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View Diary: What Would James Madison Do (WWJMD)? Would the Framers Support the Occupy Wall Street Movement? (112 comments)

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  •  Good article by Simon Johnson and James Kwak (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kakumeiji maru

    in Vanity Fair this month. The authors, who blog at The Baseline Scenario, assert that Hamilton learned much at Washington's side during the Revolutionary War. He learned that wars cost money... lots of money... lots of borrowed money. He learned that you cannot defend your nation's sovereignty without being able to borrow money and go to war... and you cannot borrow money without a good credit rating... and your credit rating depends entirely on your power to tax.

    The Whiskey Rebellion, in Hamilton's (and Washington's) view, was a direct to America's independence from the great powers, England, France and Spain. That's why it was put down so decisively.

    David Brin posted  a great Diary on The Founders last Friday. It's a broad discussion on class and history, but here's the kicker:

    Hold onto your seat, because I'm about to tell you something about Washington and the others that you never knew... that they were "levellers."

    The founders started by banning primogeniture, so no family fortune could sit and accumulate, undivided, as a lordly demesne at the pyramid's peak. Instead, they would get divided among the large numbers of children that folks had then -- an intentional act of "social engineering" and outright "levelling" and don't you for a moment think otherwise!  They also seized the assets of the Tory lords and even neutral absentees and distributed them to the masses. And they made homesteading easy, with laws that favored Yeoman citizens. (All right, some of the lands they seized belonged to native American tribes - I never called these guys perfect, just smart, with a goal of not repeating the historical mistakes they loathed. Sure, they proceeded to make others.)

    Never heard of these "levelling" acts by the founders? Heck, even liberals have forgotten them. Or they've become used to simply ceding Washington and Adam Smith to the blustering right, without even putting up a fight.

    Wall Street has become a new Aristocracy. It's easier to join than the 18th Century nobility of England. All you gotta do is make a million dollars selling pizzas, swear fealty to the "investor class", and you're in. But the aristocratic impulse to use wealth to create power, and power to create wealth, is alive and well in the 21st Century.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Thu Oct 27, 2011 at 09:51:40 PM PDT

    •  Exactly right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      J V Calin

      For a while I hated Hamilton. I thought he was some elitist, wealth-loving snob. He was that, a little. But he was also a very smart man. There is a philosophy attributed to him, that he didn't think eliminating greed was possible, and so he was only concerned with controlling it and channeling it, like a river, to serve the common good. Sure, bankers and investors and industrialists benefited handsomely from his policies; but in his view this was only fair, since they had a lot more to lose. There was no federal deposit insurance back then, and the government was less able to arrange bail-outs then than they are now.

      It's useful to remember as well that while we think of Hamilton as a quintessential elitist, he was actually born an outsider. He was the bastard son of a Scottish expatriate and a Huguenot woman, born on a flyspeck in the Caribbean. He was dirt poor. He had nothing when he came to New York, except a lot of smarts and a lot of brass. He managed to get himself into King's College (which is now called Columbia University), and made something of himself there. He proceeded to make something of himself by joining the Continental Army as an officer.

      It always mystified me why Hamilton joined the Continental Army. Indeed, he was so Tory-ish in his political views, even in his youth, that it made no sense at all. But now I understand why. Despite his intelligence and fine manners and the fact that he'd gone to a fine college, the ruling class of the time would never have let him join them. He would always be an outsider, the bastard brat of a Scotch peddler and a French whore (the Scots at this time were almost universally hated by the English, and were in some cases viewed as subhuman). And the aristocracy that ruled America at that time would never have wasted an opportunity to remind him of where he stood in the pecking order. The most important thing to understand about Hamilton is his ambition. Even as a boy, he wanted to be more than he was; and the social order at the time would never have permitted him to achieve what he achieved, or anything else of a similar nature.

      Simply put, he joined the Revolution because it was his only way up. And as much as Hamilton disliked "the mob" (perhaps because it reminded him too much of the poverty of his youth), I don't think he would have set up so many obstacles to doing what he had done as the wealthy of today are setting up.

      TL;DR The 1% are the Tories of today. One need not be a Jeffersonian to hate Tories.

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