Cowling, each of whom lived in a secular environment while demonstrating, in his…

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Liberty, Empire, and the Rule of Law

This conference looked at international relations and organizations, not only from an economic perspective, but also as they relate to questions of political, legal, and humanitarian institutions. The conference readings focused on both public and private institutions, and on the question of empire—whether the hegemony of actual or de facto…

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Max Weber on Liberty, Power, and Domination

This conference focused primarily on Weber's major work, Economy and Society, and examined his understanding of the foundations of legitimacy, the nature of social and political domination, and the dynamics of bureaucracy. We also read "Politics as a Vocation," in which Weber examines the competing ethics of responsibility and of…

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Birth of the New Conservatism

This conference examined the forces that lead to the nomination of Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention and the rebirth of conservatism as an important element in American national politics. The readings included works by both William F. Buckley Jr., an early supporter and friend of Goldwater, as…

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Constitutionalism, Freedom, and Modernity in the Thought of F. A. Hayek, Michael Oakeshott, and Leo Strauss

F. A. Hayek, Leo Strauss, and Michael Oakeshott were committed to restating the case for constitutional government in the aftermath of World War II and in the face of communist totalitarianism. Beneath this unity of concern, however, lay profound disagreement about the precise meaning of constitutionalism in modern Western societies…

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The Individual, the State, and the Community in the Thought of Robert Nisbet

This conference explored the trade-off between state and community and its implications for the individual in Robert Nisbet's Quest for Community. In addition, the relationship between war and the state was considered in Nisbet's The Present Age.

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Ideas and Interests in Institutional Change

The effective construction of social institutions, be they political or economic, has long been an important topic of scholarly study. One can easily see the important influence that different political institutions have on the types of policies and politics that states pursue since the dawn of human history.  Institutions emerge…

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Law, Liberty, and the American Republic

The modest goal of this conference was to engage the constitutional thought of Orestes Brownson as a means of considering our current ways of understanding the relationships between freedom and authority, individualism and collectivism, economic and political freedom, political and religious freedom, and the states and the union.

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Is the Decline of Liberty Inevitable?

This conference considered the claim that the fall of capitalism and the triumph of socialism are inevitable, as examined through the writings of Tocqueville, Mill, Nietzsche, Schumpeter, Dostoevsky, Ortega, Mises, and Rogge.

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Postcommunism and the Future of Liberty

This conference investigated the concept of “postcommunism” and focused on the challenges to individual liberty that persisted twenty years after the fall of communism. While much of the literature on postcommunism describes the phenomenon in economic terms, this conference suggested that matters of culture and morality are at least as…

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Federalism and Limited Government

This conference explored the political and economic aspects of federalism and its role in the institutional organization and preservation of a limited government. The sessions were structured to deal with the political aspects of federalism during the first three sessions, and with the economics of federalism during the last three.

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Conservatism, Liberty, and Responsibility: An Experiment in Definition

Conferees used readings from modern political philosophy and contemporary political thought to investigate the nature of conservatism as shown in political debates involving the relation of religion and politics, the foundation of law, the relation of law and morality, and the status of liberty, justice, and equality.

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Immigration and National Identity

The colloquium placed contemporary debates about immigration into a larger framework of liberty by examining trends of immigration to the United States. Participants considered the questions: Do thriving free markets require the free movement of labor across national borders? Does the desire for greater political liberty justify the economic costs…

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Executive Power, Liberty, and Constitutionalism in the Writings of Jacques Necker and Germaine de Staël

This conference explored the views of Jacques Necker and Madame de Stael in responding to the French Revolution with regard to the relationship between executive and legislative power preserving liberty under a limited constitutional government. It also examined their comparative analysis of the British and American constitutional orders as examples…

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Nation, Economics, and Liberty in the European Union

This conference explored the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union and its relationship to liberty. In the process, the conferees discussed the history of the development of the European Union and how different interpretations of that history lead to different conclusions about the present and future conditions of the…

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Liberty and the Founding of a New Nation in Servando Teresa de Mier

This conference explored Teresa de Mier's political ideas in the founding of a new nation, mainly through his own writings. Teresa de Mier's political ideology is a case study in the Spanish American independence movement.

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Liberty and Tradition: West and East

This conference examined the different core principles that appear to animate western and eastern views of political and economic life, with the focus on tradition and the role it plays in both the West and the East. Chinese and Western sources were both read.

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A Constitution of Liberty: Political Moderation and its Enemies

The conference explored political moderation in light of the two blueprints of "moderate government" for Montesquieu—the French and the English—and reactions to these blueprints.

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The Question of Liberty in Rousseau

This colloquium explored the long-raging debate about whether Rousseau is a friend or foe of liberty.

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Democracy and Individual Liberty

This conference discussed classical and new theories of democracy and to consider traditional critiques of democracy in light of "new" ones proposed by Public Choice Theory and Austrian Economics.

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Intellectuals and Liberty

Intellectuals play a central role in any society, and in a market-driven civil society, it is imperative to understand intellectuals’ attitudes toward commerce, the market, and institutions of liberty. These are the subjects of the conference.

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Liberty and the Present Discontents: The Social Question and Divided Societies

Conferees examined the question of what divides societies today—class, economics, ideology, or cultural and intellectual differences—using five articles offering different views on this issue.

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Liberty, Democracy, and American Constitutionalism

Conferees explored three prominent critics of modern democracy—John Hallowell, Irving Babbitt, and Walter Lippmann—to consider how democracy can and cannot be reformed.

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Magna Carta and the Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty

This conference examined the impact of Magna Carta in shaping British and American approaches to political and personal liberty. The conference considered both the text of Magna Carta itself and its history in shaping both our political and philosophical understandings of the limits on government power and the sphere of…

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The Seventeenth Amendment: Its Impact on Federalism, Democracy, and American Political Institutions

This conference examined the original reasoning for having federal senators selected by the states, the intellectual and political forces that led to the approval of the Seventeenth Amendment, which established direct popular election of senators, and the impact of this change on American politics, political institutions, and society more generally.

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Political and Economic Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Venezuela

This conference aimed to explore the writings of Venezuelan authors who participated in the major political debates at the beginning of the republic. A special place will be given to Francisco Javier Yanes's Manual del Politico Venezolano, first published in 1839, and arguably the most important work of classical liberal…

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Liberty and the Limits of Self-Ownership

This colloquium examined the nature of property rights as they relate to the self. What is property and how do conceptions of self-ownership derive from conceptions of property and property rights? What does it mean to conceive of self-ownership as a property right, and what are the implications for the…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Corporate Governance

This nonacademic conference focused on the role of corporate governance in a free society and the extent to which liberty is promoted or hindered by contemporary legislation, criminalization, and regulation of corporate actions and agents.

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Liberty, Nationalism, and Secession

This colloquium explored the theoretical literature on nationalism and secession by discussing two historical case studies of secession: the American Civil War and the separation of Norway and Sweden.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Modern Environmental Thought

This conference explored how the early environmental movement splintered and why mainstream environmental thought today rejecting market-based approaches may help to understand the challenge modern environmentalism poses to a society of free and responsible individuals.

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Liberty and Toleration

In this conference we focused on both the theoretical foundations of tolerance as well as the manner in which we construct social orders that encourage tolerance but also allow for social intercourse that is constructive and rights-based.

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Liberty and Social Mobility

Using historical documents that speak directly to issues of class, status, and opportunity in American life from Franklin to the present, the colloquium examined the American ideal with regard to mobility, how economic mobility and the promise of opportunity have been understood in American history, the degree to which Americans…

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Markets, Morality, and Liberty

Through a mix of classical and contemporary readings, this conference encouraged a dialogue around capitalism's ethical and moral dimensions, with particular attention to debates about economic liberty.

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José Martí and the American Founders on Liberty and Interventionism

Jose Marti is one of the most well-known and controversial figures in Latin American history. This conference compared Marti and his views on politics, foreign policy, and American culture, to the writings of various American Founders.

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Liberty and Authority in the Thought of Robert Bellarmine

Conferees examined political and religious liberty and authority in the thought of Catholic theologian and philosopher Robert Bellarmine as presented in On Temporal and Spiritual Authority, a selection of his works published by Liberty Fund.

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Liberty, History, and Art in the Thought of Luis Díez del Corral

This conference, held in English with translated readings, explored the writings of Luis Diez del Corral, one of the most important liberal thinkers in Spain in the twentieth century.

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International Ethics and Free Government

This conference examined the relationship between ethics and foreign policy from the time of ancient Athens to contemporary international affairs as seen through the writings of Thucydides, Augustine, Machiavelli, Kant, and others.

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The Concepts of the Public, the Private, and the Political in a Free Society

This conference considered the distinction made by classical liberals such as Mill and Hayek between the public, the private, and the political, and various contemporary criticisms of this distinction.

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The Politics of a Free Society in Michael Oakeshott’s Essays

This conference examined the political thought of Michael Oakeshott in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, but also in The Voice of Liberal Learning. We brought Oakeshott's views on rationalism, politics, freedom, conservatism, morality, and education for the first time to a Latin American audience.

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Tyranny, Resistance, and Voices of Liberty in East Central Europe

Relying heavily on documentary films drawn from East European archives, the colloquium explored the different resistance strategies people of this region used against both National Socialist and Communist oppressors.

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History, Liberty, and the Exceptionalisms of Germany and America

America and Germany underwent protracted conflicts in the mid-nineteenth century to solidify and modernize their political unions. Both relied heavily on particular ideas and themes to bind their people more effectively in the aftermath of those struggles. One nation focused on its unique set of founding ideas, the other on…

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Liberty and Liberal Order: ‘Saving the Soul’ of Classical Liberalism

In light of the onslaught against classical liberal principles that intensified as an outcome of the financial and economic crisis of 2008, the prospects for a liberal order and the best way to advocate for one have become important topics to consider. This conference was intended to discuss different arguments…

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Lessons About Liberty from the Life and Work of Roberto Campos

Conferees discussed the circumstances and ideas informing the work of Roberto Campos, who led the most important structural reforms in twentieth-century Brazil’s political and economic systems. Those modernizing reforms had a distinctly liberal character.

