Eric Daniels

eric danielsEric Daniels has fast become one of my favorite speakers over the last couple of years. He has taught at Clemson University, Duke University and the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate in American history.He has lectured internationally on the history of American ethics, American business and entrepreneurship, and the American Enlightenment.

What I like best in his lectures is he often takes a step back from the usual names and dates that seem to constitute history much of the time. Instead, he focuses on the broader sweep of fundamental ideas, illustrating how those have changed over time and the impact those changes have had. Quite often his lectures have led me to other resources, such as the books by Horatio Alger, which help illustrate the points he makes.

It is quite amazing to hear him relate issues from the past that we commonly think of as modern problems.

  • Dr. Eric Daniels on Why Voting Doesn’t Matter - Eric Daniels
    From the Philosophy in Action website:
    Many people believe that voting is a crucial civic duty, and people often argue vociferously about who to vote for, particularly for US President. Are such arguments a waste of breath? Does your vote actually matter?
  • Eric Daniels on Why Small Government Isn’t the Answer - Eric Daniels
    From the Philosophy in Action website:
    Is "big government" the fundamental problem of American politics? Historian Eric Daniels will explain why this common formulation is misleading, wrong, and even dangerous to liberty.
  • Freedom of Speech in American History - Eric Daniels
    Freedom of speech is fundamental to maintaining American political liberty. Increasing government controls over speech-from McCain-Feingold to FCC regulations-are damaging one of America's most important freedoms. To use freedom of speech effectively to change the culture, one must know the proper basis of free speech.

    From the colonial struggle against the British imperial system to the tumultuous history of the First Amendment, this course investigates the Alien and Sedition Acts, the slavery debates, the battle over obscenity, and other recent developments. It identifies how the proper defense of freedom of speech has paralleled Americans' understanding and misunderstanding of the proper basis of rights. The course also examines how the concept "censorship" has been corrupted, what "symbolic speech" means for our rights, why property rights and speech are intimately connected, and why modern courts do not understand and cannot fully defend the freedom of speech.

    One of the central questions the course answers is why speech seems to be more free in practice but is actually weaker in theory. By investigating the transformation of freedom of speech in the Progressive Era, this course illustrates how the current weak defense of speech focuses only political ideas and not the freedom of communication of all knowledge. The course also includes an explanation of the proper basis of free speech.

  • History of the Supreme Court (Part 1): The Least Dangerous Branch? - Eric Daniels

    Alexander Hamilton famously described the judiciary as the “least dangerous” branch of government. Most Founding Fathers viewed the Supreme Court as a great bulwark of liberty against encroachments of power. The Supreme Court, however, has not always fully protected liberty, and has at times been openly antagonistic to it.

    This course surveys the broad history of the Supreme Court in the United States from its creation in 1789 to the infamous Dred Scott decision. It illustrates how the judiciary has functioned in our republic, and examines how it might have functioned better. By explaining the dominant trends in the Supreme Court, its characteristic mode of reasoning and interpretation, and the major results during each period, this course illuminates the importance of the Supreme Court in American life. Specific topics covered in this section of the multipart course include: the creation of the federal judicial system, the landmark Marbury decision, the Marshall Court’s protection of federalism and property rights, the shift to democratic ideas under the Taney Court, and the Dred Scott decision.

  • History of the Supreme Court (Part 2): Laissez-Faire Constitutionalism? - Eric Daniels
    The Civil War fundamentally transformed the American political compact, including the Constitution and the Supreme Court. In the years after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court struggled to define its new role and to give shape to the emerging contest between the state and federal governments. This course, the second in a series, surveys the broad history of the Supreme Court in the United States from the Civil War through the Progressive Era. It illustrates how the judiciary took on a new role in the post-war period and thrust itself to the center of ongoing political debates about the proper role of the judiciary in our republic. By examining the source of so-called laissez-faire jurisprudence, the course explains how the judiciary affected the growing conflict over economic regulations. The course also considers the increasing prominence of the bill of rights in Supreme Court decisions.
  • Life and Legacy of James Madison - Eric Daniels
    This lecture examines the thought and career of one of America's most important Founding Fathers. James Madison entered public life as a young man, at the outset of the Revolution, and made important contributions to America's freedom for another sixty years.

    Although much about Madison's life is familiar to most people-his role as the "Father of the Constitution" and as a friend of Jefferson's-there is much new to learn as well: his post-retirement opinions on Constitutional interpretation, his views on the misuse of the "general welfare" clause, and much more.  In this lecture, Dr. Daniels focuses on Madison's lifetime of applying the principles of the Revolution to the practice of limited government.  Starting with Madison's early intellectual  development at Princeton, Daniels traces his work on behalf of the Revolution, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as his active role in the nineteenth century as the last surviving Founding Father.

  • Property Rights in American History - Eric Daniels
    Protecting individual rights represents the Founders' crowning achievement. They considered private property to be "the guardian of every other right." A century later, property rights had been attacked and their foundation crumbled. The Supreme Court sundered property rights from civil rights, enforcing only the latter. How was this transformation possible? Why did jurists abandon "economic rights" in favor of "human rights"? "Without property rights," Ayn Rand noted, "no other rights are possible." Today, all rights in America are vulnerable because property rights are misunderstood. Beginning with the Founders' incomplete defense of rights, which enabled later philosophic attacks to gain a foothold, this course examines how legal neglect of property rights not only allowed but required the explosion of today's pseudo-rights. Why did the "revival" of property rights in the Rehnquist Court not succeed? Why will conservatives never be able to defend property rights? Why is the Objectivist theory of property rights the only means to proper protection for all rights?
  • Religion in American History - Eric Daniels

    Despite the secular basis of our government and the constitutional separation of church and state, religion has exerted an enormous influence on American life, from the importation of Puritan theocracy in the seventeenth century to the growing influence of evangelical religion in the twenty-first century.

