Welcome! I am a historian of American political thought, specializing in ideas about democracy and antidemocracy. I’m currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas-Dallas, writing my dissertation over “Anti-Democratic Thought in America Since the Civil War,” under the direction of Dr. Daniel Wickberg. My project is an intellectual history covering the published work of six “anti-democrats”: William Graham Sumner, Emma Goldman, Albert Jay Nock, H.L. Mencken, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. Some of these names are household within the academy, but others are not. My goal is to establish a counter-narrative to the story of American democracy: as I ask, “Where are the anti-democrats in the story of American democracy?” As my dissertation will argue, while democracy has become a “way of life,” to quote the historian James Kloppenberg, its efficacy has been challenged at every turn. Even if not reviving the merits of anti-democratic thought, my dissertation will be a necessary correlative to the often unchallenged premises of American democracy. As each presidential election becomes more contentious, more costly, and more reminiscent of an “Age of Fracture,” we might reconsider what democracy is and does, and what it’s supposed to do.
My Ph.D. fields are in American intellectual history, modern political philosophy, and documentary film. In addition to studying ideas in historical context, I also want to consider their philosophical merit today. As intellectual history goes “free range,” I think this approach also demands we take more seriously the current impact of ideas— that we don’t study them in a vacuum. We not only need to know where ideas came from, but what cash value they hold today. What does it mean to be a “liberal” or a “conservative,” a “capitalist” or a “socialist”? As Richard Rorty once posed, what difference does Hegel make to a plumber? Of course, ideas do matter, and if we don’t want to be the “slaves of some defunct economist,” we would do well to study them. I agree with Dan Wickberg when he says, “All history must ultimately be the history of ideas because all historical documents are meaningful only in relation to human minds.”
I study, teach, and write about history, philosophy, and politics, and my first peer-reviewed article appeared in the 2020 issue of the Christian Libertarian Review. I’ve written essays for the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Mises Institute, the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Christian Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Libertarian Institute.
“The fate of ideologies, empires, and rulers hangs on historical revelations and revisions.”~C. Vann Woodward