Paul Schwennesen

2012 Lincoln Fellow

What is your current position?
– Owner, Double Check Ranch

– Director, Agrarian Freedom Project

– PhD Candidate, University of Kansas

What inspired you to choose this career path?

A personal commitment to return to the Jeffersonian republican virtues: limited government, landed yeomanry, literary pursuits… 

What did Marx say? “…hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner…”?   That’s how I want to live as well, but Marx’s way of getting there is exactly backwards to Jefferson’s…

What are you currently working on?

Archival research into the impacts of 16th century Spanish livestock introduction to the American Southwest, and buying a farm in Missouri.

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

Through a mentor, Ken Masugi, who introduced me to Hobbes at the Air Force Academy, and then Harvey Mansfield, my thesis director.

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

Taking the ferry to Balboa Island with Angelo Codevilla who was wearing those disposable fuzzy hotel shower slipper things…  I asked him if they were to cover his hawkish talons… 

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?

Top-shelf cadre and general classiness.  The most poignant talk I’ve ever heard was given (apparently) informally by William Voegeli… I’ll never forget it and can only aspire to be so erudite.

If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?

Of course Jefferson.  I want to tell him about the Mastodon tusks we’ve found at the ranch, and tell him that the Coronado expedition probably found one there as well (in 1540!).  I have a couple of questions for him on how to best sabotage the Federalists as well…

We’d order watered-down claret, no doubt, and only have one each…

Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?

(This is for a Lincoln Fellows questionnaire??)   Washington, bien sûr.  Without a doubt.  He better understood the nature and purpose (and power) of limited government.  He simultaneously articulated and reflected the republican ethos that catapulted our nation into prosperity and relative liberty.  This was not in my application, obviously…

Looking back on history, in which one of the original 13 colonies would you have wanted to live?  Why?

Rhode Island, and not because of the charming weather.  I’m struck by its anti-establishment leanings, starting with the theological dissidence of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, all the way to their reluctant adoption of the Constitution and insistence on a Bill of Rights.  There must be something in the water…

What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?

I’ve always been struck by the framed Key to the Bastille, given by Lafayette to Washington, which hangs in the staircase at Mt. Vernon.  There is something metaphorically powerful in both the item and the gesture…

What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?

How to reduce a massively bloated bureaucracy and unconscionable debt without hitting the violent “Reset” button.  Or Mumble Rap.  I’m torn.

What would the subject be, if you were to give a talk on one pertinent topic and why?

How to establish a legal code that incentivizes (or rather, does not penalize) small-business owners.  Our entire structure, from health care to lending to taxation tends to marginalize and punish the “self-employed.”  This has enormous pernicious implications, both economic and psychic—consolidation begets centralization.

What books are you reading right now?

Roger Scruton’s Settling and Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech.

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?

Ranchers in Arizona are a tough lot.  Their uncomplaining tolerance of adversity and innate capacity to make things, fix things, and unsentimentally jettison things continually amazes me.

What is your favorite cultural/recreational pastime (or hobby)? Why?

I love the symphony and the Episcopal liturgy.  And I look forward to attending the Pro Bull Riding finals.  I am large, I can contain contradictions.