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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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April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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