Faced with Trump's seizure of the Republican Party, conservatives and libertarians are trying to redefine republicanism to exclude anything other than market capitalism.
The Winter 2019 issue of conservative quarterly National Affairs carries an article, "Republicanism for Republicans," which marks the intellectual grave of American conservatism. It was written by Brink Lindsey, former director of regulatory studies at the radical libertarian Cato Institute and fromer senior editor of Regulation magazine. Lindsey is now drawing his thirty pieces of silver as vice president and director of the Open Society Project at the Niskanen Center.
The Niskanen Center was established in 2014 by William A. Niskanen, chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers. Niskanen is celebrated in conservative and libertarian circles for resigning as chief economist of Ford Motor Co. in protest over Ford's embrace of trade protectionism. Niskanen is now chairman of the extremist libertarian Cato Institute.
National Affairs was established in 2009 by the right wing media company originally run by Irving Kristol, the former Trotskyist who worked for the CIA-funded Congress for Cultural Freedom in yje early 1950s, before becoming the "godfather of neoconservatism." Board members of National Affairs have included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, and author Charles Murray, co-author of controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Pretty hefty right wing credentials.
Lindsey begins by summoning together the bedraggled and disconsolate disciples of pure conservatism, and looking over the smoking ruins and salted earth of their conservative paradise laid waste by Trump and his hordes of "ethno-nationalism", laments that "What was once your political home, or at least a familiar haunt you visited regularly, has been overrun by people or ideas you find repellent."
We cannot simply wait for Trump to pass from the scene, or for Democrats to win big, and hope that things will then somehow go back to normal. We must face the fact that the Trump presidency is not a freak accident, but rather the culmination of developments that have been corrupting the conservative movement and the Republican Party for many years. To root out this corruption, to build a new center-right that can lift this country up to its noblest aspirations instead of dragging it down to its darkest impulses, we must return to our intellectual foundations and build anew from there.
This is a clear admission that the seven decade rise and ascendancy of modern American conservatism has met its ignoble demise at the hands of a grifting conman and TV huckster. It's over, there is no life left in it, it has flat-lined: the relentless and richly funded climb of conservatism to national power that began with Strom Thurmond's states rights Dixiecrats in 1948, the Austrian School economic shit-fest of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek excreted from the rancid rectum of the Hapsburg empire in 1944 and 1945, and tail-gunner Joe's 1950 discovery of Communist Party membership cards in every desk drawer of the State Department, is finally over.
In a just universe, the fellow travelers of Barry Goldwater, Milton Friedman, William Buckley, David and Charles Koch, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, and Karl Rove would pop out of mortal existence and re-emerge in Dante's infernal eighth circle, suffering each healed wound to be ripped anew. But in this world, justice is only bent toward, so we must suffer for some time the continued brain-dead lurching and staggering of conservatism: an ideological zombie still dangerous in its capacity to inflict harm and consume the flesh of the living. A large part of the problem is that most leftists have never really bothered to understand the ideological thinking of their enemies, preferring to saute themselves in the purity of their own ideological beliefs.
So, I was not too surprised that most liberals and leftists failed to notice the intellectual death of their arch-foe. They have forgotten what republicanism is long ago. Actually, they probably never learned. Rather than master the ideas of statecraft developed by the antique city states of Greece and Italy, the Hanseatic League of the southern Baltic, and England in the time of Cromwell, liberals have busied themselves severing ties with the working class, collecting the contributions and currying the favor of the one percent, or at least the professional class. Meanwhile, leftists willingly descended into a mass act of historical amnesia by dismissing the creation of the United States -- supposed to be a republic, but who knows or cares what that means? -- as just another act of oppression committed by privileged white men.
So we have Brink Lindsey putting forth a project, to dress the zombie in new duds, and keep it staggering on into -- who knows when or where? "To build a new, post-Trump right, we need a new political language in which to express ourselves," Lindsey writes. Well, of course, because after Newt Ginrich and Frank Luntz finished savaging the English language, every word and utterance of conservatives for years now have been nothing but half-truths at best, outright lies at worst. "Right to work" has been redefined to mean "surrender to the boss man" and "No child left behind" turns out to mean "no child capable of thinking for him- or her self." Say "reducing fossil fuel dependence" and conservatives hear "war on coal." A federal mandate that everyone purchase health insurance -- just like states mandates that every driver have auto insurance -- is vilified as "death panels." Feed the poor, house the homeless, care for the sick, and conservatives don't see dedication to the injunctions of a great world religion, they see socialism and looming despotism. How can any political language survive such a consistent and persistent record of misuse for diabolical dissembling and massive misinformation? Of course Lindsey feels the need for "a new political language."