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Liberty, Redistribution, and Social Justice

This conference explored the classical liberal responses to and conceptions of theories of social justice, redistribution, poverty, and minimal income. Different perspectives within classical liberalism, as well as some criticisms of it, were considered with respect to all of these topics.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Writings of Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin is one of the most widely cited and well-known thinkers who focused on liberty during the twentieth century. Berlin famously created the categories of "positive" and "negative" liberty and argued for a more practical approach to achieving greater freedom in the world.

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John Quincy Adams’s Paradigm of America’s Foreign Relations

John Quincy Adams played a key role in the American transition from a noninterventionist to a more activist foreign policy, particularly in the western hemisphere. His unique career path provides us with a wide range of readings that explore how the United States asserted itself more forcefully into world affairs…

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Understanding Hayek’s Contribution to Liberty

This weeklong conference for young scholars provided an overview of Hayek's economic and philosophical thought from The Road to Serfdom to the three volumes of Law, Legislation, and Liberty. Selected essays, as well as excerpts from The Constitution of Liberty, are also included. The focus throughout was on the philosophical,…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Gilberto Freyre’s Works

This colloquium reviewed the concepts of liberty and responsibility within the specific Brazilian cultural context, twisted by the ambivalence of violent miscegenation and slavery as described by the Columbia University–educated anthropologist Gilberto Freyre.

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Welfare Rights and Economic Privileges: Freedom, Responsibility, and the Welfare State

This conference examined the concepts of rights and freedom, the connection among freedom and security and welfare rights, the plausibility of the claim that the US Constitution guarantees such rights or could or should guarantee them, and the effects that entitlements have on the pursuit of a society of free…

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Capitalism, Ethics, and Catholic Social Teaching: Goetz Briefs and the Problems of a Pluralistic Society

This colloquium examined the legacy of Goetz Briefs and his influence in understanding the modern dilemma of the growth and role of government in our time. We focused on Briefs’s application of normative principles to the constitutional political economy of the modern pluralistic state.

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Liberty and Control in J. S. Mill Reconsidered

This conference examined Mill's views on liberty, primarily through the lens of Joseph Hamburger's interpretation in John Stuart Mill on Liberty and Control. Hamburger's view was that Mill was more concerned with authority and control than was usually understood, calling into question Mill's defense of individual liberty. In addition, there…

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Politics without Romance

Much liberal political theory has been idealistic, ideal oriented, or highly normative. An alternative view of liberal political theory tends to question the applicability of rational ethical principles to moral and political life in favor of a more pessimistic, empirically based analysis of political life as it actually is and…

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Liberty and Nationalism in the Work of Elie Kedourie

Conferees explored the writings of Elie Kedourie (1926–1992), focusing on his vision of conservatism, his view of good government and ordered liberty, and how his pioneering work on nationalism shaped his overall theoretical framework.

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Radicalism and Conservatism in the Thought of Herbert Spencer

This conference explored the arc of Spencer's thinking, beginning with an in-depth look at Social Statics, and concluded with Spencer's later writings from The Principles of Sociology, and from the Liberty Fund editions of The Principles of Ethics and The Man Versus the State.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Intergenerational Justice

The conference explored from a variety of perspectives how the metaphysical, ethical, and political puzzles posed by relations across generations bear on the justification and sustainability of a society of free and responsible individuals.

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Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed”

Conferees considered Patrick Deneen's critique of liberalism in politics, economics, education, and culture, as presented in his book Why Liberalism Failed.

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Culture and Liberty

The colloquium explored the relationship between culture and liberty in both general and concrete terms. The first three sessions focused on the mutual relationship between culture and legal or institutional systems, and the last three sessions explored the impact of particular cultural practices on individual liberty.

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Liberty and Conservatism in American Political Thought

The colloquium provided a historiographical overview of the American conservative movement together with illustrations of the varying interpretive perspectives that have been applied to this subject.

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Democracy and its Tension with Liberty

This conference addressed the relationship between democracy and liberty, primarily through reading European critics and defenders of democracy. The centerpiece of this colloquium was José Ortega y Gasset’s most important work, Revolt of the Masses. Other readings were from Aristotle, Jefferson and Adams, Tocqueville, and Nietzsche.

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The Fusion of Liberty and Tradition

This conference examined key elements in the development of conservative and libertarian thought in the post-World War II period, including what Frank Meyer called “fusionism.”

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Interest Will Not Lie: Liberty and the Development of ‘Reason of State’ Theory

Via a reading of early modern texts, this colloquium considered the development of interest-based and “reason of state” models of politics, and whether those models have been beneficial or harmful to liberty.

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Constitutionalism and Authority in Enlightenment Thought: Montesquieu, Hume, and Burke

Using readings from Montesquieu, Hume, and Burke, the colloquium explored the relationship between liberty and authority in modern constitutional theory.

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Immigration, Political Self-Determination, and Liberty

The purpose of this conference was to explore the ethical aspects of immigration policy.

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“The Conscience of a Conservative” and the 1964 Election

This conference revisited the issues raised by Barry Goldwater's best-seller The Conscience of a Conservative and his 1964 campaign for the presidency, as well as liberals’ response to his claims.

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Freedom of Speech and Its Critics

This conference explored the most compelling arguments in defense of a robust sphere of free speech and the most influential arguments against it.

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Liberty and Justice in Theory and Practice

This conference discussed original papers dealing with the nature of political and moral theory that can matter in the world of policy and politics.

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Charity and the Welfare State

With philanthropists as its targeted group of conferees, this three-session conference explored human motivations for charity and the impact of the rise of the welfare state on charitable and philanthropic enterprises.

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The Framing of Liberty in the Great American Debates: Publius–Brutus, Webster–Hayne, and Lincoln–Douglas

This conference focused on changing conceptions of liberty in America as presented in the Founding Era newspaper debate between Publius, author of The Federalist, and Brutus, a leading Anti-Federalist; the antebellum senate debate between nationalist Daniel Webster and rights advocate Robert Hayne; and wide-ranging debates between Stephen A. Douglas and…

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Nationalism, the State, and Liberty

This conference addressed the tension between collective political identities and the respect for individuality inherent in a free society. General questions the conferees addressed included: Is nationalism a phenomenon inimical to or potentially supportive of individual liberty? Does the free society require (or preclude) “patriotism” of a particular sort, and…

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Liberty and Conquest in the Americas

The Spanish conquest of the Americas is one of the most important historical events of the modern world. In this colloquium we examined some of the philosophical and political ideas related to this conquest and critiqued the various arguments put forth either in favor of or opposed to the conquest.

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Interpreting Liberty: Constitutional Interpretation versus Social Contract Reasoning

The colloquium consulted excerpted readings from a range of historically significant Supreme Court opinions and from passages in Hobbes's Leviathan and explored the role of the social contract tradition in our political culture and heritage.

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Liberty and Market Society in Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The colloquium explored Smith's and Rousseau's views on freedom and the market society by comparing Smith's optimism toward the natural progress of opulence and his confidence in the system of natural liberty with Rousseau's pessimism about the society of self-love and appearances. Participants examined their views on the best social…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Plague Times

This conference examined the social and political impact of pandemics on liberty and individual responsibility. Readings included historical materials, the fictional treatment of one city's encounter with plague, and a white paper that sought to outline a plan to combat pandemics while respecting individual rights and freedoms.

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Modern Liberty and Commercial Society: Montesquieu v. Rousseau

This colloquium explored the debate over commercial society and the nature of modern liberty as articulated by two of the most thoughtful proponents of each side, Montesquieu and Rousseau. This conference was not merely of historical interest, however, for the essence of these eighteenth-century positions runs throughout many contemporary debates…

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Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and Erasmus’s “The Education of a Christian Prince” after Half a Millennium

The 500th anniversary of Machiavelli's The Prince and Erasmus's The Education of a Christian Prince provided a fitting opportunity to evaluate their contributions to modern thought and to understand the relation of political power to society in the context of a free, modern, and enterprising civilization.

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Civil Disobedience in Defense of Liberty

Starting with selected readings from writers such as de la Boétie, Spooner, Thoreau, and others, conferees considered, from historical and philosophical perspectives, the place and effects of noncooperation, nonviolent resistance, dissidence, and disobedience in the defense or advancement of liberty.

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Liberty in the Writings of Frédéric Bastiat

Conferees examined the ideas of Frédéric Bastiat as they apply to topics in economics, politics, and ethics.

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Constitutionalism and Freedom in Kant and Hegel

This conference looked at the differences between Kant and Hegel on constitutionalism, but also asked about whether there is an inherent connection between constitutionalism and freedom, since both agreed that the political constitution is in itself one of the greatest human accomplishments and is what allows for true individual freedom.

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Pitirim Sorokin and the Sociology of Liberty

This conference examined questions of liberty and responsibility through the autobiographical and scholarly writings of Pitirim Sorokin, who was an opponent of the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution and later in his life founded the sociology department at Harvard University. His writings deal with the cultural foundations of liberty, the…

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Liberty versus Democracy in Corporate Governance

This conference explored different aspects of corporate governance, director-centered versus shareholder-centered governance, as well the relationship of the government and the market in regulation. The role of financial crises and the legislation that is passed in their wake was considered—in this case, Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd Frank.

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Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism, and Liberty

The colloquium addressed crucial and perennial issues at stake in recent controversies regarding individual liberty, the national sentiment, and cosmopolitan principles—namely the tension between collective political identities and the respect for individual liberty—recently at the forefront of political debate and electoral disputes in Europe and in the United States.

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Contesting Liberty: History and Politics

Latin America has been one of the main battlegrounds of the conflict between populism and liberal democracy. In the last two decades Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia experienced leftist personalistic rule. The conference explored threats to liberty in historical and institutional perspectives. The discussion was in Spanish.

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The Welfare State, Libertarian Paternalism, and Individual Freedom

In this colloquium we considered arguments in favor of and against the welfare state and then considered if new arguments in favor of libertarian paternalism achieve their proposed goal of actually improving individual well-being through increased state action.

