The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) congratulates Thomas Cheeseman, former leader of the AHI’s Undergraduate Fellow’s Program, for receiving an honorable mention in the Hayek Essay competition sponsored by the prestigious Mont Pelerin Society.  This year’s global competition, which had more than 1000 entries and was open to persons thirty-five years and younger, asked participants to respond to these questions: “Why is recognition of human ignorance an important starting point for Hayek? To what degree is human liberty important for the progress of civilization? Can the pretense of knowledge, independent of experience, mislead decision-making?”

Founded in 1947 by Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian polymath who in 1974 won the Nobel Prize in economics, the Mont Pelerin Society embraces a wide variety of scholars who believe that personal freedom, a central value to human prosperity and dignity, is “under constant menace” by statism, collectivism, and other extensions of arbitrary power.  Past presidents of Mont Pelerin have included Milton Friedman, James M. Buchanan, Gary Becker, and Kenneth Minogue, an AHI academic adviser before his death in 2013.

Mr. Cheeseman is currently a scholarship student at Vanderbilt Law School and a member of the Michael Oakeshott Society.  He spent more than four years organizing and participating in AHI programming.  “I am very proud that I was selected as an Honorable Mention for the Hayek Essay competition,” said Cheeseman. “Coming in at fourth place in the most competitive year in the competition’s history is a great honor for me. As one of the top three essayists could not attend the conference, the Mont Pelerin Society members voted to extend the travel stipend to me. I will be spending six days in Hong Kong with some of the top advocates of a free society in the world. While this is certainly the most prestigious conference I’ll have ever attended, I know that I would not have been able to procure such an honor without the thorough refinement I received during my four years as an AHI Undergraduate Fellow. I want to thank Professor Paquette, Professor Ambrose, and Professor Bradfield in particular for the countless hours they spent helping to refine my prose and enrich my analysis of complex phenomenon. The essay question this year dealt with the importance of acknowledging the limits of man’s knowledge when engaging in political planning. Without a doubt, my essay showed the mark of my countless hours of conversation with the aforementioned professors as well as my good friends Professor Hill, Leslie Marsh, and Dean Woodley Ball. Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve progressed in the six years since I first became familiar with the AHI. The AHI represents the best in the liberal arts tradition. Instead of teaching me what to think, my many mentors through the years taught me how to think, even if it meant that I took contrary positions. In the process, the members of the AHI taught me what it meant to be a human being, not a mere abstraction. I am greatly indebted to everyone who made my experience possible.”

“Anyone who watched Thomas Cheeseman’s intellectual growth at the AHI during his undergraduate years sensed that he had the potential to accomplish big things,” observed AHI charter fellow Robert Paquette.  “I will remember Thomas for not only his voracious appetite for reading great books, but for the courage he showed inside and outside  the classroom at Hamilton College for challenging, sometimes at considerable personal cost, activist professors who appear to have made it a mission to caricature and distort the views of right-of-center thinkers they had never read seriously.  Now as a Graduate Fellow of the AHI, Thomas allows the old folks of our organization to sit back and savor his growing list of accomplishments with considerable pride, knowing that the future of the AHI will be in good hands thanks to him and other graduate fellows like him.”