Professor of Politics Thomas West’s new book has propelled him to the status of “the nation’s foremost expert” on the American founding, according to scholarly reviewers of his work.
The book, “The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom,” was released in May.
Hillsdale College will host a conference Nov. 3 and 4 sponsored by the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship featuring West, as well as three panels covering topics such as natural rights, the Founders’ views on marriage and the family, and the Founders on markets and regulations. The conference will begin with the keynote address by West in the Searle Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 and continue in Lane with the panel discussions the following day.
Conference participants include scholars from Louisiana State University, the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, the University of Notre Dame, the Liberty Fund, as well as members of the Hillsdale faculty.
West is the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tibbetts Potter Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, and teaches American government and Political Philosophy. He said his goal for writing his book was twofold.
“The basic point of the book is to give an overview of the basic principles of the founding and their meaning, like natural rights, consent of the governing, state of nature, among others,” he said.
West said he feels his work separates the correct views from the incorrect in the current scholarly community.
“This book is really directed towards scholars and takes on all the major voices of the scholarly community who have something important to say about the founders,” West said. “I go through all the areas where I think they get it right and the areas where I don’t think they get it right.”
He said his second purpose for writing the book is to show what public policy and laws had to be adopted in order for government to fulfill the purposes stated in those principles: “to secure these rights,” as the Declaration of Independence puts it.
West said he has been working on his book since 1983, when he first began to take the political theory of the founding seriously. He became certain that he wanted to write “The Political Theory” by the later 1980s and started to write full chapters by the 2000s.
The organizer of the conference, Ronald Pestritto, expressed great admiration for West’s work and accomplishments.
“Dr. West is one of the leading scholars of the American founding in our time,” he said. “The book is meticulously researched and is an incredibly impressive achievement — one that will garner the respect of West’s allies and critics alike.”
Those reviewing West’s book were effusive in their praise of his work. Professor Luigi Bradizza of Salve Regina University was particularly complimentative, saying that “if conservatives come to accept West’s key argument connecting natural right and virtue, he might succeed in bringing about an intellectual reconfiguration on the Right.”
Pestritto’s goals for the conference are to have a beneficial promotion and discussion of the important issues raised in the book. He also hopes to foster an appreciation of West’s book outside of the Hillsdale community, as well as encourage conversation among Hillsdale faculty who have interest in the U.S. Founding.
West believes that the topics covered in his book should be important to all Americans, saying that the American Founding turned “western civilization into a truly novus ordo seclorum — a new order for the ages.”