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Liberty and Diversity in the United States

Conferees evaluated the effectiveness of American political institutions in alleviating the tensions that inevitably arise in a free society from social differences along the spectrums of faith, economic interests, culture, and race. To what degree has e pluribus unum been achieved, and to what degree has it failed? Has the…

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Early Liberalism in Spanish America

Conferees explored the initial stage in the development of liberal views in Spanish America with the view of understanding the conception of liberty that informed the demands of independence as well as the heritage of this early vision for the development of liberal views during the second half of the…

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The Scope of the State

This colloquium examined and contrasted views of the proper scope and authority of the state through readings presenting two major contrasting views: those that regard the state as directed primarily to protect the life and property of its citizens, and those that regard the state as radically failing if it…

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Liberty and Justice: Rawls and Differing Perspectives

The principal aim of this colloquium was the examination and exploration of liberty through a better understanding and knowledge of the concept of justice. This conference was designed to achieve that understanding by exploring justice and its relationship to liberty from a number of perspectives. First, the groundbreaking and highly…

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Gustave de Molinari: The Economics, Ethics, and Evolution of a Free Society

This conference reviewed the main works of Gustave de Molinari. The centenary year of his death provided a compelling occasion to investigate his ideas, sometimes characterized as "free market anarchism," and to assess their influence today.

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The Crisis of Modern Times

This colloquium examined the contemporary crisis of Western Civilization as presented in The Review of Politics by a number of authors well known to Liberty Fund, including Jacques Maritain, Glenn Tinder, Leo Strauss, Joseph Pieper, Eric Voegelin, and Hannah Arendt.

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Realism, Order, and Liberty in International Politics according to Lord Salisbury and George Kennan

This conference engaged questions of national self-interest, the role of foreign policy in establishing a regime of liberty, and the relationship of self-interest and principle through the works of two leading realists in the Anglo-American tradition, whose perspectives combine wide reading in history and philosophy with practical experience of international…

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The Cádiz Constitution and the Origins of Hispanic American Constitutionalism

The Spanish liberal constitution of 1812 provided an opportunity for a general discussion about the origins of liberal constitutionalism in Latin America. The colloquium explored the reception and adaptation of the document in the new Hispanic American independent nations, as well as the impact of the American and French constitutional…

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George Bernard Shaw and Friedrich Hayek on Poverty, Socialism, and Human Nature

This conference examined basic economic, social, and anthropological questions through reading the plays and essays of George Bernard Shaw and the economic and philosophic writings of F. A. Hayek.

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Liberty, Democracy, and Property in the American States

Discussion at this conference focused on the American idea of self-government and federalism in the early years of the republic through an examination of the state constitutional convention debates held in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia in the 1820s.

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The Liberal Legacy in the Revolutions of Hispanic American Independence

The purpose of this conference was to analyze the diverse proclamations made in favor of the independence of the Hispanic American colonies by both European and Latin American advocates, and to discuss the debates that accompanied rebellion against the Spanish Empire and the ensuing “civil wars.”

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Liberalism, Moral, and Civic Virtues

The aim of this conference was to discuss the relationship between liberalism, morality, and citizenship. Our key question was: What civic virtues and moral qualities were necessary to establish, strengthen, and maintain a liberal society? We explored this fundamental issue in Latin America specifically but more globally as well. The…

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Federalism, Decentralization, and Liberty

This conference explored different understandings of federalism and further asked if any of these versions of federalism were necessarily better for individual liberty and prosperity than centralized political systems.

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Prudence in Bertrand de Jouvenel

Conferees examined Bertrand de Jouvenel's evolving understanding of politics and the role of prudence by examining a number of his earlier essays and his last book, The Art of Conjecture.

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Classical Liberalism and the Rights of Women

To what extent do the founding classical liberal and social contract theories include or exclude women from equal fundamental rights and liberties? In what ways have debates about the servitude and subjection of women highlighted the importance of individual responsibility and liberty? The conference encouraged reflection on the core principles…

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Is Liberal Democracy Doomed to Self-Destruction?

The conference examined several theories of liberal democratic "doom," both to assess their cogency and to determine whether any remedies are available.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Fénelon

Conferees engaged directly with the moral and political thought of Francois Fénelon, whose economic writings launched the Enlightenment's luxury debate, but who was also the author of the novel Telemachus, the most widely read book in eighteenth-century France after the Bible.

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Limiting Majoritarianism in Republican Constitutional Theory

This conference sought to understand those aspects of constitutional and republican government that are often charged with imposing undemocratic, or even anti-democratic, constraints on the popular will.

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Post-Hayekian Socialism’s Challenge to Classical Liberalism: Theodore A. Burczak’s “Socialism After Hayek”

This was a Socratic seminar on Theodore A. Burczak’s recent book Socialism After Hayek. In the book, Burczak asks if there is a meaningful notion of socialism grounded in F. A. Hayek’s epistemological principles. “Can the classical goals of socialism be achieved without central planning and the abolition of private…

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Christianity, Capitalism, and the West

We examined the role of Christianity in the rise of capitalism and important Western institutions through readings in Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success and selected essays that are critical of the Stark thesis.

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Entrepreneurship, Prosperity, and Liberty in the Arab World

Participants examined how encouraging private initiatives and entrepreneurship can help address a number of economic and social problems faced by countries in the Middle East and North Africa much more efficiently than government interventionism can.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Scottish Militia Debate

This conference explored the debate over the superiority of a citizen militia as opposed to a professional standing army and its significance for self-government and liberty. Special attention was paid to the position of Adam Smith, who advocates a professional standing army in his Wealth of Nations, but elsewhere seems…

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Lomasky and Tesón’s “Justice at a Distance”

According to the dominant approach of the growing literature on global justice, justice demands enlarging state institutions and international agencies so as to coercively redistribute wealth and correct the supposed injustices and inefficiencies of markets. This conference explored the classical liberal alternative to this view.

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The Conservative Dissident: The Evolution of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Political Views

This conference explored the themes of individual liberty and responsibility in the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. We were especially interested in understanding his critiques of both Communism and liberalism.

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Liberty, Republicanism, and Religion in Savonarola

This colloquium explored Savonarola’s complex and highly challenging ideas on theoretical and practical issues dealing with liberty, responsibility, and, of course, religion.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Isabel Paterson’s “The God of the Machine”

Published in 1943, Isabel Paterson’s (1886–1961) book, The God of the Machine, is a sophisticated exposition of free markets, individual responsibility, constitutional structures, and the fallacies of interventionism. The book was her first opportunity to flesh out a systematic political, constitutional, and economic philosophy, and she made the most of…

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Three Critics of the Rise of Collectivism: Berlin, Hayek, and Oakeshott

Writing at roughly the same time, Berlin, Hayek, and Oakeshott were all critics of collectivism on the right and left during the twentieth century. However, as much as they hated collectivist political regimes, they all did so for different reasons and proposed different political alternatives. In this conference we read…

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Smith and Rousseau in Conversation: Liberty, Commerce, and Moral Responsibility

This colloquium explored the relationship between Rousseau and Smith, with the intention of understanding how their engagement helped to shape understandings of a free society and of the operation and moral impact of commerce. Among the key themes explored were their shared intellectual interests in pity, sympathy, and commerce.

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Liberty, Separation of Powers, and Government by Bureaucracy

This conference was to help better understand the changing conception of government and its relationship to modern American society during the Progressive Era. Specifically, we examined constitutional issues of the separation of powers and the increasing concentration of functions in the hands of various agencies of government as they came…

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Privacy in a Free Society

This conference explored the claim of whether privacy is in fact an individual right and evaluated the degree to which its exercise is connected to the broader panoply of rights associated with a free society. Certainly protection is a necessary part of government's role, but can the use of surveillance…

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Liberty and Patriotism in America and the World

This conference examined the nature of American patriotism through a reading of materials—a combination of historical, academic, and literary—covering the entire span of our national history.

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Corporate Responsibility and Liberty

This purpose of this colloquium was to explore the justification, if any, for holding business organizations morally responsible, as corporate entities, for the actions of the human beings who comprise them.

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Liberty in Wartime

This conference considered whether, and to what extent, the needs of national security might justify the expansions of government power at the expense of civil liberties, and how a free society should reconcile the needs for its own preservation and defense with the principle that government’s foremost purpose is the…

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Liberalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Constituent Power in Latin America

The conference explored how to preserve a democratic regime in which popular participation in constitution making does not come at the price of individual liberty.

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Immigration, Identity, and Citizenship in the United States and Europe: A Comparative View

This conference, a follow-up to “Immigration, Identity, and Political Community in America,” focused on historical and contemporary understandings of immigration and national identity in both American and European settings.

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Liberty, Equality, and Meritocracy

The intention of this colloquium was to discuss modern meritocracy and its implications for political and economic life. Conferees examined the explanation for the growth of inequality in advanced market societies and whether meritocracy is compatible with democracy, or whether inequality itself—or the bureaucracy established to enforce equal opportunity—undermines constitutional…

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Civility and the Press, 1776–1872

This colloquium explored the topic of civility and the press from the founding of the United States until the end of Reconstruction and the debates over woman suffrage, with the goal of discussing whether civility is a necessary prerequisite for democratic governance.

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Liberty and the Virtue of Liberality

This conference was designed for nonacademic conferees with expertise in philanthropy, as staff members in foundations, development officers at nonprofit institutions, consultants, and donors. The purpose of the conference was to cast the philanthropic work of these people in a philosophical and historical context by exploring the nature of liberality…

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Corporate Governance: Liberty versus Equality

This colloquium focused on the role of corporate governance in a free society. The attending business executives explored the extent to which liberty is promoted or hindered by contemporary regulatory schemes and efforts. The conferees also examined differing models of corporate governance and assessed the roles of liberty and responsibility…

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James Madison and the Extended Republic: Size, Republicanism, and Liberty in the Early Republic

This conference focused attention on the primary documents relating to James Madison’s theory of an extended republic. Is the idea of the extended republic consistent with liberty, for example? Are the checks of extensive representation sufficient to prevent an overconcentration of power in the national government? These are some of…

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Liberty, Liberalism, and International Relations

This colloquium explored the main paradigms in international relations theory and discussed whether liberalism provides any guidance for thinking about international relations, and if so, what the implications were.

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The French Classical Liberal Heritage: Montesquieu and Destutt de Tracy

This conference sought to understand the political and economic thought of two central figures of the French classical liberal tradition, Montesquieu and Destutt de Tracy, which exerted great intellectual influence on key American publicists.

