One of the key values of American citizenship is freedom. What does freedom mean? The purpose of this seminar is to explore this question in light of two important publications in 1776: the Declaration of Independence and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
These two publications were authored by two Founding Fathers, one of American democracy and the other of modern economics. We often discuss the Founding Fathers’ plan for government in America, but what plans did they make for America’s economic future? How were their economic plans related to the form of government they chose and vice versa? By considering important documents from the American Founding in light of economic arguments that were being advanced around the same time, we will be concerned with understanding the relationship between politics and economics at the Founding and beyond. In doing so, we will keep our focus on the central question of defining American freedom.
“Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men.” — Adam Smith
Schedule and Syllabus of Readings
Monday, July 22
3:00 – 6:00 pm: Arrive at the Ashbrook Academy
6:15 – 6:45 pm: Welcome and Academy Overview
6:45 – 7:30 pm: Dinner
7:30 – 9:00 pm: Session #1
Topic: “What is a Free Society?”
Seminar Questions: How does Jefferson define freedom? How does Smith define freedom?
- Declaration of Independence
- Smith, “On Free Trade” selections from Wealth of Nations
9:00 – 10:00 pm: Free time
10:00 – 11:00 pm: Study time
Tuesday, July 23
8:00 – 9:00 am: Breakfast
9:00 – 10:15 am: Session #2
Topic: “Property as the Foundation for Rights”
Seminar Questions: How does Locke define property? How is his definition of property related to Jefferson’s assertion of rights in the Declaration?
- Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 5
10:15 – 10:45 am: Break
10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Session #3
Topic: “The Division of Labor”
Seminar Questions: Why does Smith call the division of labor “the greatest improvement” in labor? Why should we marvel at a woolen coat? How is it that a peasant can be richer than a king?
- Smith, Wealth of Nations, Chapter 1
12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch
1:00 – 2:00 pm: Study time
2:00 – 3:15 pm: Session #4
Topic: “The Foundations of Union”
Seminar Questions: Did the states originally see America as a nation of a marketplace? How does the discussion of the union of states at Annapolis compare to the perspective put forward by The Federalist?
- Annapolis Convention Minutes
- The Federalist #1
3:15 – 3:45 pm: Break
3:45 – 5:00 pm: Session #5
Topic: “A Natural Economy”
Seminar Questions: What kind of economy did Hamilton think America should have? Why? How does Hamilton’s view differ from Jefferson’s view? Whose vision is most like that of Smith?
- Hamilton, “Report on Manufactures” (selections)
- Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Query #19
5:00 – 6:00 pm: Dinner
6:00 – 7:00 pm: Free time
7:00 – 9:00 pm: Session #6
9:00 – 11:00 pm: Free Time/Study Time/Time to Pack
Wednesday, June 24
8:00 – 9:00 am: Breakfast
9:00 – 9:30 am: Finish Packing
9:30 – 10:30 am: Session #7
Topic: “A Commercial People”
Seminar Questions: Why are Americans naturally a “commercial people” according to Tocqueville? What are the characteristics of a commercial people?
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America, “Some Causes of the Commercial Greatness of the United States”
10:45 – 11:00 am: Evaluations
11:00 – 11:45 am: Lunch
11:45 am – 12:00 pm: Final Overview
Topic: “The Invisible Hand of the Market”
12:00 pm: Depart Ashbrook Academy