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August 2-4, 2018

Rancho Bernardo Inn • 17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr, San Diego, CA

About Cato University | Schedule | Register | Scholarship | Readings

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History is indispensable to understanding and defending liberty under our constitutionally limited, representative government. And at the core of that history are the philosophical beliefs and values on which the American republic was founded. Cato University's College of History and Philosophy brings these two powerful subjects together to explore the foundations of liberty and justice, of wealth and poverty, of individual rights and the rule of law.





Thursday, August 2
3:00 – 6:00PM Registration
6:30 – 7:30PM Reception
7:30 – 9:30PM

History and the Science of Liberty

In his 1775 "Give Me Liberty" speech, Patrick Henry told the Virginia Convention "I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." History shows that the story of human progress is the story of liberty. Among all the social sciences, history has a special place, for the key to understanding institutions, governments, laws, and the economic, social, and legal experience of liberty is in history.

Dinner Speaker: Tom G. Palmer, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, and Director of Cato University

Download a podcast of “History and the Science of Liberty”

Friday, August 3

8:00 – 9:00AM Breakfast
9:00 – 10:15AM

The Experience of Liberty

Is the idea of liberty just an idea thought up by clever philosophers, or have a few philosophers formulated theories about a particular kind of human experience—the experience of living as a free human being? Survey the history of liberty over 4,600 years and see how, as Thucydides taught, history is philosophy teaching by example.

Speaker: Tom G. Palmer, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, and Director of Cato University

Download a podcast of “The Experience of Liberty”

10:15 – 10:45AM Break
10:45 – 12:00PM

The American Enlightenment and Revolution

In 1815 John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, ""What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it." Follow the story of the American Enlightenment and its heroes from the earliest days of the British colonies to American Independence.

Speaker: Robert McDonald, Professor of History, United States Military Academy

Download a podcast of “The American Enlightenment and Revolution”

12:00 – 1:30PM Lunch
1:30 – 2:45PM

The Libertarian Synthesis

The philosophy of liberty emerged from the enjoyment of liberties, as thinkers in morality, social science, history, and law saw common patterns and reinforcing insights. Libertarianism (historically known as "liberalism") began to emerge in the early modern period, but its framework has become the operating system of the modern world. Libertarian ideas of individual rights, spontaneous social order, and the rule of law emerged as part of a mutually reinforcing synthesis.

Speaker: Tom G. Palmer, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, and Director of Cato University

Download a podcast of “The Libertarian Synthesis”

2:45 – 3:15PM Break
3:15 – 4:30PM

The Evolution of the Ideas of Liberty

The fascinating story of the history of the ideas of liberty involves both intellectual debate and institutional evolution; the shift from "liberties" to liberty is an exciting story that transformed the world.

Speaker: Jacob Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University

Download a podcast of “The Evolution of the Ideas of Liberty”

4:30PM Free Time
6:00 – 7:00PM Reception
7:00 – 9:00PM

War, Foreign Affairs, and American Government

Foreign military interventionism has been a primary driver of the loss of domestic liberty and the growth of the state, and libertarians should retain their skepticism of such interventions. On the other hand, U.S. cultural engagement through trade and peaceful exchange is consistent with the Founders' vision and would serve us well today.

Dinner Speaker: Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute

Download a podcast of “War, Foreign Affairs, and American Government”

Saturday, August 4

8:00 – 9:00AM Breakfast
9:00 – 10:15AM

Libertarian Conceptions of Order

It's common to think that order must be created, instilled, imposed, but in fact most of the forms of order that structure our lives emerge spontaneously, without conscious planning or imposition. Language, markets, morals, and even laws can-and-do evolve without design and are all the more orderly for it.

Speaker: Jacob Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University

Download a podcast of “Libertarian Conceptions of Order”

10:15 – 10:45AM Break
10:45 – 12:00PM

America to the Civil War and Beyond

American history is a story of liberty, but also of oppression and violence. The growth of the new republic and the emerging conflict over the great contradiction of slavery will be detailed, with special attention to the libertarians who led the charge against that horror, as well as the terrible war that tore the nation apart and the conflicts over freedom until the Great War.

