In his famous work “Capitalism and Freedom” (1962), Milton Friedman wrote, “It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements.” He argued that, in spite of this prevailing sentiment, the two are closely connected. On Tuesday evening at AEI, professors Peter B. Josephson of Saint Anselm College, Richard Boyd of Georgetown University, and John T. Scott of University of California, Davis, discussed the role of economic liberty in political philosophy through the insight of various Western thinkers.
Josephson pointed to the similarities in the work of Locke and Hobbes; both philosophers indicated that private commerce is best left in private hands and warned against the intersection of economic and political power. Boyd offered a less conventional interpretation of Mill which lays out the theoretical foundations for a collectivist liberalism, and Scott discussed Rousseau’s suspicion of a commercial society relative to human flourishing. Their dialogue revealed a link between politics and economics, but the implications of this interaction, and its ideal structure, remain up for debate.
While it is widely accepted that human flourishing requires political liberty, the role of economic liberty has received comparatively little attention. Some writers and thinkers believe that political liberty is paramount; others have argued that economic liberty surpasses political liberty in its importance to human flourishing.
Join us at AEI as a panel of leading contemporary scholars of political philosophy explore the importance of economic liberty through the perspectives of some of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill — and discuss why these thinkers’ insights matter for current public policy discussions.
Michael R. Strain, AEI
Richard Boyd, Georgetown University
Peter B. Josephson, Saint Anselm College
John T. Scott, University of California, Davis
Stan Veuger, AEI
Wine and Cheese Reception
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Richard Boyd is an associate professor of government at Georgetown University, where he teaches social and political theory. He is the author of “Uncivil Society: The Perils of Pluralism and the Making of Modern Liberalism” (Lexington Books, 2004) and editor of “Tocqueville and the Frontiers of Democracy” (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Boyd has published more than 30 journal articles and book chapters on the intellectual history of liberalism, civil society, pluralism, the history of political economy, and questions of membership and boundaries in liberal political thought. His latest project, “Subprime virtues: The moral dimensions of American housing and mortgage policy” (2013), explores the moral consequences of housing policy in the US in the wake of the financial crisis.
Peter B. Josephson is an associate professor of politics and currently holds the Richard L. Bready Chair in Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College. He teaches courses in the Politics, Humanities, and Philosophy Departments and from 2005 to 2008 he served as the academic adviser to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. From 2005 to 2010, he cochaired Saint Anselm’s programs for Learning Liberty and Education in Liberty and the Liberal Arts. Currently, he serves on the board at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. His scholarly work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Earhart Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. He is the author of “The Great Art of Government: Locke’s Use of Consent” (University Press of Kansas, 2002) and coauthor of “The Irony of Barack Obama: Barack Obama, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the Problem of Christian Statecraft” (Ashgate Publishing, 2012). He has written a variety of articles and chapters on topics ranging from the political philosophy of Henry Kissinger to politics and popular culture to religion and political economy.
John T. Scott is a department chair and professor of political science at the University of California, Davis. His primary research is in the history of political philosophy, with a specialization in early modern political thought. Most of his work in this area has focused on the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his articles have appeared in such publications as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of the History of Ideas, and History of Political Thought. He is the author of “The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding” (Yale University Press, 2009), which has been nominated for several book prizes sponsored by the Modern Language Association and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; editor of “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Critical Assessments of Leading Political Philosophers” (Routledge, 2006); and translator of Tzvetan Todorov’s “Frail Happiness: An Essay on Rousseau” (Penn State University Press, 2004), “Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages and Writings Related to Music” (Dartmouth College Press, 1998), and, most recently, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Major Political Writings” (The University of Chicago Press, 2012).
Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar at AEI. His academic research papers and policy papers study labor economics, applied microeconomics, and public finance. His work has appeared in the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking; Tax Notes; and National Review, among other publications. Before joining AEI, he was the manager of the New York Census Research Data Center and an economist with the Center for Economic Studies at the US Census Bureau. Previously, he was a member of the research group of Census’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program and worked in the macroeconomics research group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI. His academic research focuses on political economy and applied microeconomics, and has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. He writes frequently for popular audiences on a variety of topics, including policy uncertainty, Obamacare, and tax policy. He is a regular contributor to US News and World Report and writes frequently for AEIdeas, AEI’s policy blog. Before joining AEI, Veuger was a teaching fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard College, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra. He is a board member of the Netherland-American Foundation in Washington, DC, and was a National Review Institute Washington Fellow.