Thomas J. DiLorenzo | LewRockwell.com | October 6, 2008
The current economic crisis is the inevitable consequence of what I call Hamilton’s Curse in my new book of that name. It is the legacy of Alexander Hamilton and his political, economic, and constitutional philosophy. As George Will once wrote, Americans are fond of quoting Jefferson, but we live in Hamilton’s country.
The great debate between Hamilton and Jefferson over the purpose of government, which animates American politics to this day, was very much about economic policy. Hamilton was a compulsive statist who wanted to bring the corrupt British mercantilist system – the very system the American Revolution was fought to escape from – to America. He fought fiercely for his program of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, public debt, pervasive taxation, and a central bank run by politicians and their appointees out of the nation’s capital.
Jefferson and his followers opposed him every step of the way because they understood that Hamilton’s agenda was totally destructive of liberty. And unlike Hamilton, they took Adam Smith’s warnings against economic interventionism seriously.
Hamilton complained to George Washington that “we need a government of more energy” and expressed disgust over “an excessive concern for liberty in public men” like Jefferson. Hamilton “had perhaps the highest respect for government of any important American political thinker who ever lived,” wrote Hamilton biographer Clinton Rossiter.
Hamilton and his political compatriots, the Federalists, understood that a mercantilist empire is a very bad thing if you are on the paying end, as the colonists were. But if you are on the receiving end, that’s altogether different. It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks would say.
Hamilton was neither the inventor of capitalism in America nor “the prophet of the capitalist revolution in America,” as biographer Ron Chernow ludicrously asserts. He was the instigator of “crony capitalism,” or government primarily for the benefit of the well-connected business class. Far from advocating capitalism, Hamilton was “befogged in the mists of mercantilism” according to the great late nineteenth century sociologist William Graham Sumner. Continue reading ‘What Hamilton Has Wrought’