The Center for Political and Economic Thought

The Center for Political and Economic Thought is an interdisciplinary public affairs institution of Saint Vincent College. It sponsors research and education programs, primarily in the fields of politics, economics and moral-cultural affairs. The Center seeks to advance scholarship on philosophical and policy concerns related to freedom and Western civilization with particular regard to the American experience. The Center was founded in 1991 as an outgrowth of the Alex G. McKenna Economic Education Series, which was launched in 1986.

The Center’s programs include: The Alex G. McKenna Economic Education Series, the Government and Political Education Series, the Civitas Forum on Principles and Policies for Public Life, Culture and Policy Conferences and Scholarships and Fellowships. In addition, the Center supports research and educational activities through its staff and it produces numerous publications.

The Center is part of the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Center for Political and Economic Thought at Saint Vincent College is to promote scholarship and informed discussion on political, economic and moral-cultural principles, problems and controversies, and on the public policy questions arising out of them. The Center seeks to understand and reinforce the intellectual and social underpinnings of a free and well-ordered society, with a particular emphasis on the American experience. The programs of the Center are oriented toward the scholarly exposition of individual freedom, limited constitutional government, free market economics, and the philosophical and moral foundations of America and the West. The Center seeks to enhance the curricula of the Political Science, Economics, Public Policy and Business Programs of Saint Vincent College; to provide an educational forum for the Saint Vincent community and the general public; and to contribute intellectually to the greater academic and public affairs communities.

Advisory Boardcpet-advisory-board
Advisory Board

Morris P. Fiorina, Ph.D., Wendt Family Professor of Political Science, Standford University, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Robert P. George, D.Phil., McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of Politics, Princeton University  

Charles R. Kesler, Ph.D., Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College  

Bennett T. McCallum, Ph.D., H.J. Heinz Professor of Economics, Graduate School of Industrial Administration, Carnegie Mellon University  

Wilfred M. McClay, Ph.D., G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, University of Oklahoma  

E.S. Savas, Ph.D., Presidential Professor, School of Public Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York  

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Lectures and Conferences

The McKenna Economic Education Lecture Series was initiated in 1986 and reflects the Center’s strong advocacy of free markets operating in an environment of minimal government involvement while promoting a solid ethical foundation for economic life. The series is directed by Ginny Choi and Zachary Davis. 

Bradley C.S. Watson directs the Government and Political Education Lecture Series, which is dedicated to the restoration of America’s constitutional order. This order is founded upon the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which professes a fixed understanding of human nature and, consequently, a limited role for the federal government.

The Civitas Forum is concerned with the realm of citizenship and the common good, seeking to identify and expound upon the principles of a free and well-ordered society in the American and Western tradition and to examine contemporary issues in relation to these principles.

Bradley C.S. Watson directs the Center’s biennial Culture and Policy Conferences, which speak to the cultural unease and the sociopolitical problems that are a prominent condition of contemporary public life. With these three-day conferences, the Center focuses on the principles, norms, and mores of Western culture and their relation to the political and public policy situation of modern times.  

Lecture Schedule
2017 Culture and Policy Conferencecpet-culture-policy

E Pluribus: Is America Still a Country?

The 2017 Culture and Policy Conference
Saint Vincent College
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

The American polity seems increasingly characterized by social, political, cultural, economic and intellectual schisms. The two-party system appears to be in disarray as insurgent movements and candidates take center stage. Older political cleavages, such as Right vs. Left, or individualist vs. statist, are less relevant in an era when populist, nationalist, anti-establishment movements pit themselves against the purported elitism and expertise of a monolithic ruling class. The premises of both modern liberalism and conservatism seem to be collapsing, leaving a political vacuum. It might be the case that these developments suggest greater division, or just different sources of division. Will the new cleavages be more powerful, and damaging, than the old?

Our 2017 Culture and Policy Conference brings together leading scholars and thinkers to offer reflections on the things that divide us—or continue to unite us. They offer diagnoses of our social condition, including whether the divisions of the present are more pronounced, or aligned to a greater degree, than the divisions of the past. They also offer suggestions for reinvigorating a sense of common citizenship, including consensus around those things that are necessary for the flourishing of a free and decent regime. 