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Liberty, Violence, and the State

This colloquium explored the place of coercion in the origins and legitimization of the State, focusing on the similarities and differences between criminal enterprises and states.

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Liberty and Intellectual Responsibility in Carlos Fuentes

This colloquium explored the essays and nonfiction work of Fuentes, who is widely seen as an authoritative voice in Mexican and international political affairs.

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Liberal Thought in Nineteenth-Century Colombia: Between Utilitarianism, Ideology, and Laissez-Faire

This conference explored the roots of Colombian liberalism in the nineteenth century by reading European authors such Bentham, Say, and Destutt de Tracy, as well as Colombian authors. Among the themes explored were the compatibility of utilitarianism and natural rights.

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New Theories of Democratic Failure

This Socratic seminar explored two recent books that reformulate the traditional theory of democratic failure: Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter (2007), and Guido Pincione and Fernando Tesón’s Rational Choice and Democratic Deliberation (2006).

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Moral Responsibility in War

This conference explored the issue of the moral responsibility of decision-makers in time of war. Military decision-makers might face the dilemma between pursuing their legitimate military objectives and violating their moral responsibility, or respecting their moral responsibility and failing to achieve their military objectives. The conferees explored various approaches that…

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Giving and Human Excellence

This conference invited conferees, through discussion of essays, short stories, and religious texts, to explore fundamental questions about giving and its relationship to personal responsibility. Among the questions addressed: Is there something flawed about the lives of individuals or communities in which giving plays no role? How do we distinguish…

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Privacy, Secrecy, Individual Rights, and Liberty

The purpose of this conference was to examine the foundations of individuals’ right to privacy, and the implications of such rights for issues such as financial regulation and banking secrecy.

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Terrorism and Liberty

The conference explored the problem of terrorism and a free society's response to terrorism, focusing on issues of morality, legality, and potential conflicts between security and liberty.

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Liberty, Commerce, and Happiness in Johnson and Hume

This conference explored the connection between liberty and happiness in David Hume and Samuel Johnson. Both shared what could be called a conservative disposition and were students of ancient philosophical schools with regard to happiness. In addition, both men inhabited and supported a society that enables the free exchange of…

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Liberty, Immigration, and Community

Focused on a variety of sub-themes such as trust, economic inequalities, and free immigration, this colloquium probed the debates about how free societies do and should cope with the challenges of diversity and the need for social cohesion.

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Environmental Calvinism and Liberty

This conference explored the religious roots of contemporary environmentalism, in particular the ways in which environmentalism draws upon a Calvinist inspiration even as it obscures these Protestant origins within secular rhetoric.

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Liberty, Art, and Tyranny

This conference explored the connections between art and tyranny. Works of art, such as books or paintings, are often seen by tyrants as undermining their rule. On the other hand, modern and ancient tyrants sometimes show particular interest in the arts. They believe that art matters. Why do tyrants tend…

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Liberty, Darwinism, and Political Economy

This colloquium explored the biological groundings of human behavior, and their implications for the evaluation of social and political institutions in fostering individual liberty.

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The Constitutional Political Economy of Statelessness

This conference discussed the appropriate methods, theories, and histories from which to approach the issue of institutional development outside the state.

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Liberty and Power in the Development of Chilean Liberalism

Beginning with an analysis of liberty in the context of the demise of the Spanish monarchy and the creation of new republics, this conference aimed to determine whether or not there is a Chilean liberal tradition different from that of other Spanish American countries, such as Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia.

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Political Obligation and State Legitimacy

This colloquium explored the problem of political obligation and state legitimacy, which are central problems in any perspective characterized by a serious commitment to individual liberty. Are citizens obligated to obey their government’s commands when failing to do so will not amount to violating other individuals’ rights? Are the putative…

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Liberty, Art, and Dissent

What is the role of art in a free society? What is the role of art in presenting views that dissent from those in authority? What is the role of art in shaping and challenging popular opinion? To address these and other questions, this conference explored the place of art…

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The Expansion of Executive Power and Liberty

This conference examined the growth of executive power in American history. Both the causes and results of this growth were investigated.

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Liberty, Justice, and Wealth Distribution

Conferees explored “wealth distribution” rather than “redistribution,” as the former is the more fundamental and inclusive concept. Demands for a “redistribution” of wealth typically appeal to some principle of justice, so redistribution is defined by its intention to replace some existing pattern of wealth distribution that is deemed unjust.

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Natural Rights Individualism and Progressivism in American Political and Legal Philosophy

The objective of this symposium was to stimulate its conferees to investigate two separate and antithetical American political traditions: the original Lockean tradition of the Founding, and the collectivist reaction to it which arose principally in the newly established universities in the decades following the Civil War. Beyond historical investigations,…

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Liberty, Equality, and Democracy: West and East

The conference explored different conceptions of liberty, democracy, and morality in Western and Confucian points of view.

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Liberty, Politics, and Skepticism in Cicero and Montaigne

This conference explored the relationship between skepticism, liberty, and politics in the works of Cicero and Montaigne.

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Liberal Thought in Argentina, 1837-1940

This conference was based on Liberty Fund's edition Liberal Thought in Argentina, 1837-1940, the first compilation of primary sources that documented the history and tradition of liberal thought in Argentina throughout the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. The readings selected for this conference reflected the stages of…

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Problem of ‘Two Worlds’ in F. A. Hayek and Adam Smith

This conference considered F. A. Hayek's understanding of Adam Smith's thought in light of Hayek's relative neglect of Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. Does Hayek's reading of Smith distort Smith's philosophy? Is there a place of beneficent behavior in the Great Society that Hayek envisions?

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Liberty and Power

Power has long been an important conference topic for Liberty Fund. This conference examined the nature and character of power, particularly as it relates to contemporary business and commerce.

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Prudence and Practical Wisdom in the Writings of Baltasar Gracián and Arthur Schopenhauer

This conference drew upon Gracian and Schopenhauer to explore the role of prudence in leadership and the art of living as an individual.

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Liberty, Property, and Exchange in Classical Political Thought

This conference discussed various classical conceptions of property and economics in Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, and Cicero.

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G. Warren Nutter and The Political Economy of Liberty

This conference utilized Nutter's ideas and the controversies that surrounded his work as a springboard to discuss principles of liberal political economy with a group of primarily younger, eastern European scholars.

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Popper and Hayek on Liberty

This conference compared Karl Popper's concept of “open society” with Friedrich A. Hayek's concept of “grown order” and “extended order,” as well as Walter Lippmann's concept of “The Great Society.”

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Liberty and American National Character

This symposium discussed original papers that address whether particular values and virtues are required to sustain a free society of republican legal and political institutions, and if so, how such traits could be cultivated and sustained.

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Liberty, Politics, and the Moral Life: The Realist Mind of Kenneth Minogue, Essays, Reviews, and Pamphlets

The colloquium examined works by the conservative political philosopher Kenneth Minogue (1932–2013), who wrote widely on modernity, politics, and the moral life, addressing the thoughts of Thomas Hobbes and Niccolò Machiavelli as well as twentieth-century philosophers including John Rawls, Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, and Michael Oakeshott.

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International Justice, Sovereignty, and Liberty

This symposium generated twelve original papers examining the role international institutions can serve in promoting peaceful and cooperative relations among states and in enhancing human rights observance within states. The resulting discussion drew on and blended analytical, historical, sociological, and economic perspectives.

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Paternalism

This conference explored the case for paternalistic restrictions on individual liberty based on research in psychology and behavioral economics, examining how findings regarding individuals' cognitive and motivational limitations inform the case for "libertarian" paternalism, as well as the case for more traditional forms of coercive, or "hard" paternalism.

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Civic Liberty and Responsible Government in Francesco Guicciardini’s “Dialogue on Florence”

This colloquium explored the political thought of Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540), a key figure in the Italian Renaissance and one of the most important intellectual fathers of modern representative government. Focusing mainly on Guicciardini’s Dialogue on the Government of Florence, we investigated Guicciardini’s contributions to the theory of republican liberty.

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History and Classical Liberalism in the Work of Ezequiel Gallo

This conference explored a selection of Ezequiel Gallo's writings on history and classical liberalism. Gallo's analysis of Argentina's economic history has been greatly influenced by the tradition of spontaneous order. Gallo has also offered insightful reflections on the tradition of classical liberalism in general, and on its origin and development…

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Haitian Revolution

This colloquium explored the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804 and its implications for the study of a society of free and responsible individuals.

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Power, Politics, and Morality

Among the most serious criticisms of liberal democratic theory during the past century is that its tendency to moralize politics has left it increasingly unable to cope with the reality of power. The most influential criticism of the moralization of liberal political theory has been mounted by the school of…

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Liberty and Democracy in the Political Philosophy of Anthony de Jasay

This conference explored de Jasay’s ideas respecting the origins of moral norms that serve as the foundations for viable legal and constitutional limitations on government within the context of modern democratic governments. It was based upon the collection of essays published by Liberty Fund.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Work of Anthony de Jasay

Liberty Fund has published eight books by Anthony de Jasay, and between 2008 and 2012, Jasay also wrote a monthly column entitled “Reflections from Europe” for Liberty Fund's Library of Economics and Liberty website. This colloquium explored the major themes in Jasay's writings.

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Democracy and Liberty in Herbert Croly’s Political Thought

This Socratic seminar examined the importance of individual liberty, representative versus direct democracy, the administrative state, and American foreign policy in the thought of Herbert Croly, perhaps the most important of all progressive thinkers. Readings consisted of excerpts from his two books, The Promise of American Life and Progressive Democracy,…

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Dictatorship, Emergency Powers, and Constitutional Government

Except for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, no provision for emergencies was accepted as part of liberal constitutions by the early nineteenth century. Now, in the face of the threat of terrorism, an interest in the possibility of fitting special emergency powers into a constitutional order has…

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Natural Rights and Moral Sense: Freedom and Responsibility in the Thought of Henry Home, Lord Kames, and Thomas Jefferson

With an eye to investigating questions of liberty and responsibility as they arise within the context of natural rights and the moral sense, this conference focused upon Lord Kames’s Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion and upon writings by Thomas Jefferson, for whom Kames’s writings on moral…

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Work of Bernard Mandeville

Mandeville became famous, or infamous, for his view that vice is a natural and fundamental part of wealth creation, even to the exclusion of moral virtue. This colloquium examined the history, context, substance, content, and impact of Mandeville's writing in the eighteenth century.