     This course investigates the historical development of religion in America. It examines the influence of religion as an institution and religious ideas in the culture. By assessing the impact of religion on American politics and law, it highlights throughout how religion has acted to erode both capitalism and political freedom. The course evaluates the claims that America's Founders were religious, that religious ideas helped ameliorate various social ills and that religion is uniquely a phenomenon of the political right. Dr. Daniels further illustrates how the modern religious landscape in America can only be understood in light of its historical development.

     Without an understanding of how religion has featured in American life historically, one cannot fully defend America today from those who would revive a religious government, or worse, a modern theocracy.

  • Self-Made Man - Eric Daniels
    This video is what led me to start reading the Horatio Alger novels.
  • The History of America – Part 1: Prelude to the Revolution, 1607-1763 - Eric Daniels
    From the early settlements at Jamestown to the contentious French and Indian War, the American colonists struggled to achieve independence and happiness in the New World. What elements of colonial life contributed most to the distinctively American way of life? How important was religion in the early days? Why did the colonists prosper economically in some places and not in others? In this course Dr. Daniels explains American history prior to the Revolution. The focus of the material is on the major ideas and events that shaped America in the colonial period. Topics covered include Bacon’s Rebellion, the Great Awakening, the Salem Witch Trials, the Enlightenment, the French and Indian War, and more. This course is part one of a five-part series on the major events of American history.
  • The History of America – Part 2 : Making a New Republic, 1763 – 1836 - Eric Daniels
    This course tells the story of how the American colonies liberated themselves from British colonial rule and founded a new nation unlike any other in human history. Literally within one generation of the Revolution, the former American colonies had grown to become the world's shining example of freedom and productivity. What caused the American Revolution and what led to the success of the Continental Army? How did Americans establish the first government based explicitly on a principled commitment to freedom? Once established, how did the new United States apply the theory of limited government to their lives in the early nineteenth century? In these five lectures, the second part of an on-going series, Dr. Daniels explains the major events of American history from the Revolution to the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The focus will be on the major ideas and events that shaped American life in this period.
  • The History of America – Part 3: Expanding and Securing the Union, 1836-1877 - Eric Daniels
    This course tells the story of how the United States expanded both geographically and economically in the middle of the 19th century, becoming the leading nation in the Western Hemisphere. During the years after the War of 1812, enterprising Americans spread freedom and representative government across the continent. This expansion and development, however, helped to highlight not only partisan differences over economic policy, but also fundamental differences between the North and the South. How did Americans acquire new territory? What political changes came about during the so-called Age of Jackson? What caused the Civil War and why was it fought? In these five lectures, which comprise the third part of an ongoing series, Dr. Daniels will explain the major events of American history from the mid-1830s to the end of Reconstruction. The focus will be on the major ideas and events that shaped American life in this period.
  • The History of America – Part 4: The Industrial Republic, 1877-1920 - Eric Daniels
    These lectures trace America's emergence as a modern, industrialized nation. The United States underwent dramatic economic and philosophic changes in this era. Amidst growing material wealth, leading intellectuals embraced ideas opposed to American freedom and prosperity. How did these philosophic changes affect American life? What ideas caused Progressivism? What caused America to enter two wars? Dr. Daniels explains the major events and intellectual trends of American history in this period, focusing on illuminating the broad trends in our history.
  • The History of America – Part 5: Modern America, 1920-1975 - Eric Daniels
    This course tells the story of America's tumultuous confrontation with the biggest challenges of the twentieth century. During the half-century from the end of World War I to the end of the Vietnam War, Americans confronted a worldwide depression, the growth of New Deal statism, the menace of fascism and communism and their own internal intellectual fractures. Throughout this period of wars and domestic conflict, American thinkers embraced purer and more consistent versions of the altruist and collectivist ideas their forebears had planted during the Progressive Era. This course addresses the questions: How did these philosophic changes affect American life? How did Americans reconcile the surging prosperity of postwar America with an emerging radically anticapitalist strain of American thought? What led to American successes and failures in foreign policy? In these five lectures, the final part of his five-part series, Dr. Daniels explains the major events and intellectual trends of American history from the 1920s to the end of the 1960s. The focus will be on illuminating the broad trends in our history.
  • Vanderbilt and American Free Enterprise - Eric Daniels

    The history of American business in the 19th century is an inspiring story of accomplishment and innovation. This lecture examines the life and achievements of one of America's great businessmen of that era: Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt. He was condemned for his virtues by contemporaries and maligned by historians as a corrupt "robber baron." Ayn Rand admired Vanderbilt and considered him a businessman-hero, and we can see shades of Vanderbilt in the character of Nat Taggart inAtlas Shrugged.

    This lecture investigates how Vanderbilt first entered and dominated the steam-shipping industry and then the railroad industry. Dr. Daniels reviews Vanderbilt's major accomplishments—which included promoting free competition—and discusses the impact of Vanderbilt's accomplishments in the larger context of American business history.

I'd love to hear what you think. Even just "Good post" is welcome.