There is no cost to attend and everybody is welcome to attend!  Please see below for a full conference schedule:

Friday, April 7
8 a.m. Conference Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. An Era of Tenuous Majorities
Morris Fiorina of Stanford University
9:30 a.m. Liberal Nationalism
Francis Buckley of the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
10:30 a.m. Divided We…?
Teresa Bejan of Oxford University
11:30 a.m. Benjamin Franklin’s Diverse American Unity
Steven Forde of the University of North Texas
1:30 p.m. E Pluribus Unum: The Different Perspectives of Tocqueville and Jefferson
Aristide Tessitore of Furman University
2:30 p.m. A Nation with the Soul of a Church: Revisiting Chesterton’s What I Saw in America
Will R. Jordan of Mercer University
Saturday, April 8
12:45 p.m. Conference Registration
1 p.m. Raymond Aron’s “The Constitution and Nationality in the United States”
Sara Henary of Missouri State University
2 p.m. The Post-1970 Liberal Repudiation of Pre-1970 Progressivism and the Transformation of America
Thomas G. West of Hillsdale College
3 p.m. America Between the Utopias
Gladden Pappin of the University of Notre Dame


All Friday lectures will be held in the Fred Rogers Center. Saturday lectures will be in Prep Hall, Room 205. For more information, write to marybeth.mcconahey@stvincent.edu.


  • The Alex G. McKenna Economic and Policy Scholarship Award

    The Alex G. McKenna Economic and Policy Scholarship Award is a $16,000 scholarship (total) for four years of undergraduate study at Saint Vincent College ($4,000 per year). The scholarship is only offered to those students in pursuit of a major offered by the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. The scholarship is funded by a grant from the Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc. of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

    Eligibility Requirements
    Any high school junior or senior student may enter the scholarship competition. The student must elect to attend Saint Vincent College and pursue a major offered by the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government, as well as a minor in Economics. Students need not have taken a course in Economics or Business in order to do well in the competition. 

    The winner will be the student who ranks highest based on the criteria set forth for the scholarship. The scholarship award will be announced about a month after the competition. 

    Scholarship Competition Criteria
    The Alex G. McKenna Economic and Policy Scholarship is awarded primarily on the basis of an essay topic announced each fall concerning President Obama's economic policy and the impact this policy will have on the economy in the future. 

    The essay, with a bibliography listing all sources, must not exceed five (5) double-spaced pages typed in 12 point font. In addition, the essay should include a title page which includes the essay's title, the applicant's name and the name of the applicant's high school.

    Applicants will be judged on the merit of their essay as well as their high school achievements. All completed essay submissions must be accompanied with a copy of the student's SAT or ACT scores, an official high school transcript and a list of the student's extracurricular activities.

    How to Enter
    The Center for Political and Economic Thought strongly encourages you to submit your materials (essay, SAT/ACT scores, official high school transcript, and list of extracurricular activities) in person at our annual Scholarship Day. At Scholarship Day, Professor Nicholas Racculia, Instructor of Finance, will conduct a formal presentation for interested students and parents which will provide valuable information regarding the wide range of opportunities afforded by the Alex G. McKenna School at Saint Vincent College. 

    However, if you are unable to be with us on Scholarship Day, you may also submit your essay in one of three ways:

    1. Send your essay to Professor Nicholas Racculia, Fellow in Economics and Policy, via electronic mail as an attached Microsoft Word® document.
    2. Send your essay and other materials via postal mail to:

      Professor Nicholas Racculia Instructor of Finance
      Saint Vincent College
      300 Fraser Purchase Road
      Latrobe, PA 15650

    If you do not attend Scholarship Day and choose to send your essay via electronic mail or via the online submission form, you must still mail a copy of your SAT/ACT scores, an official high school transcript, and a list of your extracurricular activities to the address outlined above. Failure to submit all of the necessary documents will void your eligibility and only material postmarked on or before Scholarship Day will be considered.

    How to Register
    In order to attend Scholarship Day (and the essay competition), obtain a registration card from your high school Guidance Counselor or contact: 

    Office of Admissions & Financial Aid Scholarship Day Registration
    Saint Vincent College
    300 Fraser Purchase Road
    Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 15650-2690
    Phone: 1.800.782.5549

    Simply fill out and return the registration card at least ten days prior to the date of the essay competition.

