Hudson Institute Political Studies offers a fellowship in political theory and practice to outstanding undergraduates that will broaden and deepen their understanding of public policy and American political principles. It combines the rigorous study of politics and political thought in a seminar setting, with policy workshops led by think tank scholars and experienced government officials, and also a distinguished speaker series of exemplary figures from public life. Below you can see the syllabus of our 2020 Summer Fellowship.
These rigorous seminars led by master teachers on week-long topics in political theory and public policy form the core of the program. Following careful reading of classic texts in political thought and policy analyses on selected topics, students engage in serious discussions every weekday morning for three hours.
Political philosophy is, fundamentally, a discussion about the best regime. Therefore we begin with an investigation into political foundings. We read two dramatically different texts —one that takes as its bearing man’s inclination to act malevolently, and another that attempts to found a city in a quest to understand justice. Reading The Prince, we inquire into Machiavelli’s innovations, and ask if his political science looks similar to our own. We also begin Plato’s Republic, which we will read throughout the program, to see what is needed to form a just city.
Having discussed political foundings broadly in the first week’s seminar, we turn to a particular founding. We read America’s key founding documents, and consider—in comparison with Machiavelli’s teachings and Socratic philosophy—the political justifications made by the Founders of the regime that promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We examine whether the American regime at its founding was informed by an understanding of justice, both for individuals and the political community, or whether the Founders were more concerned with uniting a multiplicity of “particular interests” into a stable and strong country.
In the third week, we return to Plato’s Republic, with an assessment of the American regime in hand, to develop our understanding of justice and political life. There Socrates constructs a “best city in speech” in order to understand justice in the human soul. Why does he approach political founding through the question of the soul and its justice? Tracing the evolution of the model of the city through its progressive stages, we will examine how it leads to a political class structure and corresponding structure of the soul. We will inquire, finally, into the status of this city in speech as a way to understand justice: is it meant to be a blueprint for political life, or on the contrary, a display of the psychology of political idealism and its dangers? What can we learn from Socrates’ founding of a regime in speech about actual political founding?
Machiavelli proposed the necessity of re-founding political regimes—as a means of putting off the inevitable death which comes to all things. We examine America’s near death—the nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” but crippled by the original sin of slavery, which precipitated a great Civil War. We look closely at the leadership of Abraham Lincoln and inquire into the re-founding of America achieved through Emancipation—was it even a re-founding or instead a second American Revolution? Did Lincoln achieve the full promise of America’s founding ideals?
We examine both American domestic and foreign policy with a view to discussing America’s most pressing problems.
In our domestic policy section half of the students consider man in the age of technology, with a view to understanding the relationship between human beings, technological progress and government. These studies conclude with an examination of technology legislation as a case study. The other half of our students delve into the opioid crisis and the policies of law and order. These studies conclude with a policy simulation that asks students to come up with federal drug control legislation.
Our foreign policy section is similarly divided. Half of our students look at American policy in the Middle East, with a focus on current situation in Syria, while the other half consider the Asia Pacific. Both sections engage in a policy simulation as a capstone to their studies. Students are assigned a point of view or office such as Secretary of State or member of the Armed Services Committee, as well as a scenario to which they must respond. On Friday, they present their recommendations, debate, and decide on a course of action.
No consideration of politics, republican or otherwise, can be complete without an examination of the limits of politics and a serious consideration of those aspects of human life which conflict with or offer alternatives to the political life. In this, the last week of the program, we examine foundings in relation to religion and literature, and consider the possibility that the best regime is one not realizable on earth, but rather imagined, or created, by a divine being. We further consider how religion and literature, which one might say are not overtly political, inform human life in this world and the next.