Liberty: The Original Trendsetter


What do reaversLokiAlexis de TocquevilleJohn LockeLyle LanleyFrancis UnderwoodThomas HobbesKarl MarxKatniss EverdeenRenoirSnookie, and The Situation all have in common? They (and more) were discussed during FEE’s Liberty: The Original Trendsetter summer seminar from June 28 through July 1 in Seattle.

As unlikely as it may sound, art, culture, and liberty are linked inextricably, where each is impacted by the others. A society’s culture emerges from a spontaneous order, and, like an economy, is a product of human action, but not human design. Art forms emerge spontaneously from culture and also serve as cultural feedback mechanisms.  A culture of freedom tends to breed the most diverse art, music, fashion, and literature, which, in turn, leads to more freedom and more art.

Actor and producer Robert Anthony Peters taught the history of artistic movements and the way liberty, markets, and prosperity have influenced them. Political science professor Josh Dunn discussed Thomas Hobbes’ and John Locke’s ideas of the state of nature and rights, Hayek’s Fatal Conceit, and de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, using examples from The Lord of the Flies, Serenity, and The Avengers. The Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus covered the theme of authenticity in The Hunger Games and showed how our criminal justice system is more like The Wire than Mayberry. Burrus’s lecture titled “Mr. Smith Goes on a Monorail to the West Wing of the House of Cards” covered what he described as the four types of politicians by citing examples from The Simpsons, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, House of Cards, and The West Wing.

Of course, no seminar on art and liberty would be complete  a discussion of Atlas Shrugged, led by George Mason University’s Adam Mossoff. Mossoff later debated the merits and legal issues of intellectual property with Loyola University Economics Professor Daniel D’Amico.

The seminar concluded with the political economy of the Jersey Shore, presented by Professor D’Amico, who showed participants in no uncertain terms that “economics is everywhere, bro.”



Todd Hollenbeck is the college programs manager at FEE.

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