Liberty, Prudence, Imperfection, and Law

Spontaneous Order and the Origins of American Freedom

Baptism of Pocahontas

Introductory Foreward, By Dr. Rachel Douchant, Director of the Liberty and Ethics Center and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Lindenwood University: 

Doctor Carey Roberts is an Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Liberty University. He is an expert on [Thomas] Jefferson, a scholar at the Abbeville Institute, and a Fellow for the Liberty and Ethics Center at Lindenwood University. Doctor Roberts delivered the keynote talk at this year’s conference, Free Markets and Localism, [en]titled “Spontaneous Order and the Origins of American Freedom.” He argues that the failure, not the success, of early American settlers led to the development of what we now see as the American character. While dreams of centrally planned utopias failed, the settlers adjusted to their new surroundings mostly by accident but in ways that came to define who we are today.   

Nomocracy in Politics’s Editorial Foreward

In “Spontaneous Order and the Origins of American Freedom,” Carey Roberts, a Nomocracy in Politics Editor, argues that many American colonies initially failed to realize the utopian ideals and planning that had been intended by their founders. In the aborted aftermath, however, a spontaneous order arose that imparted a special and unplanned character on the colonial communities, and it was such unintended orders that persisted and shaped the American character. Roberts brilliantly borrows from Friedrich Hayek’s theory of freedom and spontaneous order to develop this historiography. He demonstrates how such repeated initial failures and, then, unplanned realizations of order occurred in colony after colony, from Georgia to Massachusetts Bay. Listen to Robert’s excellent discussion of the failed utopian planning of John Winthrop (for Massachusetts), James Edward Oglethorpe (for Georgia), the Dutch settlers in old New Amsterdam (now New York), the Earl of Shaftesbury (for South Carolina), and even William Penn (for Pennsylvania). He finally concludes by demonstrating how the immense cultural diversity that was ultimately established within the America and created the multicolored panoply of different colonial communities made American federalism essential for any federal constitutional design. Roberts suggests that such diversity is largely still with us, and it continues to undermine utopian, telocratic attempts to establish monistic, national policy. The lecture is a serious work of American historiography with fascinating implications for libertarian theory.

This video lecture was presented by Carey Roberts as a keynote address for the Free Markets and Localism conference at Lindenwood University’s Liberty and Ethics Center. It is posted here with permission from the Liberty and Ethics Center.  

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