What will catalyze the US government, economy, and people to return to past prosperity? On Monday evening, during this month’s Bradley Lecture, James Piereson of the William E. Simon Foundation and the Manhattan Institute highlighted the three stages of revolution that encouraged the rise of US democracy, industrialization, and world-power status.
First, the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 led to westward expansion from the small colonial east. Second, said Piereson, the Civil War ended slavery and permitted the industrial sector to prosper. Third, the period leading up to and following World War II established the US as a world leader and super power, and established a period of increased prosperity and welfare spending.
Piereson stressed that America is currently at a crossroads, where two state models (the red Republican and the blue Democrat models) are competing for dominance. According to Piereson, if the blue-state model is dying because of overwhelming cost and slowing growth, then the fourth political revolution will shift the nation in a new direction. This regime change would help reset the system, effectively clearing out interest groups and allowing the US to regain the prosperity of the 20th century through innovation, invention, taking advantage of domestic resources, and incentivizing the work force. Piereson concluded by asking the audience to usher in a real American renaissance.
The US has been shaped by three far-reaching political revolutions: Thomas Jefferson’s “revolution of 1800,” the Civil War, and the New Deal. Each of these upheavals brought about lasting institutional and cultural adjustments that set the stage for new phases of political and economic development in America.
Is America on the verge of a “fourth revolution” that will reshape US politics for decades to come? There are signs to suggest that it is. The post–war system was built around assumptions of continuous growth in standards of living and public budgets, but American economic growth has been slowing for decades. Unprecedented levels of debt, a stagnant economy, and the impending retirement of the baby-boomer generation — mixed with increasingly polarized politics — could bring down the system of governance established in the 1930s and 1940s and inaugurate a new period of instability, shifting party coalitions, and political innovation. In this Bradley Lecture, James Piereson will explain how these changes signify the end of one stage of national development and the beginning of a new one.
If you cannot attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Arthur C. Brooks AEI
James Piereson, William E. Simon Foundation and the Manhattan Institute
Adjournment and Reception
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Arthur C. Brooks has been the president of AEI since January 1, 2009. Previously, he was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University. He is the author of 10 books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from the economics of the arts to military operations research. His most recent book is the New York Times bestseller “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise” (Basic Books, 2012). Other books include “The Battle” (Basic Books, May 2010), “Gross National Happiness” (Basic Books, 2008), “Social Entrepreneurship” (Prentice-Hall, 2008) and “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism” (Basic Books, 2006). Before pursuing his work in public policy, Brooks spent 12 years as a professional French hornist with the City Orchestra of Barcelona and other ensembles.
James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private, New York City grant-making foundation. Piereson is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York where he is director of the Center for the American University and chairman of the selection committee for the Veritas Fund, which allocates grants to programs on college and university campuses. Piereson was executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation from 1985 to 2005 when the foundation closed its doors. Before joining the John. M. Olin Foundation, he served on the political science faculties of several prominent universities, including Iowa State University (1974), Indiana University (1975), and the University of Pennsylvania (1976–82), where he taught courses on US government and political thought. Piereson is also trustee of the William E. Simon Foundation and serves on the boards of several other tax-exempt institutions, including the Pinkerton Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, the Center for Individual Rights, the Philanthropy Roundtable, the Foundation for Cultural Review (chairman), the American Spectator Foundation, the Hoover Institution, Donors Trust, the William F. Buckley Program at Yale University, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He is a member of the selection committee for the Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in the Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering, and is chairman of the selection committee for the Hayek Book Prize. He is also a member of the Grant Advisory Committee of the Searle Freedom Trust and of the publication committees of City Journal and National Affairs. Piereson is likewise a member of the executive advisory committee of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, of the board of visitors of the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, and of the advisory council of the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of “Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism” (Encounter Books, 2007) and, with J. Sullivan and G. Marcus, of “Political Tolerance and American Democracy” (University of Chicago Press, 1982). He is the editor of “The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World” (Encounter Books, 2008). He has also published articles and reviews in numerous journals, including Commentary, Philanthropy, the American Spectator, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and National Review.