"Where will we find this new vocabulary, which might reach beyond the term "conservatism" as an organizing principle? The answer is right under our noses, hiding in plain sight. The project of intellectual and moral renewal on the right is best founded on the principles of republicanism."
Well, you just know this can lead to no good place. But since most liberals and leftists failed to even notice this funeral procession marching past their noses, filling the air with the choking stench of zombie putrefaction, it falls to me to guide you there and back.
Lindsey begins by giving himself artistic license to slap and splash on the paint any damn way he wants: "Republicanism, in the most basic sense of the word, simply means support for a republican form of government." Indeed. And to be hurt means that something hurts you. The obvious question: What is a republican form of government? Lindsey refuses to go there, probably because it would derail his project immediately.
Now, it so happens that since 2009, when it became clear that Obama had sold out to Wall Street and had no intent of actually investigating, let alone punishing, the nation's financial executives for their crimes and misdeeds, I have tried to reach an understanding of what a republic is, and what economic policies it should have. Here's the definition I have reached:
A republic is a system of government in which all citizens have an equal right to select their governing representatives, equal access to those representatives, and equal standing before the law. A republic is not a democracy, but a republic is always democratic in form: all citizens have an equal right and access to the electoral process through which government officials and representatives are selected. (For a fuller, but relatively brief description of what a republic is, including some illuminating quotes from the founders, I highly recommend 12 pages from an 1866 speech by Senator Charles Sumner urging passage of the Fourteenth Amendment )
"The core of " republicanism, Lindsey writes, is "the ideal of political liberty achieved through popular self-government." Actually, there's a bit more to the core of republicanism than that, but at least this sentence is not misleadingly inaccurate like so much of conservative declamation. Lindsey continues:
"This ideal stood in contrast not only to hereditary regimes — kingdoms and empires — but also dictatorships, oligarchies, and direct democracies. Steeped in the classical literature on the example of ancient Rome, republicans saw political liberty not as the expression of some spontaneous general will, but as the artifact of constitutional structure: limits on power, checks and balances, and the rule of law. The structure of liberty is not self-maintaining, however. It rests on the civic virtue of the people, bound together as fellow citizens, who are called upon to uphold the public interest and safeguard it from corruption."
Here we get the first of Lindsey's sly revisions of republicanism, and it's freighted with great significance for the rest of his argument. First of all, "constitutional structure" today denotes something quite different than what the term did in the last decade of the 1700s. Today we think of "constitutional structure" mostly in terms of the clauses and strictures of a writtenconstitution. At the time the USA Constitution was debated and written, however, constitutional structure encompassed much more, namely, the unwritten norms of accepted political behavior developed over time and attaining gravitas and power through habit and tradition. In the 1968 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of history, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn writes:
....the colonists at the beginning of the Revolutionary controversy understood by the word "constitution" not, as we would have it, a written document or even an unwritten but deliberately contrived design of government and a specification of rights beyond the power of ordinary legislation to alter; they thought of it, rather as the constituted -- that is, existing -- arrangement of governmental institutions, laws, and customs together with the principles and goals that animated them. So John Adams wrote that a political constitution is like "the constitution of the human body" -- "certain contextures of the nerves, fibres, and muscles, or certain qualities of the blood and juices... without which life itself cannot be preserved a moment." A constitution of government, analogously, Adams wrote, is "a frame, a scheme, a system, a combination of powers for a certain end, namely, -- the good of the whole community." [pp. 68-69]
It is exactly this unwritten constitutional structure of USA politics and governance that the word games of Lutz and Gingrich have eroded and subverted. Lindsey is forced to admit the damage, though he carefully avoids heaping blame where it belongs, when he writes "Today, "owning the libs" has become an end in itself; inflicting a loss on the other side is a victory regardless of the implications for policy or the national welfare."
