Archive | May 2015

A Hamiltonian Statement of Principles

I have copied below a chapter from my forthcoming manifesto on the political philosophy and policies of Hamiltonians and Progressive Republicans. I’m not even sure if I’m going to publish it or even finish it at this point- my understanding has changed somewhat since I first put my fingers to the keyboard to write it, and a cluster of other responsibilities is taking precedence in my writing.

Therefore I’d just like to publish the currently most-important chapter of the draft- the statement of principles. It still needs a lot of work and editing; it could be more concise, as many of the ideas overlap, and I need to clarify many of the ideas. Some ideas can be removed, and others must be added. I also need to figure out how to weave it into a coherent system.

That said, in the event that I never finish my manifesto, I think it’s important that I at least have a skeleton of the most crucial chapter saved in one place, so I may look at it for reference. Thus, this post-

Chapter 2- Statement of Principles

 

What follows is a list of the philosophical and political principles that inform Progressive Republicanism and Hamiltonianism, and breathe life into the otherwise stale policy proposals that make up the latter part of this book. Not all Hamiltonians and Progressive Republicans have historically shared these particular points of view- there was and is immense diversity in this political tradition, from the borderline Progressivism of Teddy Roosevelt to the elitist pretensions of Alexander Hamilton. But certain things have generally been true of a majority of Hamiltonians, and more importantly, these principles are principles that modern-day Hamiltonians ought to take seriously. I have organized these principles into three broad categories- Progressive Conservatism, National Capitalism, and Nationalist Subsidiarity. These represent views on society, economy, and governance, respectively.

  • Progressive Conservatism

INTRO FOR PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATISM

 

Encourage Good Citizenship– Hamiltonian policies must all be based upon the question “What sort of citizen would we like to encourage?” If a policy has the practical result of creating dependent, despondent, vampirical non-starters, or of encouraging sneaky, opportunistic, vampirical plutocrats, it cannot be a good policy. If, contrarily, the policy has the effect of creating self-reliant, respectful and respectable, patriotic citizens who would give for their country and would die for their country, a good policy it is indeed.

 

Progressivism Tempered by Conservatism– While the ultimate progressive aims of Hamiltonian government seek to serve the people as a whole and preserve and expand the scope of individual rights under liberty, and improve the life of every American so far as government has the power to remove constraints to equality of opportunity, the progressive Hamiltonian is fundamentally conservative in their view of unchanging human nature, human imperfection, the organic nature of the state and society, the fallacy of pure reason, and the criticality of tradition and custom. The Hamiltonian is populist in that he acts in the broad interest of the American people, giving ear to the people’s voice and the wisdom of the ages; yet he is elitist in that he believes that a moral elite that is in at least some ways technocratic must conduct governance. But the Hamiltonian is NOT a demagogue, pandering to the passions and whims of the populace, nor is he either a reactionary, utopian, or plutocratic elitist, smothering the popular voice with his will.

 

Paramounce of Struggle– Hamiltonianism holds that ignoble ease and prosperous decadence threaten the virtues of individuals and nations alike, and that constant striving- even in times of peace, as well as in times of peril- is the only sure safeguard against the sirens of decay. Therefore, Hamiltonian government promotes activity and enterprise among its citizens, activity and enterprise in itself, and constantly sets goals and reforms to be strived for. Aspirations, endemic to the human breast, ought to be encouraged and supported. The American Dream can make for virtuous citizens. A Hamiltonian government therefore sets tangible goals toward which the entirety of the American nation might strive, in the frontier tradition of Manifest Destiny. Most recently, President Kennedy encouraged Americans to devote their energies to going to the Moon. Another such goal- perhaps an American settlement on Mars- can work wonders for our national vigor.

 

Equality of Opportunity and Social Mobility– Hamiltonian government must make the complete equality of official opportunity its keystone, allowing none to advance by means of wealth or status or blood, but only by means of merit. This does not mean that Hamiltonian government must change the conditions which all men are born to, but it does mean that Hamiltonian government must wage war on corruption and privilege, encourage meritocracy, and accept into the American pantheon of greatness all those whose spirit and endeavors call them to it. All who can make it are allowed in.

Unified National Identity– Hamiltonianism is concerned with identity solely in regards to American citizenship and individual character, and it expects the highest endeavor in both of these fields. Hamiltonianism appreciates differences of race, ethnicity, religion, ideology, gender, sexual orientation, place of origin, and all other measures of diversity in background and identity, but it does not hold individuals to be valuable or particularly deserving extra respect for reasons of background alone. The identity which Hamiltonian nationalism cares about is that identity which can be chosen, and that is Americanism and individual greatness. All other identities, while respected and included and welcomed, are secondary in honor.