Speaker: Robert McDonald, Professor of History, United States Military Academy

Download a podcast of “American to the Civil War and Beyond”

12:00 – 1:30PM Lunch
1:30 – 2:45PM

Peace and Toleration

Religious toleration is one of the great wellsprings of liberty, perhaps the most significant in European history. The emergence of peaceful coexistence and the ideas and the institutions that fostered it are central to the libertarian tradition.

Speaker: Jacob Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, McGill University

Download a podcast of “Peace and Toleration”

2:45 – 3:15PM Break
3:15 – 4:30PM

Transformations of American Government from WWI to Today

Contemporary American government is addicted to welfare statism and never-ending wars. The roots of the welfarewarfare-state will be connected to earlier conflicts and traced up to "compassionate conservatism" and Obamacare, the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the current stresses and strains on the American constitutional order.

Speaker: Robert McDonald, Professor of History, United States Military Academy

Download a podcast of “Transformations of American Government from WWI to Today”

4:30PM Free Time
6:30 – 7:30PM Reception
7:30 – 9:30PM

The Future History of Liberty

The failures of grand narratives that claim to know the future are instructive and offer us insights, not only into the nature of history and freedom, but to how we can exercise our freedoms to secure a future of liberty, peace, limited government, and prosperity.

Dinner Speaker: Jason Kuznicki, Editor, Cato Unbound

Download a podcast of “The Future History of Liberty”

Tom G. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and director of Cato University, the Institute's educational arm. Palmer is also the executive vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and is responsible for establishing operating programs in 14 languages and managing programs for a worldwide network of think tanks. Before joining Cato he was an H. B. Earhart Fellow at Hertford College, Oxford University, and a vice president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. He frequently lectures in North America, Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, India, China and throughout Asia, and the Middle East on political science, public choice, civil society, and the moral, legal, and historical foundations of individual rights.

More about Tom Palmer

Christopher A. Preble is the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of three books including The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free (Cornell University Press, 2009); and John F. Kennedy and the Missile Gap (Northern Illinois University Press, 2004); and he co-edited, with John Mueller, A Dangerous World? Threat Perception and U.S. National Security (Cato Institute, 2014); and, with Jim Harper and Benjamin Friedman, Terrorizing Ourselves: Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It (Cato Institute, 2010).

In addition to his work at Cato, Preble teaches the U.S. Foreign Policy elective at the University of California, Washington Center (UCDC). Before joining Cato in February 2003, he taught history at St. Cloud State University and Temple University. Preble was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, and served onboard USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) from 1990 to 1993. Preble holds a Ph.D. in history from Temple University.

More about Christopher A. Preble

Robert M. S. McDonald is Professor of History at the United States Military Academy, where he has taught since 1998. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, Oxford University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph.D. A specialist on Thomas Jefferson and the early American republic, he is the author of Confounding Father: Thomas Jefferson's Image in His Own Time (2016) and editor of Thomas Jefferson's Military Academy: Founding West Point (2004), Light & Liberty: Thomas Jefferson and the Power of Knowledge (2012), and Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés (2013). He is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, teaches in the Master's in American History and Government program at Ashland University, and has helped lead numerous workshops for social studies teachers through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Bill of Rights Institute, for which he helped develop educational material used in high school classrooms throughout the United States. He lives in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, with his wife, Christine, and their children Jefferson and Grace.

More about Robert McDonald

Jacob LevyJacob T. Levy is the Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory at McGill University. He writes on federalism, freedom of association, indigenous peoples, constitutional theory, and Enlightenment political thought.

He is the author of the books The Multiculturalism of Fear (Oxford, 2000) and Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom (Oxford, 2014), as well as numerous articles in the academic and popular press. He has written on subjects ranging from Montesquieu, to Indian casinos, to the possibility of federalism in Iraq. His work has been featured in Reason, The New Republic, Social Philosophy and Policy, and the American Political Science Review, among others. He is also a past contributor to the noted weblog The Volokh Conspiracy. Prof. Levy received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

More about Jacob Levy

Jason Kuznicki is the editor of Cato Books and of Cato Unbound, the Cato Institute's online journal of debate. His first book, Technology and the End of Authority: What Is Government For? (Palgrave, 2017) surveys western political theory from a libertarian perspective. His second book, now in progress, will look at the role of imprisonment in political theory. Kuznicki was an assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. He earned a PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University in 2005, where his work was offered both a Fulbright Fellowship and a Chateaubriand Prize.

More about Jacob Levy