Second, and much more important, is the way Lindsey frames the concept of civic virtue and its attendant duty of citizens to uphold the public interest. Lindsey notes, but is careful to avoid exploring, that at the beginning of the republic, this was understood to require citizens to sacrifice their own self interest when it conflicted with the general welfare. Just wade into USA history a bit deeper with me, and it soon enough becomes clear that this is the rock on which shatters the lifeboat Lindsey is contriving to construct. In The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 -- awarded the Bancroft Prize in 1970 -- Gordon Wood wrote:
....In a monarchy each man's desire to do what was right in his own eyes could be restrained by fear or force. In a republic, however, each man must somehow be persuaded to submerge his personal wants into the greater good of the whole. This willingness of the individual to sacrifice his private interests for the good of the community - such patriotism or love of country - the eighteenth century termed "public virtue." A republic was such a delicate polity precisely because it demanded an extraordinary moral character in the people. Every state in which the people participated needed a degree of virtue; but a republic which rested solely on the people absolutely required it...
The eighteenth-century mind was thoroughly convinced that a popularly based government "cannot be supported without Virtue." Only with a public-spirited, self-sacrificing people could the authority of a popularly elected ruler be obeyed, but "more by the virtue of the people, than by the terror of his power." Because virtue was truly the lifeblood of the republic, the thoughts and hopes surrounding this concept of public spirit gave the Revolution its socially radical character - an expected alteration in the very behavior of the people, "laying the foundation in a constitution, not without or over, but within the subjects." [p. 68]
Note the formulation in the last sentence: a constitution within the citizens. This is not the written constitutional structure with which Lindsey associates "the republican conception of liberty as non-domination." It is not the conservative and libertarian wet dream of a national government bound and tied by a strict adherence to the enumerated powers of a written constitution. This is an embrace of the noble aspects of humanity to share and cooperate; more to the point, it is a rejection of the selfishness and self-interest that are supposed to be the mainsprings of capitalism.
This is the cliff over which plunges the conservative zombie Lindsey is flailing to animate. The actual conception of civic virtue in a republic is by its very nature fundamentally contrary to the basic tenets of capitalism: everyone pursuing their own selfish interests, unfettered by government, in the great information processor of free markets, is the great "invisible hand", the uber-god that omnisciently sorts the selfishness of hundreds of millions of individual souls into "rational expectations" resulting in the best and most efficient allocation of society's resources.
The Koch-funded libertarians have taken selfishness and self-interest, to their logical capitalist extreme, and in so doing provided us the caricature which demonstrates why, no matter how much Lindsey twists and contorts it, republicanism will never be in harmony with market capitalism.
In The Creation of the American Republic,Wood wrote:
In a republic “each individual gives up all private interest that is not consistent with the general good, the interest of the whole body.” For the republican patriots of 1776 the commonweal was all encompassing—a transcendent object with a unique moral worth that made partial considerations fade into insignificance. “Let regard be had only to the good of the whole” was the constant exhortation by publicists and clergy. Ideally, republicanism obliterated the individual. “A Citizen,” said Sam Adams, “owes everything to the Commonwealth.” “Every man in a republic,” declared Benjamin Rush, “is public property. His time, his talents—his youth—his manhood—his old age—nay more, life, all belong to his country.” “No man is a true republican,” wrote a Pennsylvanian in 1776, “that will not give up his single voice to that of the public.” [ pp. 60-61.]
It is only this rejection of materialist avarice demanded by republicanism that can possibly explain how readily most early corporations were mananed in complete fidelity to promoting the public interest. In the Sixteenth Annual Report of the Fitchburg Rail Road Company, date January 1858, we find on page 10
“The managers of railroads need not now have the fear, which was seriously entertained a few years since, of excessive profits — at least they need have no such fear during the life of the present generation, for as large as their profits may be they will need all, in our opinion, to give reasonable returns to their shareholders, and keep their roads in good order.”
Fear of excessive profits?! Can you imagine any CEO, COO, CFO, director, or fund manager of today discussing seriously the danger of “excessive profits”? Clearly, the capitalism of today is a far different, more voracious beast than the capitalism of 1858. But if hundreds of local citizens had invested their capital with a company, the officers of that company would be violating the simple dictates of republicanism to care for one's community if they made excessive profits.
