Commercial Republic Initiative Events at UCLA

Steven Bilakovics remarks here on recent events at UCLA’s Center for Liberal Arts and Free Institutions (CLAFI).

On Saturday, February 21st, Professor Stephen Elkin of the University of Maryland joined CLAFI to lead a seminar on the constitutional theory of the commercial republic.  Specifically, Elkin raised the question of the role of the executive, of leadership, and above all of statesmanship in the founding and maintenance of a republican form of government.  Can constitutional and institutional design alleviate the need for statesmanship?  Can a republic dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality accommodate the statesman? And can a republic, perhaps by means of civic and liberal education, steer the statesman toward the end of republican self-government? Readings included excerpts from Machiavelli, Locke, The Federalist, and Lincoln.

On February 26th and 28th Professor George Thomas of Claremont McKenna College joined CLAFI to offer a lecture and seminar based on his new book The Founders and the Idea of a National University: Constituting the American Mind (Cambridge, 2014).  Thomas argued that the founder’s aspiration for a national university demonstrates the centrality of civic and liberal education in their vision of republican self-government, contra the belief often ascribed to them that a well designed constitution would be able to run of its own.  Thomas argued, moreover, that many of the same issues Madison, Jefferson, and others faced in trying to think through the proper form and substance of education in an extended commercial republic still confront us today.

Steven Bilakovics (University of Texas, Austin, PhD) – Commercial Republic Project, UCLA

Dr. Bilakovics’ research interests include democratic social and political theory, capitalism, American political thought, the history of political thought and contemporary theory. He is the author of Democracy Without Politics.

Read more about JMC’s Commercial Republic Initiative.