 

Pursue Intangibles- Hamiltonian public policy seeks to better the nation through the pursuit of the four intangibles of public credit, individual credit, public trust, and individual character. By building up these immeasurables, the forces of society will be energized with necessary vigor. Public Credit should be pursued to give the nation a general penchant for frugality and industry; Individual Credit should be pursued to help make individuals economically autonomous; Public Trust should be pursued to grease the wheels and oil the cogs of society; Individual Character should be pursued for the happiness of individuals and the health of the republic. It is by pursuing intangibles, the truest of truths, and attaining their immeasurable realization, that the true public interest can be secured.

 

 

  • National Capitalism

INTRO FOR NATIONAL CAPITALISM

 

Fiscal Prudence for the Public Credit– While Hamiltonian government is vivacious and vigorous, it must also be effective and prudent. Programs with proven viability are encouraged while inefficient and pernicious programs are disbanded. Most critically, in order to maintain America’s public credit, emphasis is placed on ensuring that every dollar spent is spent wisely. Hamiltonian government focuses on productive investment rather than on consumptive spending.[1]

 

American School of Economics- The Hamiltonian is a certain breed of capitalist, one who respects capitalism not for its own sake but for the sake of the dynamism and prosperity of the nation itself. Rather than being a pure laissez-faire free-trader, the Hamiltonian is an economic nationalist, favoring whatever economic policies are most conducive to the strengthening of American industries and the enhancing of American competitiveness. The general policies of the American School of Economics include centralized regulation of finance and national financial infrastructure, massive investment in research and technology to fuel the process of creative destruction, the government’s acting as a customer and protector for nascent critical industries, government support for an effective education system that can train innovators and entrepreneurs, and massive investment in continually-renewed national infrastructure.

Encouraging Economic Independence- The Hamiltonian is cognizant of the occasionally pernicious effects of capitalism and seeks their redress through government action. Hamiltonians support the fundamental tenets of the welfare state while being suspicious of government’s ability to carry out the dreams of expanded welfare progressivism. But more crucial than basic welfare policies are those policies that incentivize Americans to be hard-working and entrepreneurial family-builders, including various tax credits and loosening of restrictions on small business, to allow the poor as many opportunities to lift themselves into a middle-class lifestyle as possible.. Other such policies include encouraging the ownership of capital among the general population and cultivating habits of saving rather than consumer spending. A sound and dynamic economy is crucial to a stable and vibrant society.

 

Grow the Middle Class– While Hamiltonianism must first be directed towards cultivating the character and vigor of the most naturally talented American citizens, it must also do whatever is possible to ensure that the ordinary man can live a middle-class life, and thus be more capable of living the middle-class values of self-reliance, respect and respectability, and patriotism. While no man is entitled to anything he does not work for, every American ought to have the opportunity to pursue and secure a healthy middle-class lifestyle by the power of their labor, and it is a grave injustice if any hardworking American is condemned to poverty and stagnation due to forces greater than their power and beyond their control. It is the duty of the American statesman to put middle-class economics into practice- to sustain a climate of broad-based economic growth in various sectors, which should ensure a broad distribution of wealth, and to drive down the cost of living so that Americans may better enjoy the fruits of their labor. And these statesmen must ensure that the barriers for the poor to enter this middle class are as low as possible. The interests of the upper class and the underclass come secondary to the interests of this broader middle class; they are the backbone of a free and dynamic society, the natural constituency of Progressive Republican-Hamiltonian government.

Public Options in a Market System- In terms of the services a Hamiltonian government provides for its citizens, including transportation infrastructure, education, pensions, healthcare, advisory services, insurance, and other things, there must be a wealth of options at a variety of prices for citizens in the general public to choose from. They must not be forced to conform to a particular set of services- they must be able to choose between services on a competitive market, based not upon coercion but upon choice. This opens up room for maximum efficiency and maximum happiness and comfort for those individuals choosing services. These are worthy ends for the state to pursue in its services to its people.