In the Introduction to Securing the Fruits of Labor: The American Concept of Wealth Distribution, 1765--1900 (Lousiana State University Press, 1998) James L. Huston writes, “…the essence of the historical interest in republicanism is lodged in the word virtue, which means a willingness to forgo self-interest in order to pursue the general welfare. The search that so many historians have engaged in is to find when self-interest triumphed over virtue, when liberal capitalism overran republicanism.” [pp. xx-xxi]
Lindsey cannot, and most likely never will, recognize, or acknowledge, that republicanism does not specify any particular form of economic organization society should adopt. It certainly does not specify capitalism. In fact, neither does the Constitution or the founders. Find the text of the Constitution and The Federalist Papers online in a searchable format, and try to find the words "capitalism" or "capitalistic" in them. They simply are not there. Why? Because those words do not become fully developed intellectual concepts until the years just before Karl Marx's Capital was published in 1867.
But Lindsey is fanatically insisting that market capitalism is the form of economy required by republicanism. It simply is not. By my reading, republicanism is more conducive to socialism than it is to capitalism, especially now that we have reached a tipping point of deep and widespread deployment of automated production processes, artificial intelligence, and self-driving vehicles. What do conservatives and libertarians propose to do with the 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States, if self-driving trucks are actually put on our roads and highways? What do they do with another 10 million or more unemployed manufacturing workers? And a couple million unemployed bank and retail clerks, displaced by AI?
(Chart: Why Industrial Robot Sales are Sky High [Visual Capitalist])
Unfortunately, the left's understanding of republicanism is also fatally flawed. Too many on the left do not even know what republicanism or a republic is and should be. This is especially true of those who insist justice and equality shall not be had until any arrangement and institution they deem to be capitalistic is extirpated. Intellectually, they are incapable of grasping the significance of Lindsey's ideological dead end.
But it gets worse, much worse, for conservatives and modern libertarians. Unless Lindsey and other doctrinaire propagandists succeed in redefining it on their terms, republicanism demands that the problems of wealth injustices and income inequalities be solved in ways they are going to hate. Lindsey at least recognizes that there is a problem conservatism and modern libertarianism have failed to address up to now (when it is almost too late), when he writes, at the very end:
The impetus for such changes will not come from today's Republican establishment, or from the right-wing media complex. A new intellectual movement — one that firmly opposes itself to both ethno-nationalism and plutocracy and offers an appealing vision in their place — is the most promising vehicle for generating and articulating new ideas.
(Over 60 percent of voters — including half of Republicans — support a wealth tax [The Big Picture 2-17-19])
Wealth and income injustice in our time have reached extremes last seen just before the world financial crash of 1929. That set the stage for a populist political upsurge, just like the failures to address the underlying causes of the 2007-2009 world financial crash set the stage for the reemergence of political populism. In the 1930s, populism in Europe was steered to the right, ushering onto the world stage Mussolini and Hitler. Fortunately, in USA, it ushered in Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal (And never forget that the right in USA tried to launch a military coup against FDR, but their chosen patsy, national hero Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, turned the tables on them and foiled the plot. It is almost criminal that the new Marine Corps museum has nary a mention of Gen. Butler and his most heroic act: defending the republic against its internal, conservative reactionary capitalist enemies. Roosevelt's most strategic political error was failing to fully prosecute the plotters exposed by Butler; doing so probably would have eviscerated the factions that later funded and built the modern conservative movement beginning in the 1950s.)
In our time, any populist track to the left has been carefully curtailed (the 2016 Sanders campaign) or ruthlessly crushed (Occupy Wall Street), while the rightwing populist surge has been enabled by the news media's increasingly insane doctrine of "fairness and impartiality" and richly funded by a long list of billionaires such as Adelson, the Kochs, Langone, the Mercers, Ricketts, Singer, Thiel, and more, giving us Donald Trump. And, hence, Lindsey's desperate plan to resurrect conservatism as it lies dead in the national economic and political ruins of its own making.
Simply put, rectifying the problem of excessively large concentrations of wealth today is going to require measures of taxation, claw back, and seizure (such as the $35 trillion estimated to be sitting in offshore accounts, which just happen to be (no real surprise, actually) intimately linked to the world's flows of dirty money.
