Washington, DC American Democratic Capitalism July 23 – August 5, 2017
This intensive two-week seminar is run in conjunction with National Affairs magazine. It aims to educate undergraduate students and recent graduates about the intersection of theory and practice in our national politics, and particularly in our key economic debates. Students will also learn from and interact with distinguished experts in various arenas of public policy.
The program will consist of two sessions per day over a two-week period. Each morning, students will participate in a seminar led by National Affairs editor Yuval Levin on the philosophical underpinnings of key issues in American public life.
Each afternoon, they will participate in a seminar led by a leading think-tank or academic expert on that individual’s area of expertise and will consider how the practice of policy-making relates to the principles underlying our constitutional system and our political life.
Among the topics to be covered are:
Students will gain a deeper understanding of the key domestic challenges confronting our country, of just what policymakers do, of how economics and politics interact, and of how to approach some of our most contentious national debates.
Recommended Reading: National Affairs is a quarterly journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought.
Session 1 (Morning): Introduction
Session 1 (Afternoon): Daniel DiSalvo, Manhattan Institute, on Public Policy as a Profession
Session 2 (Morning): Aristotle and Locke on Economics
Session 2 (Afternoon): Daniel DiSalvo, Manhattan Institute, on Public-Sector Unions
- Daniel DiSalvo, “The New Spoils System,” The American Interest (February 2015)
- Terry Moe, “Teachers Unions and American Education Reform: The Power of Vested Interests,” 2014
- Richard Kahlenberg, “Bipartisan, But Unfounded: The Assault on the Teachers’ Unions,” American Educator (Winter 2011–12)
- Dmitri Mehlhorn, Jake Rosenfeld, and Andrew Strom, “Should progressives support public-sector unions?,” On Labor, July 2014
Session 3 (Morning): Adam Smith on Life in a Free Society
- Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
- Part I, Section I, Chs. 1–4
- Part I, Section III, Chs. 1–2
- Part II, Section II, Chs. 1–3
- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
- Book I, Chs. 1–3
- Book IV, Chs. 2 and the end of Ch. 9 (pp. 686–88)
Session 3 (Afternoon): Scott Winship, Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, on Measurement and Policy
- Scott Winship, “Bogeyman Economics,” National Affairs (Winter 2012)
- Scott Winship, “Wage Trends: Men’s Rising Earnings,” National Review, June 28, 2013
- Scott Winship, “Does America Have Less Economic Mobility? Part 1,” e21, April 2015
Session 4 (Morning): The Progressives and the Welfare State
- Thomas Paine, “Agrarian Justice,” 1797
- Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1, “Bourgeois and Proletariat”
- Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life, Chs. 2–3
- Theodore Roosevelt, “The New Nationalism,” August 31, 1910
Session 4 (Afternoon): Scott Winship, Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, on Inequality and the Middle Class
- Scott Winship, “Overstating the Cost of Inequality,” National Affairs (Spring 2013)
- Scott Winship, “Have 91% of Gains During the Recovery Gone to the Top?,” Forbes, January 27, 2015
- Scott Winship, “Did Inequality Rob Middle-Class Households Of $18,000?,” Forbes, January 13, 2015
- Scott Winship, “Middle Class Wages Are Stagnant! (Because Retirees Have No Earnings),” e21, May 20, 2014
Session 5 (Morning): Responses to the Welfare State
- Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chs. 2 and 17
- Irving Kristol, “When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness,” The Public Interest (Fall 1970)
Session 5 (Afternoon): James C. Capretta, AEI, on Budgets and Fiscal Policy
- Yuval Levin, “Beyond the Welfare State,” National Affairs (Spring 2011)
- James C. Capretta, “Reforming the Budget Process,” National Affairs (Fall 2014)
Session 6 (Morning): How Government Works, Why Government Fails
- Peter Schuck, Why Government Fails So Often, Ch. 1
- Steve Teles, “Kludgeocracy in America,” National Affairs (Fall 2013)
- John J. DiIulio, Jr., “Facing Up To Big Government,” National Affairs (Spring 2012)
Session 6 (Afternoon): Reihan Salam, National Review, on Journalism, Politics, and Policy
Session 7 (Morning): Health Care and Entitlements
- Donald Marron, “America in the Red,” National Affairs (Spring 2010)
- Kaiser Family Foundation, “Summary of the Affordable Care Act,” April 2013
- Joseph Antos, James Capretta, et al., “Improving Health and Health Care,” pp. 1–26
Session 7 (Afternoon): Aaron Nielson, BYU Law, on Regulation
- Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, 561 U.S. 477 (2010)
- Focus on: 3138 to 3149, 3151 to 3161, 3164 to 3177, 3184
Session 8 (Morning): Tax Policy
- Bruce Bartlett, The Benefit and the Burden, Ch. 1
- Robert Stein, “Taxes and the Family,” National Affairs (Winter 2010)
- Congressional Research Service, “Overview of the Federal Tax System,” November 2014
Session 8 (Afternoon): Aaron Nielson, BYU Law, on Regulation
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1, Part 2, Ch. 8 (“On the Spirit of the Lawyer in the United States and How it Serves as a Counterweight to Democracy”)
Session 9 (Morning): Higher Education and Liberal Education
- Andrew Kelly, “Higher-Education Reform To Make College and Career Training More Effective and Affordable,” in Room to Grow
- Leo Strauss, “What Is Liberal Education?,” in Introduction to Political Philosophy
Session 9 (Afternoon): Michael McShane, AEI, on K-12 Education
Session 10 (Morning): Michael McShane, AEI, on Choice in Education
Session 10 (Afternoon): Welfare and Economic Mobility – and Concluding Discussion
Other courses you might be interested in
The story of American politics in the twentieth century cannot be told without reference to the conservative movement. This collection of journalists, policy experts, activists, and politicians, and the journals and institutions around which they congregated, had a decisive impact on the Republican Party and on the country that is still being felt today. Indeed, so successful was modern American conservatism in reorienting the intellectual and political direction of the country that its opponents, including President Barack Obama, have sought to emulate its tactics if not its goals.