    Maintaining Scholarship
    This scholarship must be renewed each year (up to four years maximum, $4,000 per year). Renewal of the award is contingent upon the maintenance of a 3.25 grade point average (GPA) and the student maintaining a course of undergraduate study at Saint Vincent College, in pursuit of a major offered by the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government, in addition to a minor in Economics.

  • The Douglas B. Rogers Conditions of a Free Society Essay Competition

    The Center for Political and Economic Thought at Saint Vincent College is proud to announce the Fifth Annual Douglas B. Rogers Essay Competition.

    Honoring the memory of Doug Rogers, a young scholar of great promise who died tragically in 2011, the competition is meant to encourage undergraduate students to join the Center in discussing themes of Western Civilization such as individual freedom, limited constitutional government, free market economics, and the philosophical and moral foundations of America and the West.

    This year students are asked to write an essay on a theme or themes that emerge from President Thomas Jefferson’s August 13, 1800 letter to Gideon Granger of Connecticut, which is excerpted below. While knowledge of the historical context may be useful in responding to this essay prompt, we are particularly interested in an analytical reflection on the principles at stake in this letter.  Some creativity in responding is encouraged.  Does the letter, for example, reveal any tensions in Jefferson’s political thought that might be reflected in the American polity as a whole?   

    The competition is open to all full-time undergraduate students currently registered in any field of study at a college or university in the United States or Canada. The Center will appoint a committee of judges to select the winning essays. Prizes will not be awarded if, in the exclusive opinion of the judges, submitted essays are of insufficient quality. Essays that are, in the exclusive opinion of the judges, of publishable quality will, with the consent of the author, be eligible for publication in the Center’s journal, Citizens and Statesmen: An Annual Review of Political Theory and Public Life. The first place winner will receive $2,000 and an invitation to attend an awards dinner and lecture to be held at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania on March 15, 2017. Second and third place winners will receive invitations to said awards dinner and $1,000 and $500 respectively. Winners choosing to attend the awards dinner will be responsible for their own travel. Prior to the awarding of cash prizes, winners will be required to verify their eligibility and to attest to the fact that the winning essay is wholly their own. Any amount of plagiarism will result in disqualification. 

    Essays should be a minimum of 2,500 words. There is no maximum length. Submissions should be sent in Microsoft Word format to marybeth.mcconahey@email.stvincent.edu by January 12, 2017. Winners are notified in February.

    To Gideon Granger
    August 13, 1800

    Dear Sir,

    I received with great pleasure your favor of June 4 and am much comforted by the appearance of a change of opinion in your state: for though we may obtain, and I believe shall obtain a majority in the legislature of the U.S. attached to the preservation of the Federal Constitution according to its obvious principles and those on which it was known to be received, attached equally to the preservation to the states of those rights unquestionably remaining with them, friends to the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, trial by jury, and to economical government, opposed to standing armies, paper systems, war, and all connection other than of commerce with any foreign nation, in short, a majority firm in all those principles which we have espoused and the federalists have opposed uniformly; still should the whole body of New England continue in opposition to these principles of government, either knowingly or through delusion, our government will be a very uneasy one. It can never be harmonious and solid, while so respectable a portion of its citizens support principles which go directly to a change of the federal Constitution, to sink the state governments, consolidate them into one, and to monarchize that. Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, will, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizen; and the same circumstance by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder and waste: and I do verily believe that if the principle were to prevail of a common law being in force in the U.S. (which principle possesses the general government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government) it would become the most corrupt government on the face of the earth. You have seen the practices by which the public servants have been able to cover their conduct, or, where that could not be done, the delusions by which they have varnished it for the eye of their constituents. What an augmentation of the field for jobbing, speculating, plundering, office-building and office hunting, would be produced by an assumption of all the state powers into the hands of the general government. The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to every thing within themselves, and united as to every thing respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be once reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one: a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants. But I repeat that this simple and economical mode of government can never be secured if the New England states continue to support the contrary system. I rejoice therefore in every appearance of their returning to those principles which I had always imagined to be almost innate in them. In this state a few persons were shaken by the XYZ duperies. You saw the effect of it in our last Congressional representation chosen under their influence. This experiment on their credulity is now seen into, and our next representation will be as republican as it has heretofore been. On the whole we hope that by a part of the Union having held on to the principles of the Constitution, time has been given to the states to recover from the temporary frenzy into which they had been decoyed, to rally round the Constitution and to rescue it from the destruction with which it had been threatened even at their own hands. …