Smart Policy for Entrepreneurial Freedom- On all issues pertaining to economics, so far as is possible, the government should strive to ensure the maximum possible amount of freedom for entrepreneurs and strivers. This means achieving the right balance of consumer, environmental, and competition regulations, with a bias towards keeping the market free while keeping consumers, the environment, and the competition healthy. Any trends towards monopoly (save in special cases, like government-sanctioned and just monopolies) must be vigorously fought, as must be all cases of unfair suppression of competition. And any trends towards overregulation and overtaxation must be fought with equal vigor. The government is the central engine of economic growth, but entrepreneurs and business are the instruments by which that growth is realized and actually carried out. Policy must be adapted accordingly.

 

 

  • Nationalist Subsidiarity

INTRO FOR NATIONALIST SUBSIDIARITY

Autonomous Government– a Hamiltonian government is not the impartial arbiter between factions, nor the tool of any particular faction or coalition of factions. The Hamiltonian government must always be the instrument of itself, directed towards building national greatness and expanding opportunities for individual initiative.

Activist Government for the Public Interest- Hamiltonianism sees the government as the enhancer rather than the inhibitor of national prosperity and social order, and supports various governmental programs, tempered by conservative sentiment, to better American society.

New Nationalist Subsidiarity- The philosophy of Hamiltonianism is that the most crucial political unit to be tended is the American nation, but that that tending is best done at the level of every problem and issue. Not everything can be managed centrally, but everything can be managed in the name of the American interest. Therefore, Hamiltonianism supports greater centralization in certain cases, like national defense and banking regulation, while supporting greater devolution of power in other areas, like education and infrastructural policy. All is done in the name of federalism- that is, both for the local political units, and for the nation. The nation is paramount and must remain united, even at the expense of sectional interests and identities. But administration must be done at the best level, which is oftentimes the local level.

The Material Aims of Government– Hamiltonianism is explicitly concerned with the preservation of American security, order, and prosperity. These elements of sovereignty are the chief material aims of the Hamiltonian government, and their promotion is secondary only to the promotion of national greatness and individual initiative. In fact, the five end goals- national greatness, individual initiative, security, order, and prosperity- are all intricately linked together and can be striven for simultaneously, though will have their obvious contradictions which must be navigated by prudent rules.

 

The True Aims of Government– individual greatness and national greatness are the ends to which a Hamiltonian government must strive. It must do this by the means of vigorous, uniting nationalist projects, and the cultivation of a system where opportunities for strivers and builders are flourishing. This cannot be done at the federal level alone; a Hamiltonian governing philosophy requires the participation of federal, state, and local governments, as well as the voluntary cooperation of private enterprise and civil society. A truly unified nation and a field open to ambitious strivers to seize opportunity is the task to which the nation must direct its efforts.

 

So much for a brief statement on Hamiltonianism. I hope the nature of Hamiltonian governance is now clear. But I have not yet articulated a coherent list of goals. America has already achieved a broad array of her former goals- create a prosperous nation, attain true equality before the law, become dominant in the Western Hemisphere, create a functioning republican government, among others- but now is the time to articulate new goals and advance towards them. Hamiltonianism, that goal-driven governing philosophy, cannot exist without such aims. We would be wise to consider them.

Therefore I have composed this list of policy ideas for consideration. This is by no means a comprehensive list, as I have only covered those issues on which I have read extensively. Healthcare, for example, is a crucial issue affecting the American people, but I do not understand it nearly well enough to offer my thoughts on healthcare policy. I have freely borrowed from various outlets and authors for many of these ideas, and cite them where applicable.

[1] ‘Taking On the Three Deficits,’ The Breakthrough Institute

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RePost: Alexander Hamilton’s Hurricane Letter

When he was a boy growing up in the Caribbean, Alexander Hamilton witnessed a monstrous hurricane and, much to the benefit of posterity, recorded in poetic prose the sensations, passions, and realizations which soon thereafter pervaded his conscience.

I wish I had the discipline and talent to write such prose; when I was about as old as Hamilton was when he wrote this, maybe a few years older, I had a traumatic experience on the Potomac River with my brothers, as our 35-foot sailboat was buffeted by a massive thunderstorm. Reading the Hurricane Letter, I realize Hamilton captures here all the feelings and sensations I had on that particular night. 

Many thanks to the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society for republishing the text in full.

http://the-aha-society.com/index.php/publications/articles/87-aha-society-articles/179-poetry-of-alexander-hamilton

One of Alexander Hamilton’s most recognized writings today is a letter that he wrote to his father after surviving a destructive hurricane that hit St. Croix on August 30, 1772.

The letter was afterwards printed in the Royal Danish American Gazette on October 3rd. Describing his experience, Hamilton writes: “My reflections and feelings on this frightful and melancholy occasion, are set forth in the following self-discourse.”