(Hidden Loophole in Corporate Tax Reform Law, Revealed, Barry Ritholtz, February 13, 2019 [The Big Picture])
Just look at the outraged outcry, a couple weeks ago, that arose from the right in response to the "tax the wealth" proposals of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They did not even propose a return to a top marginal income tax rate of over 90 percent, which was in effect for nearly two decades after World War Two. Is there really any chance Lindsey's newly remolded conservatives and libertarians can drag the Republican Party away from its Pavlovian response of snarling and snapping at any mention of a tax increase? But the plain fact is that Republican tax cuts have been a major factor in increasing wealth and income inequality. Nowhere does Lindsey admit or even discuss this.
But an equality of wealth among all citizens is so fundamental a concern in republicanism that Lindsey cannot avoid admitting it. Of course, he does not come anywhere close to portraying the full import of this issue. Consider this pre-Revolution sermon by Benjamin Trumbull, who served in the Continental Army as a volunteer and as chaplain during the Revolutionary War. Trumbull delivered this before the War, when he was pastor of the Congregational church in North-Haven, Connecticut. A discourse, delivered at the anniversary meeting of the freemen of the town of New-Haven, April 12, 1773.
It should also be the particular care of every civil community to keep their rulers as much as possible dependent on them, and intimately connected with them. For this purpose it will be highly politic, in every free state, to keep property as equally divided among the inhabitants as possible, and not to suffer a few persons to amass all the riches and wealth of a country: and also to have a special care how they adopt any laws, customs, or precedents, which have a tendency this way. For when men become possessors of the Wealth of a state, it will be in their power to purchase, or by undue influence, which, in such circumstances, they may have ways almost innumerable, to thrust themselves into all places of honour and trust. This will put it in their power, by fraud or force to keep themselves in those important posts, and to oppress and tyrannize over their fellow men. It will teach the people to look up to them, as to lords and masters, make them servile, and by little and little it will despoil them of all true liberty and freedom. But on the other hand, the keeping of property, as equally divided as possible among a people, will make elections more free, the rulers more dependent, and the liberty and privileges of the ruled vastly more secure. [Pp. 31-32]
Which form of economic organization seems the better fit to "keep property as equally divided among the inhabitants as possible"? Capitalism? or socialism?
Economic equality is basic to a republic because, for civic virtue to operate effectively, all citizens have to be fully independent from the largess, benevolence, or tolerance of others. This was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship -- the fabled "yeomanry" of Jefferson's ideal society. In fact, Jefferson wanted to delay as long as possible the advent of industrialization because he viewed subservient factory labor as being unable to exercise the independence required of citizens by civic virtue.
Jefferson's ideal of the independent yeomanry is inextricably connected to the feudalistic maxim that surplus economic value is derived solely from "the bounty of nature." Drew R. McCoy explains in The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (University of North Carolina Press, 1980):
American republicans valued property in land primarily because it provided personal independence. The individual with direct access to the productive resources of nature need not rely on other men, or any man, for the basic means of existence. The Revolutionaries believed that every man had a natural right to this form of property, in the sense that he was entitled to autonomous control of the resources that were absolutely necessary to his existence. The personal independence that resulted from the ownership of land permitted a citizen to participate responsibly in the political process, for it allowed him to pursue spontaneously the common or public good, rather than the narrow interest of the men – or the government – on whom he depended for his support. Thus the Revolutionaries did not intend to provide men with property so they might flee from public responsibility into a selfish privatism; property was rather the necessary basis for a committed republican citizenry. [p. 67]
What we have here is a strong rebuke to conservatives’ fixation on property rights. Those rights were intended by the founders not to protect untrammeled avarice and unprincipled acquisition, but to provide as wide a basis as possible within the citizenry for the maintenance of republican civic virtue. When the control of property and the distribution of wealth becomes so distorted and so lopsided, as it is now, the framers expected serious deleterious effects to be manifested, such as a withering of a sense of public virtue, while private avarice flourished like unwanted weeds. And they also foresaw that a great inequality of wealth would corrupt the purpose of government, from a steadfast commitment to the general welfare, to what we call “regulatory capture” today. Or, the use of the powers of the state to protect and even facilitate the extraction of economic rent.
