The Career of Outstanding IHS Alum–Tom W. Bell

Tom W. Bell, Professor of Law at Chapman University has been participating in IHS programs as both a student and a professor for over 30 years. In 2015, Bell received the Charles G. Koch Outstanding IHS Alum Award for his dedication to classical liberal ideas. As part of our 60th anniversary, we take a look back at Bell’s academic journey through a series of photos. Swipe to the right to view the next photo in the slideshow. For more faculty and scholar stories, visit TheIHS.org/60.

Tom W. Bell, Professor of Law at Chapman University has been participating in IHS programs as both a student and a professor for over 30 years. In 2015, Bell received the Charles G. Koch Outstanding IHS Alum Award for his dedication to classical liberal ideas. As part of our 60th anniversary, we take a look back at Bell’s academic journey through a series of photos. Click the arrow on the right to view the photo slideshow. For more faculty and scholar stories, visit TheIHS.org/60.

The Career of Outstanding IHS Alum, Tom W. Bell

Twenty-seven years after attending his first IHS event as a master’s student, Professor Tom W. Bell received the 2015 Charles G. Koch Outstanding IHS Alum Award for his dedication and contributions to the classical liberal tradition. Pictured L-R: Then IHS President and CEO, Marty Zupan, Tom W. Bell, and Ryan Stowers of the Charles Koch Foundation.

Bell’s journey with IHS began in 1988 when he was a student at the University of Southern California. He attended an IHS “Liberty & Society” summer seminar where he formed relationships with other aspiring academics interested in the classical liberal tradition. That week-long seminar featured lectures and continuous discussion about classical liberal ideas and their impact on society. Those ideas followed Bell throughout his academic journey. Pictured: Students at the 1988 IHS Summer Seminar. Tom W. Bell is featured center in the top, back row.

From September of 1989 to August of 1990, after completing his master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Southern California, Bell served as assistant director of student affairs at IHS. He worked closely with Tom G. Palmer, the director of student affairs at IHS at the time, to reach an underground community of scholars and students in the declining Soviet Union. Bell and others at IHS sent boxes labeled “scientific equipment” to the Carl Menger Institute in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to be smuggled into the Soviet Union. These boxes contained books on liberty, including essays by Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, that were translated into Russian. Pictured L-R: David Fitzsimons, Tom W. Bell.

Tom W. Bell continued his education through law school at the University of Chicago, participating in IHS fellowships and career programs along the way. One of these programs was the Summer History Seminar in 1990, which IHS held in collaboration with the Humane Studies Foundation. Bell joined other scholars at this mid-summer seminar in Belmont, California, to learn more about western economic and legal history. Pictured L-R: Dean Kernan, Tom W. Bell, Rick Vernier at an IHS Summer Seminar.

In 1991 Bell attended the IHS Summer Residential Program. Bell was one in a select group of graduate students who conducted research and wrote on various classical liberal topics at the ten-week program. Pictured L-R: 1991 IHS Summer Fellows. Front row: John Majewski, Kate Zhou, and John Tomasi. Middle row: Patrick Fitzgerald, Matthew O’Keeffe, and Rebecca Reynolds. Back row: Tom W. Bell, Michael Kochin, Peter Mentzel, and Dean Kernan.

Once he obtained his JD, Bell practiced law in Silicon Valley and Washington, DC. Before long he decided to pursue teaching—not only as a law professor but also as an IHS seminar instructor. Bell even joined the faculty of the summer seminars that he used to attend as a student.

In 1995, Bell—a law professor at the University of Dayton Law School at the time—directed the IHS Summer Graduate Research Program. Like it still does today, the program convened a small group of graduate students to pursue their research, write academic papers, and present their findings to the group for feedback and revision. Pictured: 1995 Summer Graduate Research Fellows. Tom W. Bell is pictured in the center, back row.

Bell now teaches at Fowler School of Law at Chapman University in southern California, where he helps his students and others understand the importance of the rule of law, property rights, free speech, free markets, and limited government. He has published his legal research in scholarly outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Economist, LA Times, and CNN. In 2014 Bell published his first book, Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good, which landed a spot on the Wall Street Journal’s “Books of the Year” list that year.

Bell published his latest book, Your Next Government? From the Nation State to Stateless Nations in 2018. He continues to write and teach about a variety of legal concepts, such as polycentric law, which he has thought about since the beginning of his academic journey with IHS. He even consults with governments and companies working to start charter cities, putting his research into practice.

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