The Hurricane Letter

“Where now, oh! vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and resolution? What is become of thine arrogance and self sufficiency? Why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? How humble, how helpless, how contemptible you now appear. And for why? The jarring of elements—the discord of clouds? Oh! impotent presumptuous fool! how durst thou offend that Omnipotence, whose nod alone were sufficient to quell the destruction that hovers over thee, or crush thee into atoms? See thy wretched helpless state, and learn to know thyself. Learn to know thy best support. Despise thyself, and adore thy God. How sweet, how unutterably sweet were now, the voice of an approving conscience; Then couldst thou say, hence ye idle alarms, why do I shrink? What have I to fear? A pleasing calm suspense! A short repose from calamity to end in eternal bliss? Let the Earth rend. Let the planets forsake their course. Let the Sun be extinguished and the Heavens burst asunder. Yet what have I to dread? My staff can never be broken—in Omnip[o]tence I trusted.

He who gave the winds to blow, and the lightnings to rage—even him have I always loved and served. His precepts have I observed. His commandments have I obeyed—and his perfections have I adored. He will snatch me from ruin. He will exalt me to the fellowship of Angels and Seraphs, and to the fullness of never ending joys.

But alas! how different, how deplorable, how gloomy the prospect! Death comes rushing on in triumph veiled in a mantle of tenfold darkness. His unrelenting scythe, pointed, and ready for the stroke. On his right hand sits destruction, hurling the winds and belching forth flames: Calamity on his left threatening famine disease and distress of all kinds. And Oh! thou wretch, look still a little further; see the gulph of eternal misery open. There mayest thou shortly plunge—the just reward of thy vileness. Alas! whither canst thou fly? Where hide thyself? Thou canst not call upon thy God; thy life has been a continual warfare with him.

Hark—ruin and confusion on every side. ’Tis thy turn next; but one short moment, even now, Oh Lord help. Jesus be merciful!

Thus did I reflect, and thus at every gust of the wind, did I conclude, ’till it pleased the Almighty to allay it. Nor did my emotions proceed either from the suggestions of too much natural fear, or a conscience over-burthened with crimes of an uncommon cast. I thank God, this was not the case. The scenes of horror exhibited around us, naturally awakened such ideas in every thinking breast, and aggravated the deformity of every failing of our lives. It were a lamentable insensibility indeed, not to have had such feelings, and I think inconsistent with human nature.

Our distressed, helpless condition taught us humility and contempt of ourselves. The horrors of the night, the prospect of an immediate, cruel death—or, as one may say, of being crushed by the Almighty in his anger—filled us with terror. And every thing that had tended to weaken our interest with him, upbraided us in the strongest colours, with our baseness and folly. That which, in a calm unruffled temper, we call a natural cause, seemed then like the correction of the Deity. Our imagination represented him as an incensed master, executing vengeance on the crimes of his servants. The father and benefactor were forgot, and in that view, a consciousness of our guilt filled us with despair.

But see, the Lord relents. He hears our prayer. The Lightning ceases. The winds are appeased. The warring elements are reconciled and all things promise peace. The darkness is dispell’d and drooping nature revives at the approaching dawn. Look back Oh! my soul, look back and tremble. Rejoice at thy deliverance, and humble thyself in the presence of thy deliverer.

Yet hold, Oh vain mortal! Check thy ill timed joy. Art thou so selfish to exult because thy lot is happy in a season of universal woe? Hast thou no feelings for the miseries of thy fellow-creatures? And art thou incapable of the soft pangs of sympathetic sorrow? Look around thee and shudder at the view. See desolation and ruin where’er thou turnest thine eye! See thy fellow-creatures pale and lifeless; their bodies mangled, their souls snatched into eternity, unexpecting. Alas! perhaps unprepared! Hark the bitter groans of distress. See sickness and infirmities exposed to the inclemencies of wind and water! See tender infancy pinched with hunger and hanging on the mothers knee for food! See the unhappy mothers anxiety. Her poverty denies relief, her breast heaves with pangs of maternal pity, her heart is bursting, the tears gush down her cheeks. Oh sights of woe! Oh distress unspeakable! My heart bleeds, but I have no power to solace! O ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity and bestow your superfluity to ease them. Say not, we have suffered also, and thence withold your compassion. What are you[r] sufferings compared to those? Ye have still more than enough left. Act wisely. Succour the miserable and lay up a treasure in Heaven.”