Liberty and Markets Conferences

Liberty and Markets Conference Topics

Liberty and the Declaration of Independence

This conference will aim at obtaining greater understanding of the claims for individual and political liberty contained in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence has come to be seen as a text that is central not only to our political order, but to understanding ourselves as a people. One argument, long advanced, contends that the Constitution can only be understood in light of the animating principles of equality as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. In this view, the Constitution’s provisions that limit, enumerate, and diffuse powers should be interpreted according to a spirit of the natural rights of man proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence. Alternatively, the Declaration of Independence can also be seen within the common law tradition of England, which was, of necessity, extended to the North American colonies via the rights the colonists held as Englishmen. The readings for this conference include ancient English antecedents, colonial writings, and political documents, as well as early state constitutions, certain debates within the state ratifying conventions of the Constitution, and selections from the unfolding debate over the nature of the American union in the mid-nineteenth century.

This conference will consist of 2 lecture sessions and 6 Socratic discussion sessions. The discussion sessions are text-based and so selected participants are required to prepare appropriately and participate fully in all conference sessions. Readings will be provided to all accepted participants.

Date: July 24-27, 2014 (conference is filled)
Location: Grand Rapids
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work


C.S. Lewis & Liberty

One of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, C. S. Lewis was a scholar at Oxford University for three decades and then a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University until the end of his career. An atheist throughout his early life, he converted to Christianity in 1931. He is not generally known as a political or economic commentator and usually avoided partisan commitments. Yet, in spite of his indifference to politics as such, he did often give prescient analysis of a variety of political topics. Looking at selections from across a range of Lewis’s diverse writings, participants will see the breadth of Lewis’ thinking and examine his contribution to maintaining a free society. Topics to be considered are, among others, Lewis' concerns about the modern welfare state, technological advancements, and the application of modern social sciences.

This conference will consist of 2 lecture sessions and 6 Socratic discussion sessions. The discussion sessions are text-based and so selected participants are required to prepare appropriately and participate fully in all conference sessions. Readings will be provided to all accepted participants.

Date: November 20-23, 2014 (applications closed)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work


Limited Government and the Rule of Law

The purpose of this conference is to explore the philosophical foundations of limited government by engaging ancient, medieval, and modern thinkers on the subject. Attention will also be focused on modern Christian social thought and its response to the centralizing tendencies of the modern state. A secondary aspect of the conference will be to introduce participants to the principle of subsidiarity as a further means of understanding limitations on government power. In a mixture of Socratic discussion and lectures, participants will examine works by such authors such as St. Augustine, Sir John Fortescue, Wilhelm Röpke, Friedrich A. Hayek and others to discover the way limited government thinking was enshrined in the American founding.  By understanding the limited notions of the state implied in these classic sources, participants will have an enhanced perspective from which to understand and analyze modern political thought.

This conference will consist of 3 lecture sessions and 5 Socratic discussion sessions. The discussion sessions are text-based and so selected participants are required to prepare appropriately and participate fully in all conference sessions. Readings will be provided to all accepted participants.

Date: February 19-22, 2015  (applications not yet available)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work


Evaluating the Idea of Social Justice

The purpose of this conference is to explore the idea of “social justice” and compare and evaluate it against the understanding this concept now evokes in contemporary debates about justice and political order. The all-encompassing claims made on behalf of social justice in these debates often translate into calls for the reduction of personal liberty and a concomitant increase in state power to distribute material goods and the resources of private enterprise in common.

This conference will consist of 2 lecture sessions and 6 Socratic discussion sessions. The discussion sessions are text-based and so selected participants are required to prepare appropriately and participate fully in all conference sessions. Readings will be provided to all accepted participants.

Date: April 23-26, 2015 (applications not yet available)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work