This desire to preserve republican public virtue, McCoy explains, is what underlay Jefferson’s opposition to Hamilton’s plans to nurture manufacturing, banking, and commerce. In Jefferson’s view, the longer the transition to a commercial society from an agrarian society could be delayed, the longer the free yeomanry and their public virtue would be preserved. Indeed, in Jefferson’s view, only a free yeomanry with holdings of land, which they worked to harvest the “honest” agricultural bounty of, had any sense of public virtue.
Here lies a key point of economic ignorance evinced by leftists and most professional economists.
This emphasis on owning land is a relic of feudal economics, in which the sole sources of wealth were considered to be ownership of the land, and ownership of slaves, peasants, or serfs, whose function was to work and cultivate the land, then gather “the bounty of nature.” Thus, it is a seriously misleading misinterpretation of economic history to associate slavery directly with the rise of industry and capitalism. Obviously, slavery created concentrations of wealth which in turn were used to finance the rise of industry and capitalism. But as an economic institution by itself, slavery in the south was a throwback to feudal economics. The fact that slavery in the south coexisted with the rise of industry and capitalism in the north has provided more than enough leeway for incorrect economic historiography.
First Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton shattered the stranglehold of this feudal economics. First, he designed a system for attracting concentrations of capital, and transforming them into a form of money. Forest McDonald explains, in "The Constitution and Hamiltonian Capitalism"
The genius of the system lay in Hamilton's understanding of the nature of money. Money is whatever people believe is money and use as money; as Hamilton put it, "opinion" is the soul of it. If it became fixed in the public mind that government securities were equal in value to and readily interchangeable with gold and silver, people would accept the securities in most transactions as the equivalent of "money," and therefore they would be money.
Hamilton did this based on his and Washington’s experiences during the Revolutionary War, when they realized the major strategic advantage of the British empire was its ability to raise funds to support its armies and fleets. What Hamilton did created the foundation for modern industrial capitalism to emerge (which, to provide an accurate history here, we must note has been the past half century steadily usurped and replaced by financial / rentier capitalism, which is actually neofeudal in form and effect).
Next, Hamilton set in motion an economy in which the creation of new wealth in the form of new science and technology led to advances in machinery, which increased the productive power of labor. The left’s typical critique of Hamilton – that he merely created a new government that perpetuated the wealth and privilege of already existing elites – is simply wrong, and entirely misunderstands what Hamilton did. The key to understanding Hamilton is his 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, most especially “Section II: As to an extension of the use of Machinery”: “The employment of Machinery forms an item of great importance in the general mass of national industry. ‘Tis an artificial force brought in aid of the natural force of man; and, to all the purposes of labour, is an increase of hands…”
Hamilton was creating a national economy at a point in human history that the machine age had was just beginning. In Britain, Newcomen’s atmospheric engine of 1712 hardly provided adequate power for almost any purpose. James Watt's addition of a condenser to a steam engine in 1765, finally made steam an adequate source of power – just a decade before the Revolution, and two decades before the Constitution. During this time, Oliver Evans -- considered the first American engineer -- was perfecting his automated flour mill during this time; it was not until 1801 through 1806 that Evans developed the high-pressure steam engine, which finally delivered enough power and reliability to allow the steam engine to emerge as the primary mover of choice in the nineteenth century.
Moreover, in an explicit repudiation of the laissez faire
ideas of Adam Smith and the British, Hamilton emphasized the importance of having active government interests and investment in new and important economic enterprise. In his December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufacture
s, Hamilton wrote:
"Experience teaches, that men are often so much governed by what they are accustomed to see and practice, that the simplest and most obvious improvements, in the [most] ordinary occupations, are adopted with hesitation, reluctance and by slow gradations … To produce the desirable changes, as early as may be expedient, may therefore require the incitement and patronage of government… The apprehension of failing in new attempts is perhaps a more serious impediment…it is of importance that the confidence of cautious sagacious capitalists…should be excited… it is essential, that they should be made to see in any project, which is new, and for that reason alone, if, for no other, precarious, the prospect of such a degree of countenance and support from government, as may be capable of overcoming the obstacles, inseparable from first experiments."