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Liberty and Society in Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This colloquium explored the relationship between Rousseau and Smith, with the intention of understanding how their engagement helped to shape understandings of a free society and of the operation and moral impact of commerce. Among the key themes explored were their shared intellectual interests in pity, sympathy, and commerce.

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Judgment and Freedom in Shaftesbury and Mandeville

This conference explored the confrontation between Antony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, and Bernard Mandeville and their perspectives on the ideals of a free society—including the role of self-interest, the relationship between economics and virtue, and the sources of social order.

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Liberty and Anarchy in Europe and North America

This conference gave conferees an opportunity to gain not only a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of anarchist political theory, but a deeper understanding of individual liberty in both the United States and Europe.

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Liberty and the Paradoxes of Democracy

The purpose of this conference was to investigate various tensions inherent in the democratic ideal through the works of six authors: William Shakespeare, William Edward Lecky, Henry Sumner Maine, James Fitzjames Stephen, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Carl Schmitt.

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The Western Tradition of Liberty Revisited

Conferees revisited “The Western Tradition of Liberty," mainly through reading different authors who contributed to this tradition in the twentieth century when Western liberty faced serious threats from totalitarianism.

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Liberty and the Family

This conference explored the relationship between liberty and the family—family as a product of and a nurturer of liberty—by looking both at the history of the family and its relationship to the increase in liberty in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the role that the family might play as…

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Individual Liberty, Self-Reliance, and Private Property in Emerson and Mill

Classical liberalism stipulates an integral relationship between individual freedom and private property. Two of the nineteenth century’s most famous advocates of individualism, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Stuart Mill, must have considered this same relationship. Whose defense of property is more convincing, and how much does this success depend upon…

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Paternal Authority: Liberty, Duty, and Individual Responsibility

With readings drawn from Filmer, Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and Austen, conferees explored the characteristics and workings of paternal authority during the transition from an aristocratic age to a democratic one.

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Community and the Roots of Liberty

This conference considered the foundations of community and the link between community and liberty through engaging a variety of materials including film, historical narrative, scholarly studies, and an interview.

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Liberty, Centralization, and the Modern State

This conference addressed the subject of liberty within the context of the centralization of power and the modern state. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of progressivism in transforming the understanding and practice of liberty in deviation from the original understanding that forms the core of the American political…

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French Political Economy 1750-1850

This conference examined a number of French thinkers of political economy, including Montesquieu, Rousseau, Turgot, Say, Destutt De Tracy, Tocqueville, and Bastiat. Among the themes considered were morality and commerce, productive as opposed to unproductive labor, the distribution of wealth, and the unintended consequences of state intervention in the economy.

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The Idea of Liberty in the Burke-Paine Debate

The writings by Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine on the French Revolution reveal two conflicting theories of politics embodying dramatically different understandings of the nature, origins, and goals of civil society and government; the rights of the human person; and the nature and organizing principles of legitimate government. Thus, reading…

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Limits of State Sovereignty: Revolution, Intervention, and Secession

This conference explored a series of fundamental issues dealing with the limits of state sovereignty. The conference readings, a mix of classic and contemporary works, focused on the political and moral issues involved in revolutions, military and humanitarian interventions, and secessions.

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Liberty and Secularization

Questions about the compatibility of science and religion are hotly debated. Looming in the background of these exchanges is the great question of the viability of a secular civilization. Is there any role left for the authority of a faith that transcends this world? Or is is it possible to…

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Liberty, the Constitution, and Executive Power

This colloquium, using works of legal theory and historical case studies, explored the growth in the power of the executive branch of the federal government.

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Civil Society in the Plague Year

While not without limitations, a civil society-based approach helped Americans forge a sense of shared purpose (and take common actions) in crises, without turning to government for instructions and controls. In this Socratic seminar we used Elizabeth Clemens's book Civic Gifts to examine how the state and civil society interact…

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Liberty and Responsibility in Public Health Policy: Balancing Individual and Social Interests

Individuals historically have been willing to concede significant freedom to achieve some level of protection from infectious, debilitating diseases that can devastate communities. This conference explored the public health trade-off by examining campaigns that advanced public health the furthest, as well as some of history's greatest policy failures, in order…

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Liberty and Progress

The conference invited participants to reflect on the topic of progress through discussion of twelve original papers.

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Freedom of the Press and the State: Argentina, the United States and Europe in the Nineteenth Century

The purpose of this colloquium was to discuss whether or not freedom of the press is a prerequisite for a free and a democratic society. We focused on classic texts on the freedom of the press in the United States and Europe. We also discussed texts in the Argentine context…

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James Q. Wilson on Human Nature, Liberty, and Choice

This conference explored the works of James Q. Wilson throughout his career as a scholar, from his early public policy work on policing to The Moral Sense. The primary themes used to tie the conference readings together were human nature and rationality, with special attention paid to the limits placed…

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Human Nature, Civility, and Mores

This colloquium addressed a central issue in Western political thought, asking the questions: What is the relation between civil liberty, political constitutions, civility, and mores in shaping individual and national character? Is civility essential—or averse—to individual happiness? Is it a product of a free constitution or the result of its…

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The Confucian and Scottish Traditions on Moral Emotions and Responsibility

This conference compared the role of the passions in relation to character and self-cultivation in the Scottish Enlightenment and Chinese moral philosophy.

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Liberty, Democracy, and Constitutional Government

The conference addressed the basic purposes of constitutions and their status as fundamental law, explored questions of constitutional design, and examined what form of constitution best promotes personal liberty.

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The Scottish and Neapolitan Enlightenments

The colloquium, held in Spanish, contrasted the central figures of the Scottish and Neapolitan Enlightenments, which reflected the great cultural and confessional differences between the two societies.

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Liberty among Mass Men: The Political Thought of Albert Jay Nock

This conference explored the writings of Albert Jay Nock (1870–1945), a crucial though largely overlooked figure in the history of liberty in America. Conferees examined how his ideas regarding liberty and responsibility developed over his life, focusing especially on his views on the State.

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Communitarianism and Liberty

Liberalism has always faced criticism in the form of conservatism, Marxism, civic republicanism, and so forth. The "communitarian" critique of liberalism has had particularly broad appeal. Criticizing liberalism for ignoring questions about what constitutes "the good life," communitarianism has simultaneously led to a loss of community and common meaning, both…

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Liberty, Federalism, and Community: Diversity and the Common Polity

This colloquium examined the themes of American Federalism as they have been applied to the question of multiculturalism in general and of the European Union in particular. This conference investigated three sets of readings by modern authors who have clearly identified the philosophical and practical challenges of applying the Madisonian…

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Liberty and Free Cities

We reviewed the role that "free cities" have played in the development of liberty as well as the prospects for the creation of "free cities" in the world today.

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Freedom and Dynamism

This conference focused on a theory of economic, social, and political change that helped identify those values and institutions that provide the conditions for individual, social, and economic flourishing. As we identified those mechanisms for freedom, we also developed a view of the just society and of the formal and…

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Robert Nisbet on European Enlightenment and Liberty

This conference focused on some of Robert Nisbet's lesser-known works that illustrate the impact of Europe's "reactionary enlightenment" on his thought. All readings were from Nisbet and touched on the positive value of prejudice, the importance of pluralistic social institutions, the tension between community and individualism, the nature of progress,…

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Liberty, Individuality, and History in the Thought of Wilhelm von Humboldt

This conference examined the themes of individuality and individual liberty as they present themselves in Humboldt’s two most influential works—The Limits of State Action (1791/1792) and "On the Task of the Historian" (1821)—in order to assess their significance to the overall understanding of human freedom and the institutions necessary to…

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Diversity and Freedom in Present-Day Europe: Challenges and Opportunities

This colloquium surveyed and assessed the impact on freedom of Europe's rapidly increasing diversity.

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Liberalism, Institutional Design, and Religion

Religious tolerance has long been a cornerstone of classical liberalism, yet religious groups and individuals sometimes act intolerantly, constraining the liberties of others. In this conference, we explored the sorts of institutions which can maintain both religious and other individual liberties. The need for authority and the appropriate institutional design…

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Burke and Tocqueville on Liberty

This conference compared Burke and Tocqueville's thoughts on the foundations of liberty, political reform, and revolution. All conference readings come from published works of these two thinkers, and allowed for a comparison of their views on America and the French Revolution.

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Liberty and Liberalism in Mexico

This conference was on the history of classical liberal ideas in Mexico and their influence in the design of Mexican political institutions.

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Encyclopedic Liberty: Individual, Society and State in Diderot’s “Dictionary”

This conference explored the meaning of liberty as articulated by the main authors of the Encyclopédie. To this end, we examined writings on legislation, institutional design, economic policy, citizen rights and duties, and mores and civil society. The majority of the conference readings were drawn from the Liberty Fund publication,…

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The Place of Liberty in C. S. Lewis’s Political Thought

Conferees examined C. S. Lewis's political thought, with an emphasis on his understanding of liberty, through a selection of essays and excerpts from his book-length works.

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The Future of Liberty

At the center of this symposium were six commissioned papers exploring current encroachments upon individual freedom and responsibility. The symposium investigated the threats classical liberalism is presently confronting, while also inquiring into the possibilities of reinvigorating classical liberal theory to better meet the various challenges it faces in the contemporary…

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Human Condition in Montaigne and Pascal

Conferees read selections from Montaigne's Essais and Pascal's Pensées to open a conversation about human nature, the possibilities and limits of human knowledge, and the consequences of these things for human liberty.

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The Invention of ‘Neo-Liberalism’: The Colloque Lippmann after 70 years

Commonly acknowledged as one of the most important precursors to the Mont Pelerin Society, the "Colloque Walter Lippmann" was a 1938 meeting of twenty-six economists and liberal thinkers who came together to discuss the challenges to liberalism. The motives for this Liberty Fund conference were two-fold: 1. to commemorate the…

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Age of the Nuclear Weapons

This conference explored the age of nuclear weapons from just after the end of World War II through the Cold War and up to the present. Issues of nuclear deterrence and proliferation were considered in the context of their potential impact on the free society.

