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.

Date: August 1-4, 2013 (registration closed)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Audience: Acton alumni who are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate level work
 

Religion and Liberty: Acton and Tocqueville

At this conference, graduate students will discuss religious freedom, the church-state relationship, and the role of religion in shaping the moral order of free societies. These issues will be examined through the lens of history, and readings and discussion will explore the relationship by illustrating how, at different points in history, Christianity has acted as a support for liberty and, at others, has failed to do so. The conference readings will focus on the writings of Lord Acton and Alexis de Tocqueville, two of the most insightful nineteenth-century liberal thinkers to write about the relationship between Christianity and liberty. The sessions progress chronologically and thematically: from a focus on antiquity and the rise of Christianity; to the central socio–political problems of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (religious freedom and the church-state relationship); to a key event that provoked re-thinking of those problems (the formation of the United States); to the treatment of issues that remain contemporary areas of concern (such as the implications of economic prosperity for religion and liberty).

Date: September 12-15, 2013 (registration closed)
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.

Date: October 10-13, 2013 (registration closed)
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Audience: Clergy, Church and Parachurch Workers
 

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.

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