    Th. Jefferson

    Winning Essays

    The Fifth Annual Douglas B. Rogers Conditions of a Free Society Essay Competition

    First Place
    The Vital Importance of Small Politics
    Dennis Clark, Ashland University

    Second Place
    Harmony by Anatomy: Thomas Jefferson's Plan for Saving the Constitution 
    Claire Anderson, Trinity College

    Third Place
    United in Freedom: The American States and Constitutional Interpretation 
    Helena Fahey
    Thomas More College

  • George Washington Fellowship

    George Washington Fellowship
    The Center for Political and Economic Thought sponsors this fellowship program founded in the 1998-1999 academic year. The program provides a stipend, support for attending academic conferences, and books for each fellow. Fellows must engage in a year-long scholarly project with a faculty member from the Center, which is designed to be a broad learning experience for the fellow in a non-classroom atmosphere.

    Background Information
    The George Washington Fellowship Program is named after our nation's first president in order to focus on the theme of citizenship. Washington emphasized in his writings and addresses that the success of the new American republic would depend upon the nation's ability to become a sacred union of citizens. The Program seeks to attract students interested in scholarly inquiry into the key questions of American citizenship, paying careful attention to the duties and responsibilities of individuals in a free, well ordered society. 

    Applications for projects in the following areas will be accepted: American political thought, American economic thought, political or economic thought generally, American culture and religion, and American constitutionalism.

    Eligibility Requirements
    Successful fellowship applicants will have outstanding records of academic achievement and a demonstrated interest in scholarly inquiry. Students majoring in Political Science or Public Policy are eligible to participate during their sophomore, junior, or senior year. Particular emphasis will be placed on those applying for fellowships for the junior or senior year, but truly superior sophomore applications will also merit consideration. 

    Fellowship proposals must focus on a key question or issue suggested by one of the themes mentioned in the section on Background.

    Fellowship Tasks
    Fellowships are not designed to be an independent study, nor are they intended to require the same type of work that would be involved in taking a regular college course. Rather, fellowships will support a scholarly relationship or conversation between the student and faculty member on the issue or question posed in the application. Once a proposal has been awarded a fellowship, a faculty member will be assigned and the student and faculty member will determine a set of readings appropriate to fostering an in-depth discussion of the question at hand.

    Fellows are expected to read and think seriously about the selected works, to meet regularly with the faculty member to discuss the works, and to produce a piece of work at the end of the fellowship period that reflects what has been learned in the reading and discussions. This final product is not intended to be a thesis-type major research project, but instead a thoughtful and tangible reflection on the learning experience.

    Fellowship Provisions
    Stipend - Fellows will receive a stipend totaling $1,000. The stipend will be paid in installments of $500 at the beginning of each semester. Payment of the stipend in the Spring semester is contingent upon satisfactory progress during the Fall semester. Normally, the stipend should not affect a student's financial aid package, but students are encouraged to verify this with the Office of Admission and Financial Aid.

    Books - A modest budget will be available to purchase the books that a fellow will need to read for his or her project. The assigned faculty member will determine which books are necessary and the books will be purchased directly by the Center.

    Academic Conference Support - It is often the case that there will be a scholarly conference going on that will bear directly on a fellow's academic interest. Beyond this, it is worthwhile for students to have the experience of attending an academic conference. Accordingly, the Fellows Program will provide a modest amount of financial support for participants to attend scholarly conferences that both the student and faculty member agree are of particular merit.

    Year-EndDinner and Other Events - The Center will sponsor a culminating social event for its George Washington Fellows, where each fellow will share his or her thoughts on what has been learned from the fellowship experience. The Center may also sponsor occasional "get togethers" for those participating in the George Washington Fellowship Program.

    Academic Credit - Completion of the Fellowship Program will be noted on the student's academic transcript as a zero-credit entry.

    How to Apply
    Contact Dr. Bradley C. S. Watson for more information on how to apply.