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Human Nature, Civility, and Mores

This colloquium was designed to address a central question in Western political thought: What is the relation between civil liberty, political constitutions, civility, and mores in shaping individual and national character? Is civility essential—or averse—to individual happiness? Is it a product of a free constitution or the result of its…

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Liberty and Modern War: Political and Economic Freedom in International Security

Using a combination of classic and more recent works, the colloquium examined the venerable argument that a world made up of democratic republics would enjoy perpetual peace.

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Civilization and Liberty

This conference explored the theme of civilization and its implications for liberty. Readings in each session included a selection from Niall Ferguson's famous work on the theme alongside selected pieces by other authors.

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Hayek: Rules, Order, and Liberalism

Participants in the colloquium examined a selection of Hayek's works designed to introduce Latin American conferees to some of Hayek's more important themes, such as spontaneous orders, the distinction between law and legislation, the knowledge problem, and competing conceptions of liberalism.

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The Ends of Enlightenment: Diderot and Catherine I

This conference focused on the period 1773–74, when Catherine the Great invited Denis Diderot to Russia to converse with her about the interactions of Enlightenment ideas with absolutism.

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Liberty in the Post-Revolutionary Arab World

The Arab Spring uprisings sparked changes in the Middle East and North Africa. This colloquium explored how the forces the Arab Spring set in motion can be channeled in a direction that will support free markets and individual liberty.

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Health, Responsibility, and Liberty

This colloquium brought together a group of multidisciplinary academics, policy analysts, and health professionals to explore the relationship between health, liberty, and personal responsibility. We employed a mix of pieces specifically related to healthcare paired with classic, and mostly general, pieces from the classical liberal tradition.

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“Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God”: Religion, Resistance, and Rebellion

This conference examined the foundations and implications of “resistance theory”—the people’s right to resist the demands of a tyrant—in the writings of John Calvin, John Knox, Algernon Sidney, and other early Reformed and Congregational thinkers. All readings were from primary sources.

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Republicanism and Liberty in Contemporary Political Thought

This conference examined the most influential formulations of the republican challenge to the concept of liberty dominant in liberal democracy.

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Amartya Sen’s “The Idea of Justice”

The Idea of Justice summarizes approximately twenty-five years of Sen’s thinking about questions of justice. He believes that some comparative judgments about justice and injustice are manifest, and it is through a process Sen describes as “public reasoning” that a social assessment of human capabilities and their evaluative weightings is…

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Trust, Ignorance, and Liberty

This conference examined different facets of the concept of trust within a society of free and responsible individuals.

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Freedom, Faith, Sin, and Citizenship in the Thought of St. Augustine

This colloquium focused on Augustine's understanding of human freedom, particularly in the context of fallen human nature, original sin, and humans’ capacities for love and rationality.

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Liberty and the Struggle for the Early Chinese State

This conference explored the distinction in ancient Chinese thought during the Warring States period between Confucians, who generally emphasized the goodness of human nature and the limited role of government, and Legalists, who emphasized the negative aspects of human nature and the need for state coercion to maintain social order.…

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Liberty and Moral Life in the Works of Spanish Traditionalists and Francis Graham Wilson

This conference examined the works of a select group of Spanish Traditionalists and one of their major interpreters, Francis Graham Wilson, with a special emphasis upon the roles of liberty and the moral life assumed in their writings.

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Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Networks: Freedom and Individuals

This conference explored how innovation and technological change arose in society, and the reciprocal influences of the market and institutional contexts that facilitated innovation and technological changes themselves.

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Wealth, Liberty, and Morality

This conference examined both sides of the luxury debate by considering such questions as: do wealth and luxury lead inexorably to the weakness of a society and its eventual corruption and decline? Do greater commercialization and prosperity produce greater industry, refinement, humanity, and even liberty?

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Liberty and Slavery in the American Imagination

Using an assortment of literary texts, conferees examined the contradictory aspect of American liberty and slavery and considered how its paradoxes have changed over time.

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Grotius on Natural Law, Commerce, Property, Political Authority, and War

Hugo Grotius is now most commonly known as the founding theorist of international law, but he is also universally regarded as one of the founders of modern moral and political philosophy who greatly influenced the thinking of men such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume. This colloquium focused…

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Totalitarianism, Democracy, and Liberty

Using a mix of primary and secondary source material, this conference considered what the term “totalitarianism” actually described and whether it continued to represent a threat to liberal, constitutional, democracies.

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Liberty and Religious Toleration in the Thought of John Locke

This colloquium explored Locke's understanding of the proper relationship of religion and politics, his argument in defense of religious toleration, and his account of the scope of religious liberty in a rightly ordered polity.

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Liberalism and the American Constitutional Experience

Conferees entered the current debate over the relationship between religion, liberalism, and civil society by considering mostly primary texts from American constitutional practice and debates over the meaning of American liberty as well as contests regarding religious and economic freedoms.

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Middle Class Manners and Democracy from the Scottish to the Greek Enlightenment

This conference explored the history of a liberal conception of manners as part of the emergence of middle class manners and civility in modernity. Within this perspective, we further investigated the articulation of inclusive, non-aristocratic manners within the context of republican civility and individual liberty.

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Liberty versus Equality: West and East

This conference examined the relationship of equality and liberty in theory and practice through reading selected philosophical texts in the Western and Eastern traditions and examined recent efforts toward economic and political reform in China.

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The Problem of Self-Ownership

This conference was based on original papers examining the relationship between the concept of self-ownership and notions of private property, personal autonomy, and freedom, and whether and to what degree it must be central to classical liberal and libertarian thought.

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Liberty and the Challenges of Neutrality

This conference explored arguments in favor of and against governmental “neutrality” in the areas of constitutionalism, moral values, economics, and minority communities.

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Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Argentina

This colloquium explored the political, economic, and social thought of some of the main figures of Argentine liberalism during the nineteenth century and discussed the relevance of those ideas for the future of freedom in Latin America.

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Liberty and the Age of Voltaire

This conference explored themes of liberty, optimism, pessimism, and toleration in Voltaire through three of his works on England, toleration, and the novel Candide.

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Civic Associations, Liberty, and Democracy in Philip Hamburger’s “Liberal Suppression”

This Socratic seminar examined the role of philanthropy in the free society through Philip Hamburger's important, but not widely appreciated, book Liberal Suppression. One of the main questions participants considered was whether 501(c)(3) status is a vehicle for unconstitutional governmental suppression of free speech.

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Leonard Liggio on the Theory and Evolution of Free Institutions

This colloquium examined the contributions of Leonard P. Liggio to the emergence of the modern classical liberal/libertarian movement in his role as historian, activist, and head of a number of key institutions, and his analysis of the future prospects for liberty.

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Executive Power and Constitutional Government

This four-session conference for regular contributors to Liberty Fund's Library of Law and Liberty discussed how American constitutional government has entered a post-constitutional phase.

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Smith and Humboldt on the Scope of Government

Through a comparison between Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and Wilhelm von Humboldt's The Limits of State Action, this conference explored the justifications for governmental intervention in a free society, as well as potential dangers to individual liberty resulting from various governmental interventions.

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Liberty and Leviathan

In this colloquium, we explored how powerful Hobbes's Leviathan needed to be, the extent to which his vision of the Leviathan had been realized in the modern world, and the extent to which such a Leviathan remained necessary for “peace at home” and on guard against “enemies abroad.”

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Political Liberty in the Writings of Raymond Aron and Karl Popper

Conferees explored the Cold War political liberalism of Raymond Aron and Karl Popper, who offered trenchant defenses of liberty and a free and open society against the dominant trends of Marxism, as well as critiques of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of communism in theory and practice.

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The Electoral College, the Constitution, and Liberty

The conference addressed the claim that the Electoral College is out of line with democratic politics and therefore undermines the perception, if not the reality, of legitimacy. Conferees examined that claim by studying historical examples and various proposals for reform, beginning with earlier historical sources and concluding with the present…

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Liberty and Intellectual Responsibility in the Works of George Orwell

Unlike many of his peers, Orwell seemed to be equally skeptical of socialism and fascism during the 1930s and 1940s. Participants in this colloquium, held in Spanish in Latin America, read and discussed a selection of Orwell's writings.

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Democracy, the Liberal, and the Servile Mind: The Contributions of Ken Minogue

The passing of Ken Minogue left a considerable vacuum in contemporary discussions of political philosophy. This conference aimed to explore and assess Minogue's contribution to our understanding of the complex relationship between political systems, individual responsibility, and political symbols.

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The Science of the Legislator: The Pursuit of Liberty in Montesquieu’s “Spirit of the Laws”

This conference focused attention on less-often studied portions of Montesquieu’s work that have a direct bearing on understanding his conception of liberty and his views on how legislation can be crafted to foster both political and civil liberty.

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The Liberal French Post-Revolutionary Tradition: Benjamin Constant

This conference, conducted in Spanish, explored the various aspects of Constant's vision of liberty, in particular his comparison of ancient and modern liberties and the difficult tension that he saw between national sovereignty and individual liberty.

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Liberty and Authority in the History of Philanthropy, Charity, and Welfare

This colloquium mainly comprised a group of academics and professionals from healthcare and philanthropic foundations. It was designed to study the respective roles of liberty and authority in the development and workings of private philanthropy, voluntary charity, and public welfare in society.

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Liberty and Natural Law in Nineteenth Century Mexico

This conference focused on the early constitutional debates of the Spanish American nations that took place in the nineteenth century, after the American and French Revolutions. We explored this critical period in Mexican history.

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Responsibility in the Thought of Lord Salisbury, Auberon Herbert, and William Hurrell Mallock

One part of the conservative tradition sees the state as a powerful agency of responsible change, while another part of the conservative tradition prefers a minimalist state to safeguard individual freedom and sets its sights on a "property-owning democracy," low taxation, and civil society (what the British have termed the…

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Liberty, Property, and the Nature of Law

This conference explored the nature of the rule of law and whether law is best understood in formal or substantive terms. We also considered the ways in which different understandings of the rule of law affect the prospects for liberty.

