$500 Prize for Best Undergraduate Essay on Classical Liberalism

The deadline for the essay contest is Friday, May 17 by 12:00 Noon ET

The Political Theory Institute holds an annual essay contest for the best student essay on classical liberalism. The winner of the contest will be awarded a prize of $500.

The contest, open to all AU undergraduates, fosters critical reflection on the key authors, concepts, and arguments of classical liberalism, including individual liberty, equality, democracy, constitutionalism, commerce, and other topics. In this context, classical liberalism denotes a topic, not an agenda. The prize is awarded to the most intelligent and well-argued essay on these topics regardless of philosophical or political perspective. Essays about the place of classical liberalism in the American political tradition are welcome.

Submissions can be, but need not have been, written for a class. Essays may be nominated either by the author or a faculty member.

They should be between 5 and 20 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins). Please include your name, e-mail, and phone number on the first page of your essay. Submissions should be e-mailed by the deadline to Alan Levine alevine@american.edu in Microsoft Word or PDF format. Please put "PTI Essay Contest" in the subject line.

Past Essay Winners

2023 - Vaishnavi Muruganandam, “Crooked Political Philosophers Joined in Excellence: A Comparative Analysis of Political Realism in The Prince and The Arthashastra” and David Scroggs, “The End of Modernity: Conquest of Nature in Modern Political Thought”

2022 - Prerita Govil, “‘The ‘Runaway Horse’: The Role of Leisure in Montaigne’s Political Thought” and Quanah Josephine Creighton Randall, “Black Power: Bullets, Ballots, or Businesses?”

2021 - Annie Erickson, “Tocqueville’s Tyranny of the Majority Reexamined

2019 - Ryan Marder, "German Conservative Views of America as Technology"

2018 - Lise Moutier, "French Post-War Philosophers on America: Tales of ambivalent fascinations and passionate anti-Americanism"

2017 - Jack Bevacqua, "The Crisis of Modernity: Liberal Democracy and the Road to Illiberal Democracy in the West"

2016 - Lucas Wright, "The End of Growth: Liberalism, Inequality, and the Middle Class"

2015 - Nicholas Allmaier, "The Beautiful and the Useful: Tocqueville's Conception of Greatness, Its Importance, and Relevance to America Today"

2014 - Gabe Menchaca, "Staving Off the Beast: Discussing Self Denial in Mandeville"

2013 - James DeLucia, "Every Man For Himself: Frederic Bastiat and the Nature of Man"

2012 - Jessica Gioe, "The General Will as Protection from Tyranny"

2011 - James E Smith, "Letting Go of the Wolf: Jefferson, Slavery, and Classic Liberalism"
T.J. Whittle, "Locke's Religious Tolerance: A Freedom Based in Truth or Relativism?"

2010 - Joseph Reese, "Revisionist Elements in Classical Liberalism: Locke and Mill"