My Blog List

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hamilton's Revenge I

I like Alexander Hamilton. He is the true founder of the "Business Wing" of our Democratic Republican republic. During his necessarily brief honeymoon with James Madison, the two wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers and outlined the concepts behind and goals of the American Revolution and its constitution. It was their endeavor that solidified our republic as a republic and the quality of that output is why we still have the same constitution, essentially, that they authored.

Their honeymoon was brief because they represented different ideals, different constituencies, and different visions of government. None of these visions were perfect. To "perfect" our government requires that all of us inheritors of those people recognize this. Each founder offered an incomplete piece of a whole. Like blind men describing a giant tesseract of a beast it is up to us to complete this vision. They offer visions, and clear guidance, but were not saints. They don't speak for God. Our Constitution has to be treated like a living document or it will break into pieces.

June 18th, 1787

Nobody illustrates that point better than Alexander Hamilton. He was the friend of James Madison, but ended his life as a bitter enemy of the Jefferson Administration in general, James Madison to a degree, and Aaron Burr Specifically. Indeed there is an entire society of people who champion Aaron Burr and see him as the intellectual founder of Wall Street, our shadow economic elite, and all that is wrong with America. They note that Alexander Hamilton was an Anglophile, openly admired British Economic Royalism, and despised democracy. And they'll gleefuly share this quote:

“All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government… Can a democratic assembly who annually revolve in the mass of the people be supposed steadily to pursue public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy…”

From: Howard Zinn "People’s History of the United States" (at Amazon) online:

I don't see that extreme. But the counterpoint is that Hamilton and Madison represent two very different views of Democracy. Madison did indeed champion Democratic Republicanism (at least for Whites), and that therefore anyone claiming the "founding fathers" were uniformly in agreement on a single set of theocratic authorities setting up a single vision for our Governance (Our Constitution) and agreeing on anything -- is genuinely either absurd or dishonest.

The other point is that those who talk about "original intent" that way (as if it were something fixed in time) miss the point. The "original intent" of a law was often deliberately high level so that the implementation could change over time. Where it is specific there is usually a reason, and that reason, unless modified by later laws and understanding should be preserved. But it is not a dead hand. The Constitution was meant to be a "living document" in the sense of a high level charter whose implementation could change over time.

And indeed we can speculate endlessly. If Jefferson, Franklin, and others saw reporters and the press as a "fourth estate," there is every reason to believe that by founding Wall Street, creating our first National Bank, and creating the New York Stock Exchange; Hamilton was founding a "fifth estate" that would eventually come to have more power than the other estates combined.

Indeed I'm see our current financial meltdown, and the previous ones that were all caused by the same financial elites, and their fraudulent schemes (compare "Bucket Shops" to modern derivatives) for parting honest Americans from their savings -- as all part of a piece. I'm labeling that piece "the revenge of Alexander Hamilton."

At the same time Alexander Hamilton was right about a lot of things. His prescription of mild protective tariffs, stable currency, and modest debt works when applied intelligently. On the other hand I think his promotion of economic elites, joint stock companies, and fractional banking has been at best a mixed blessing and at worst a curse.

I'm not with the Aaron Burr Society folks who see it as a massive conspiracy. For one thing it is quite open how these folks part the rest of us with our wealth; so its hardly a secret. And for another, these kinds of things rarely involve secret "conspiracies" so much as herd behavior and insider economic politics.

On the other hand the following points are true. You really should listen to this report:

"The best way to rob a bank is to own it."

You Tube: The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to own it -- Bill Black

"Bernie Maddow was a piker."

continued, part II:
Originally posted at Fraught with Peril

No comments:

Post a Comment