Whence did this movement arise? How did the ideas and arguments put forth in obscure magazines come to shape the worldview and policy of American presidents and congressional leaders? Who were the principal intellectual figures of the conservative movement, and how did they seek to influence American elites?
Through a close reading of essays, opinion pieces, and political speeches, students will trace how the principles of conservative leaders have been translated into concrete reality. Students will recall the biographies and histories of important conservative figures and publications such as William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review, Irving Kristol’s Public Interest, Norman Podhoretz’s Commentary, and Robert Bartley’s Wall Street Journal. And they will reflect on what the story of that movement might teach us about the status and prospects of conservative thought and practice today.
This course is offered in two parts. The first week will cover the early years of the conservative movement, with sessions on libertarianism, traditionalism, anti-Communism, and the founding of National Review. The second week will cover the 1960s to the present day, with sessions on neoconservatism, populism, the religious right, and the current conservative moment. Students may apply to attend both weeks of the course, only the first week, or only the second week.
In this two-week course, students engage key texts that have helped shape the political idea – and political ideals – of America.
Over the first week, led by Professor Darren Staloff, students will engage the ideas of modern liberal democracy, exploring how the American system has sought to balance the deepest themes of ancient political thought against the imperatives of individual freedom, security, and economic progress that are so central to modern liberal thought. They will examine the relation of nature, reason, rights, and citizenship in forming the core of the American political ethos and search for the philosophical roots of the differences between conservatism and liberalism in the contemporary world. How has the American system established at the Founding been recast through a series of conflicts and debates during the Civil War, the New Deal, and the contemporary period? Many of these conflicts and tensions remain active and vital points of political debate today.
For the second week, led by Professor James W. Ceaser, students will examine the underlying forces of a democratic society through close reading of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Democracy in America surprises and amazes by its breadth and depth, covering almost every important aspect of American life, from politics to economics to culture, and posing some the most penetrating – and troubling – questions about the future of democracy and of civilization.
The one-week seminar will focus on landmark Supreme Court cases from the past 50 years with a view to exploring how politics and law interact, the different approaches to constitutional judgment and rhetoric, and the impact of the Court’s decisions on American lives. Students will find the late Justice Antonin Scalia at the center of this discussion throughout the week, as they consider how his focus on constitutional “originalism” and the Constitution’s structural checks and balances, both rooted in his view of the courts’ properly limited role in republican government, profoundly changed the way in which Americans view the Constitution and constitutional law.
This two-week seminar will explore foundations of conservative political thought in the works of Adam Smith and Edmund Burke.
The first week, led by Professor Alan Levine, will focus on Edmund Burke, the West’s first and arguably greatest conservative thinker. Selected readings will give special attention to Burke’s analyses of the moral and political implications of the American and French Revolutions through which Burke lived. These revolutions are arguably the greatest political events of modern times, and Burke was the only thinker of the times to support the American Revolution but not the French. Why? Answering this question involves understanding Burke’s critiques of Enlightenment rationalism and the political and philosophical grounds of the modern movements for democracy and liberalism. In shedding light on the exact nature of Burke’s conservatism, students will also attempt to compare it to current strands of conservatism and liberalism in order to meditate deeply on the nature of political ideology itself.
For the second week, led by Professor Ryan Hanley, students will turn to Adam Smith, perhaps best known as the founding father of capitalism. Students will read and discuss excerpts from Smith’s landmark works, and examine the core concepts of Smith’s social vision, elaborating his views on economics, politics, ethics, religion, morality, and philosophy. The selected readings will explore other sides of Smith beyond the familiar portrayal of him as a champion of free markets, revealing him as a thinker whose unique perspective encompasses broader commitments to virtue, justice, equality, and freedom.
Matthew Continetti is editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was opinion editor of The Weekly Standard, where he remains a contributing editor.
JAMES W. CEASER
James W. Ceaser is Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1976, and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has written several books on American politics and political thought, including Presidential Selection, Liberal Democracy and Political Science, and Nature and History in American Political Development.
Darren Staloff is Professor of History at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Professor Staloff has published numerous papers and reviews on the subject of early American history and is the author of The Making of an American Thinking Class: Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in Puritan Massachusetts and Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding.
ADAM J. WHITE
Adam J. White is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution based in Washington, DC, writing on the Constitution, regulation, and the courts. He is also an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, teaching administrative law.
Ryan Hanley is the Mellon Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Marquette University. His research in the history of political philosophy focuses on the Enlightenment. He is the author of Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue and editor of Adam Smith: His Life, Thought and Legacy.