Note that the left usually misses this crucial point of what Hamilton designed. Rather than the Marxist model of the means of production determining the political superstructure, what actually happens under Hamilton's system is government support for new science and technology creates new means of production. The machine tools and machining techniques developed at the Springfield Armory after the War of 1812, became the basis for the manufacture for interchangeable parts, laying the foundation for industrial mass production. In 1843, Congress directly funded Samuel B. Morris's development opf the telegraph. Computers come entirely out of the USA government research during World War Two to create calculating machines for artillery and naval gunfire ballistics, cryptography and code breaking, flight simulation, the physics calculations of the Manhattan Project, and more. All the underlying technologies of today's cell phone and smart phones were originally developed in government research programs.
The three major developments in aerodynamics of the post war-period -- the area rule, supercritical wings, and winglets -- were developed by a government scientist named Richard Whitcomb using the wind tunnels at the NASA Langley Research Center.
In this historical record you should see another aspect of Hamilton's shattering of feudal economics: rather than the deterministic model of Adam Smith, in which national economies were shaped by the "invisible hand," Hamilton recognized and honored the role of human agency. Note how Hamilton explicitly rejects Smith in this passage from Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures:
The remaining objections to a particular encouragement of manufactures in the United States now require to be examined. One of these turns on the proposition, that Industry, if left to itself, will naturally find its way to the most useful and profitable employment: whence it is inferred, that manufactures without the aid of government will grow up as soon and as fast, as the natural state of things and the interest of the community may require.
Hamilton's repudiation of feudal economics and creation of a new system of economics also made zero-sum economics obsolete. Under the feudal economics of the British empire apologist of Smith, Malthus, and Ricardo, a nation's stock of wealth was based on its land and the slaves and serfs who worked it, and whatever mass of species and debentures it has assembled. Growth of national wealth could only be achieved by 1) seizing other lands and peoples and imposing colonial status on them. or 2) gaining an advantage, usually unfair, over other countries in international trade. Under Hamilton's economics, national wealth becomes primarily based on the scientific and technological achievements of a nation's people, and the consequent improvements in their ability to use machinery to increase the productive power of labor.
In short, Hamilton did not intend to preserve existing wealth. He intended to marshal existing wealth and use it to finance the creation of new wealth. The proof of this is to compare the late 18th century elites of USA with the late 18th century elites of England and Great Britain. Where today are the fabulously wealthy families of the descendants of Franklin, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, etc.? There are none, so far as I know. Look then in contrast at the continued wealth, privilege, and rank in Britain of the families of Windsor, Grosvenor, Schroder, Barclay, Cavendish, Somerset, Seymour, and others, all of which go back three centuries or more.
Hamilton set feudal economics on the course of extinction, though in USA a costly and bloody Civil War was required to eliminate slavery. The problem today is, slavery was eliminated. but not the political economic ideology that supported the laissez faire free trade Confederacy. That Confederate political economic ideology is simply in the DNA of conservatism and libertarianism , and how can Lindsey ever expect to exorcise it if he will not even admit it exists?
Recently, conservatives and libertarians have ginned up a fuss over the remarks of Cornell Law professor, Robert C. Hockett, who is advising the newest target of conservative and libertarian spittle and rage, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. According to the attack dogs of the right, Hockett, and thus by extension Ocasio-Cortez, have designed part of the Green New Deal to just hand money to people unwilling to work. Hockett actually gives me lots of hope: his scholarship over the years has incorporated serious research on republicanism. In "Materializing Citizenship: Finance in a Producers' Republic" (2014, Cornell Law Faculty Publications. 1300), Hockett writes:
Early American property law abandoned British common law primogeniture precisely in order to ensure a broad ownership of the newly conquered continent’s most conspicuous resource—arable land. Subsequent late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century federal legislation, most notably the Northwest Ordinance, had the same aim. Later still, the Homestead and Land Grant Acts of the second half of the nineteenth century, not to mention the Free Soil and Free Labor movements that pushed for them, reflected a national policy favoring a broad spread of productive assets—including vocationally relevant higher education in the Land Grant Act case—over a population of industrious, civically engaged, and responsibly productive republican citizens....
What all of the New Deal enactments had in common was their building upon the Progressive Era’s accomplishments to foster the continuing development of an industrial-era counterpart to the primarily agrarian yeoman class of the previous century, and thereby carry the productive republican ideal into the modern era. The primary focus in so doing was on the real economy prerequisites to that goal’s accomplishment—in particular, “living” wages and job security, widespread homeownership, and a robust social safety net—while a secondary but no less important focus was on regulating finance in a manner that kept it subservient to the needs of the productive republican real economy.