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Willmoore Kendall and the Foundations of American Conservatism

This three-session conference provided an introduction to Willmoore Kendall as a political scientist, conservative activist and thinker, and political philosopher. All readings were essays authored or coauthored by Kendall or his correspondence.

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British Liberal Tradition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

English Liberalism was born out of the seventeenth-century struggle for freedom of conscience and the resistance of Parliament to the arbitrary authority of the king. Yet, from an intellectual perspective, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represented an age of continuous transformation for the British liberal tradition. This conference focused on…

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Liberty Outside the State

In this conference we discussed the importance of “pre-state” or “extra-state” arguments by theorists, as well as the historical development of government in the pre-modern era, to determine how liberty might be best protected, based on the way humans naturally interact.

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The Great Awakening Revisited, Political Theology, and the Rise of American Liberty

This conference repeated with a new group of conferees an investigation into the issues of religious liberty raised by the Great Awakening of the late colonial period just prior to the American Revolution.

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Social Norms and Political Orders: The New Frontier of Freedom

The colloquium had two aims: to discuss the challenge social norms pose to the relationship between formal and informal aspects of political orders, and to explore the role of freedom in a political order in which social norms matter and all is not institutionalized.

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Journalism and Liberty

This colloquium inquired into the role of journalism as a promoter of liberty by looking more precisely at the functioning of the press and media as markets.

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American Exceptionalism and the Pursuit of Liberty

From its very inception America was viewed by its settlers, founders, and citizens (along with astute outside observers) as an exceptional nation. Part of what made it appear exceptional was its remarkable commitment to liberty, understood as a commitment to severely limiting the power of the government in favor of…

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William F. Buckley’s Quest for Liberty

William F. Buckley, Jr. was the best known conservative commentator and intellectual of the second half of the twentieth century. This colloquium provided the framework for a discussion on the challenges liberty faced by returning to the themes and decades of Buckley’s corpus.

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Liberty, Morality, and the Market Order

Classical liberals have long argued that the market order is at the root of the wealth of nations and that the expansion of the market is critical if nations are to develop. Critics of classical liberalism, however, do not see the expansion of the market as an entirely positive or…

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Markets and Political Power in Contemporary Brazil: A Weberian Analysis

This conference examined the creation of commercial institutions and political power in Portugal and Brazil as described by the Brazilian jurist Raymundo Faoro (1925–2003) in his book Os Donos do Poder (The Owners of Power). In his account of the Brazilian patrimonial state, state bureaucrats succeeded in preventing the consolidation…

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Liberty, Responsibility, and the Nation-State

This “Law and Liberty” conference evaluated the case for the nation-state through the writings of its two most significant contemporary defenders, Roger Scruton and Pierre Manent.

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Organized Complexity, Policy, and Morality in the Works of Jane Jacobs

This conference explored Jane Jacobs's contributions to the ideas of emergent order, economic processes, and the failures and dangers of planning human life, using her texts to search for new insights and to challenge our views of economics, planning, and interventionism.

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Liberty and Limited Government

This three-session conference focused on The Struggle for Limited Government by Dr. John Samples. The book examines the successes and failures of the Reagan era and its aftermath as a guide to a renewed effort to limit the power of government. Dr. Samples’s work thus provided the opportunity for the…

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Freedom and Modernity in the Thought of Ernest Gellner (1925-1995)

The aim of the conference was to study the thought of Ernest Gellner (1925–1995), particularly his work on the responses of societies to modernity, the conditions under which he believes these responses have occurred, and his speculation about their likely future implications for liberty. Special attention was given to his…

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History, Narration, and Liberty in First and Second Samuel

Using the Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel and Stefan Heym's novel The King David Report, we examined the roles of personal and political responsibility and personal and political liberty as illustrated in the life and career of King David.

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Liberty, Capitalism, and Democracy

This colloquium, conducted in Portuguese, aimed to address the implications of capitalism and democracy for individual freedom. Exploring the themes of the relation between democracy and capitalism is especially pertinent in Latin America today, when the value of these concepts has been challenged with regained vigor.

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Liberty and Democracy in the Thought of John Hallowell

This conference addressed the thought of John Hallowell with specific reference to his critique of liberalism. Hallowell, unlike many of his contemporaries, considered the extent to which liberalism, and particularly liberalism as conceived by political scientists, had become antithetical to individual liberty. A main theme for discussion for this colloquium…

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The Moral Foundations of a Free Society

The purpose of this conference was to bring graduate students and young faculty together to discuss the underpinnings of liberty through examination of its political, economic, and ethical dimensions.

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Authority and Liberty in the Writings of Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes

Although Filmer and Hobbes seem to offer very different sorts of arguments for their similar authoritarian conclusions, they actually share many crucial non-patriarchal arguments. This conference explored issues of power and political authority by looking at these two authors most famously connected to these topics.

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Liberty, Liberalism and Political Realism in the Thought of James Burnham

The conference introduced James Burnham's thought through selections from three of his books: The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, Congress and the American Tradition, and Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism.

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Markets and Morality: Re-examining the ‘Adam Smith Problem’

This conference examined the “Adam Smith Problem,” a term coined in nineteenth-century Germany to describe the supposed conflict between Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and his Wealth of Nations. The conference will look at the issue from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

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Liberty and Political Order in America: Tocqueville and Henry Adams

This conference paired writings by Alexis de Tocqueville and Henry Adams in an effort to open up a conversation about liberty in an American context—particularly with respect to the nature of American democracy, the changes it has undergone, the threats it faces, and its safeguards.

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Freedom of the Press from Milton to Tocqueville

This conference provided an opportunity to focus on this discursive and intellectual history of one of our most complacently accepted inheritances. There are at least three general themes that may arise in the course of our reading and conversation. First, there is the shift in emphasis from religious to secular…

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Libertarianism: For and Against by Duncan and Machan

What makes for free and responsible individuals and a healthy and viable free society? Ideas about the justice and efficacy of markets have been and continue to be criticized by those who assert the need to free individuals from the hardships of material and physical want. “Modern liberals'' seek the…

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Concerning State Punishment

One of the roles of the modern nation-state is to impose legal punishment after violation of criminal law. This conference focused on some of the key issues concerning the justification of punishment in a liberal democracy. What is the appropriate scope of the state's power to sanction? What are the…

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Work of Carlos Rangel

In this colloquium, we read and discussed Carlos Rangel's work and examined how relevant and timely his writings are today in the changing context of Latin American politics and economics.

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Liberty and Healthcare: Compatibility in the Twenty-first Century?

This conference compared the historical evolution, current arrangements, and possible changes to the health care systems of the United States and Canada in order to understand which features of the two systems are best for a free society.

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Scottish Philosophy in the American Civic Tradition

Conferees explored the impact of the eighteenth-century Scottish common-sense school in America with regard to education, civic life, and religion.

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Freedom and Domination in Market Society

The conference revisited the ways in which a market society can embody, and perhaps even at times threaten, important kinds of freedom. It focused on the kind of freedom that is central to the republican tradition; that is, the kind of freedom that is achieved when people are not made…

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Liberty in Walter Lippmann’s “The Public Philosophy”

This Socratic colloquium examined the twentieth-century contemporary classic book by Walter Lippmann, The Public Philosophy (1955). Particular emphasis was placed on the relationship between the crisis of public philosophy and the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

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The Future of Constitutional Liberty in America

This colloquium examined the core meaning of constitutional liberty in the United States, its transformation in principle and practice over the course of the twentieth century, and how and to what degree constitutionalism can be reconstructed for the sake of conserving liberty.

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The State, Modernity, and Political Order

This colloquium considered the state as a uniquely modern development. Conferees began by exploring pre-modern ways of understanding political and non-political orders within a community, then investigated the emergence of the modern state, before finally turning to classical liberal attempts to circumscribe the state, and to some possible alternatives to…

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Liberty and the Crisis of Democracy: The Rise, Stall, and Possible Fall of Liberal Democracy

Colloquium participants explored whether the "global democratic boom" is now in danger of demise, in terms both of a crisis of democracy within the West and of rising populism and authoritarian resurgence in the international system.

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The Ethics and Economics of Global Poverty

This conference investigated problems of global poverty and development from philosophical and economic perspectives. It thus took up the old tradition of political economy, where normative and factual questions about ethics and economics are understood to be crucially interrelated.

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Conceptions of Liberty

The conference, held in Spanish, explored the central debates over alternative conceptions of the nature and limits of liberty.

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Freedom and Film: What Is Liberty?

This conference brought together professionals working in the film industry to discuss issues of liberty and the free society as they might be depicted in film.

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Liberty and Parliamentary Government

This conference examined the Parliamentary model of government with a focus on how it facilitated or hindered the development of liberty and how it compared to the American system. Readings included core texts about sovereignty and freedom in both traditions, a consideration of leading commentators on the modern parliamentary system,…

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Liberty and the French and American Revolutions

The colloquium, held in Spanish, examined important texts on the American and French Revolutions to introduce a Latin American audience to some of the different perspectives these thinkers had about the fundamental social changes that resulted from the American and French Revolutions in their respective countries.

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Responsibility and the Financial Crisis

This conference was on the breaches of fiduciary responsibility and failure of key "gatekeepers" that resulted in the most recent financial crisis. Although most writers point either to the absence of regulation or to government's interference as the cause of the crisis, this conference took a different approach and considered…

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George F. Will’s “The Conservative Sensibility”

Conferees discussed questions arising from George F. Will's recent book, The Conservative Sensibility.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Jouvenel’s “On Power”

This colloquium explored Jouvenel’s most famous work on political philosophy, On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth.

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Universal Values and Cultural Pluralism

This conference discussed the possibilities for pluralism within unity in the current debate over globalization. The main question considered was whether there can be a universal notion of justice that both allows for and transcends cultural diversity.

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Islam and Liberty

This conference examined the relationship between Islam and Liberty by focusing on Islam’s attitudes towards Reason, Modernity, and Democracy. The conference asked how, and if, Muslims will be able to engage with these concepts without abandoning their religion and their culture.

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Liberty in the Works of MPS Nobel Laureates

The purpose of this conference was to study the role that liberty has played in the work of seven Nobel laureates in economics, who were also members of the Mont Pelerin Society: F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Gary Becker, and Vernon Smith.

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Individuals, Responsibility, and Liberty: Wilhelm von Humboldt and Alexis de Tocqueville

This conference explored two very different understandings of individualism, as presented in Humboldt’s The Limits of State Action and Tocqueville's Democracy in America. These texts were used to investigate the extent to which individualism is the very essence of a free society (with individualism understood as individual self-development) and the…

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Montesquieu and Rousseau: On Liberty, Commerce, and Virtue

This conference studied differing facets of eighteenth century French political thought by examining Montesquieu and Rousseau. On the one hand, it is impossible to ignore the strong influence that Montesquieu exercised on the constitutional. On the other hand, it is difficult to understand the French Revolution, the core ideas of…

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Individual Freedom, Politics, and Modern Honor

Honor is a central feature of both our ancient and modern political cultures. The aim of this colloquium was to emphasize the political—even constitutional—aspect of the modern notion of honor by appealing to authors who made significant contributions to defining its various meanings and attributes, its weight, and its historical…

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International Corporate Governance and Liberty

This conference explored the impact that international operations had on corporate governance and the future of free societies, with particular focus on problems that arose from the legal and regulatory issues of different political jurisdictions.

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Liberty and Responsibility in John Stuart Mill

The purpose of this colloquium was to explore a selection of less commonly read writings of Mill along with selections from his more well-known texts, such as On Liberty and Considerations on Representative Government.

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Liberty and Responsibility in the Major Works of Samuel P. Huntington

This colloquium examined the central place of responsibility and liberty in the work of the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. Huntington is widely regarded as one the most wide-ranging and influential political scientists of the twentieth century, having made major intellectual contributions in all four fields of political…

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Liberty and Bureaucracy

This conference focused on the arguments, both pro and con, respecting the role of bureaucracy and bureaucrats in a free society to better understand both their advantages and limitations. Of particular interest was the important distinctions differentiating private organizations from public ones, and the challenges posed to a society of…

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Liberty, Responsibility, and Civil Association in Oakeshott’s “On Human Conduct”

This conference looked at Michael Oakeshott’s On Human Conduct in its entirety, and examined his tripartite analysis of political history and the life of a liberal society: theoretical understanding, the civil condition, and the modern state.

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Liberty and Responsibility in Bertrand de Jouvenel’s “The Pure Theory of Politics”

This colloquium examined Bertrand de Jouvenel's The Pure Theory of Politics, published by Liberty Fund in 2000. Special attention was given to Jouvenel's understanding of human nature, the concept of political authority, the nature of political decision making, and the importance of political stability.

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Federalism and the Separation of Powers: Safeguards of Liberty

This conference examined the two major constitutional mechanisms that were intended by the American framers to serve as safeguards to liberty: federalism and the separation of powers. Particular emphasis was placed on the evaluation of whether and to what extent these institutional structures have been successful in political practice.

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Liberty and Institutions of Self-Government

The colloquium took as its inspiration the critical question that begins the line of inquiry in The Federalist, “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and…

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Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Society”

All readings were from Thomas Sowell's Intellectuals and Society, an examination of the role of intellectuals in shaping the climate of opinion, which in turn helps shape the policy agenda of governing elites and their critics.

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Mill and Hayek on Liberty, Society, and the State

Conferees compared and contrasted John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and F. A. Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty.

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Violence, Capitalism, and Liberty

This conference examined Steven Pinker's book, which challenged long-standing and re-emerging arguments that a society of free markets, property rights, and individual liberty encourages interpersonal, societal, and international violence.

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Populism and Liberty in Latin America

The colloquium addressed the “revolutionary populism” movement that has spread throughout Latin America since the 1998 victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

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Liberty and Islam

This colloquium brought together Muslims and non-Muslims interested in discussing the problem of human liberty both in and out of an Islamic context. Some of the general questions the conference addressed were: How have Western and Muslim thinkers approached the problem of human liberty? To what extent are their approaches…

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What Should Constitutions Do?

In this symposium, authors addressed the question, “What should a constitution be designed to establish and protect?” Without having to deal with either incorporating or ignoring history and precedent, authors were asked to directly address the normative questions surrounding constitution-making.

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Liberty and Democracy

Recently, new theoretical approaches have challenged the premise of rationality, as well as other assumptions, behind much of Public Choice. These new approaches, however, have not modified the original diagnosis regarding the many failures of democracy. The purpose of this conference was to evaluate the validity of all these challenges…

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The Limits of Tolerance

In the face of current debates about immigration, open societies, and campus speech codes, conferees endeavored to discern what views are reasonable for liberal-minded people, on the basis of classical and modern readings and the application of these in the present discussion.

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Social Capital, the ‘Big Society,’ and Liberty

Since Robert Putnam's pioneering work on the importance of social capital, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic began to explore the ideas of mutual aid, social capital, and voluntarism as alternatives to government-run social welfare programs. This conference explored the various kinds of voluntary and cooperative social institutions that…

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Kukathas’s “Immigration and Freedom”

This Socratic conference discussed Chandran Kukathas's book Immigration and Freedom. This was the first book-length exploration of the problem of immigration through a classical liberal perspective.

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Lysander Spooner on Law, Liberty, and Revolution

The colloquium focused on Spooner's moral and political philosophy and followed the progression of that philosophy throughout his career from a (relatively) moderate reformer to a radical antistatist. Writings highlighting Spooner's theory of natural law, his thoughts on the connection between natural law and the justification of property and economic…

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Human Nature, Liberty, and the Role of Government: Constitutional Resistance During the Progressive Era

This conference examined the social, political, and legal foundations of American conservatism during the growth of Progressive influence in the early twentieth century.

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Liberty and Public Spaces

Public spaces, areas in which individuals can celebrate and actualize their liberties, have been a critical part of the history of freedom in the Western world. In this conference we examind the importance of public space and design in the maintenance and promotion of the free and responsible society.

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Liberty in the Thought of Benjamin Constant

The conference, timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Constant’s famous "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared to That of the Moderns" speech, explored the key elements of Constant's thinking about political, economic, religious, and personal liberty through reading his major works.

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The Moral and Political Economy of Freedom: Kames and Smith

Lord Kames (Henry Home) and Adam Smith were two of the most important figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. Both offer moral psychologies that defy the simple categorization of being simply selfish or selfless. Kames is known for arguing against the selfish system of Bernard Mandeville. While following Kames, Smith offers…

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Frank S. Meyer and Fusion of Freedom and Tradition

This conference examined the thought and influence of Frank S. Meyer, political activist and editor of the National Review, who was best known for trying to fuse traditional conservatism and libertarianism into a united, coherent political and intellectual force. Readings included Meyer’s In Defense of Freedom and many essays that…

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Freedom, Historicity, and Self-Knowledge

This conference examined the writings of four thinkers who took the problems of liberty and order seriously as essential questions to be approached from the historical perspective of modern social thought. The aim was to understand how individuality, the essential aspect informing the historical perspective, posed challenges not only for…

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Living the Paradox of Liberty: Three Generations of Black Narrative in America

Through readings from three seminal African American authors (Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates), conferees investigated what ideas such as liberty and equality mean when inflected by race in contemporary America.

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The Recent Intellectual History and Rhetoric of Liberalism

This conference discussed developments of liberalism as a political doctrine. We discussed different arguments that have been presented to promote liberal ideas, their efficacy or lack of it in moving public opinion to support those ideas, and the extent that the problem of selling liberalism is one of substance.

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Herbert Spencer’s “Social Statics” after 150 Years

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, this colloquium focused on Social Statics in relation to the radical and utilitarian traditions, Spencer’s evolutionism, and Spencer’s alleged “drift towards conservatism” in later years.

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Foreign Policy, Humanitarianism, and Liberty

This conference will explore the role that humanitarian arguments have played in justifying military interventions in American foreign policy, and the extent to which such arguments are consistent with classical liberal principles.

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Liberty and Art in the Political Writings of Thomas Mann

This conference used selections from Thomas Mann's 1918 Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man alongside some of his later nonfiction and fiction writings to examine the broader tensions between our devotion to collective or communal identities, on the one hand, and our identities as individual human beings, on the other. These…

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Liberty, Charity, and the Welfare State

With philanthropists as the targeted group of conferees, this colloquium explored the human motivations for charity, the history of charities in the United States, and the impact of the rise of the welfare state on charitable and philanthropic enterprises.

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Arguments for Liberty

This conference explored some of the major philosophical debates within the liberal tradition: What is the relationship between self-ownership and ownership of private property understood as external resources? Is it possible to defend liberal policies on perfectionist grounds? Are liberty and equality compatible? What is the importance of the knowledge…

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Liberty, Culture, and Democracy in the Thought of José Guilherme Merquior

Conferees examined Merquior's discussions of liberty, culture, and democracy to determine whether his ideas may lead to better understanding of the contemporary political context.

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Basis and Boundaries of Majority Rule

Utilizing readings ranging from Plato to The Federalist to Willmoore Kendall, this colloquium attempted to uncover-and recover-the theoretical bases, and limitations, of deliberative majority rule.

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American Political Parties and Ordered Liberty

Conferees investigated the role of parties in maintaining a system of ordered liberty, beginning with Edmund Burke, but primarily through readings on the development of the American party system from the Founding to the 2016 presidential election.

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The Liberties of Cities in the Western Tradition

Conferees explored the ways in which towns and free cities in Western Europe and North America have contributed to the development of individual liberty by addressing historical accounts of cities, towns, and townships, as well as theoretical literature examining the place of cities and towns in the past and in…

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Governmental Growth and the Free Society in Richard Epstein’s “Design for Liberty”

This conference explored the necessary legal foundations for a free society in the context of the modern administrative state using Richard Epstein's Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law.

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Politics and Economics in the Thought of Luigi Einaudi

This conference focused on the political and economic thought of Luigi Einaudi (1874–1961), one of Italy’s most prominent liberal voices in the twentieth century. The colloquium’s timing corresponded with the fiftieth anniversary of Einaudi’s death, but given his writings’ concern with political and economic liberalism, challenges to liberal ideas, and…

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