What flowed out of the New Deal enactments was the mixed economy
, with production and distribution of most individual, industrial and agricultural goods and services provided by private capitalist enterprise, while certain sectors of the economy, such as fire and police protection, primary education, and the social safety net were organized along socialist lines. In addition, and most significantly, the bedrock of economic progress -- scientific and technological research -- was performed almost entirely by government until after World War Two, including a prominent role by the public land grant universities. The research efforts of General Electric, and Bell Laboratories, a joint effort of American Telephone & Telegraph and Western Electric, were notable, but never came close to the scale of government research. Since the 1970s, and especially the Reagan era 1980s, private sector research and development has been as large as government research and development, which has been starved for funds by the free market fetishists, and it should surprise no one that USA economic performance in this era has been increasingly dubious and unstable, and USA has been replaced as the largest trading partner, largest manufacturer, and largest innovator in the world.
(The Government Money That Built The Internet Is Going Away
, Feb. 24, 2011 [Business Insider])
But, how to reconcile republican theory regarding the need for economically independent citizens with the rapidly rising number of wage earners, usually poor, in the USA economy as it developed?
To lift propertyless workers to the exalted station of citizens of the republic, a theory of wage income began to develop which certain American economists came to call, by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Doctrine of High Wages
. The first traces of this can actually be found as early as 1783, in Benjamin Franklin's essay “Reflections on the Augmentation of Wages, Which Will Be Occasioned in Europe by the American Revolution
,” which was published in Paris in the Journal d Economie Puplique
. It is a deliberate and comprehensive attack on the “free trade” ideas of the house economists of the British East India Co., such as Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus:
....The horrible maxim, that the people must be poor, in order that they may remain in subjection, is still held by many persons of hard hearts and perverted understanding, with whom it were useless to contend. Others, again, think that the people should be poor, from a regard for the supposed interests of commerce. They believe that to increase the rate of wages would raise the price of the productions of the soil, and especially of industry, which are sold to foreign nations, and thus that exportation and the profits arising from it would be diminished. But this motive is at once cruel and ill founded.
....To desire to keep down the rate of wages, with the view of favoring the exportation of merchandise, is to seek to render the citizens of a state miserable, in order that foreigners may purchase its productions at a cheaper rate; it is, at most, attempting to enrich a few merchants by impoverishing the body of the nation; it is taking the part of the stronger in that contest, already so unequal, between the man who can pay wages, and him who is under the necessity of receiving them; it is, in one word, to forget, that the object of every political society ought to be the happiness of the largest number.
…. High wages attract the most skillful and most industrious workmen. Thus the article is better made; it sells better; and in this way, the employer makes a greater profit, than he could do by diminishing the pay of the workmen. A good workman spoils fewer tools, wastes less material, and works faster, than one of inferior skill; and thus the profits of the manufacturer are increased still more.
The perfection of machinery in all the arts is owing, in a great degree, to the workmen. There is no important manufacture, in which they have not invented some useful process, which saves time and materials, or improves the workmanship. If common articles of manufacture, the only ones worthy to interest the statesman, if woollen, cotton, and even silk stuffs, articles made of iron, steel, copper, skins, leather, and various other things, are generally of better quality, at the same price in England than in other countries, it is because workmen are there better paid.
The low rate of wages, then, is not the real cause of the advantages of commerce between one nation and another; but it is one of the greatest evils of political communities.
(Note Franklin's mention of "the perfection of machinery," a clear, and not coincidental, precursor of Hamilton's focus on machinery increasing the productive power of labor.
Proponents of the Doctrine of High Wages argued that not only were American workers better paid than their counterparts in England and Europe, but they were far more productive as well. In fact, American economists argued that high wages created a virtuous circle, in the superior productivity of American workers allowed them to be paid much higher wages than anywhere else in the world, while those high wages provided American workers a much higher standard living, which, in turn, enabled them to be more productive. The development of the Doctrine of High Wages can be traced in these publications:
Essay on the Rate of Wages: With an Examination of the Causes of the Differences in the Condition of the Labouring Population Throughout the World, by Henry C. Carey, 1835
The Rights of Labor, by Calvin Colton, 1847
Manual of Political Economy, by Erasmus Peshine Smith, 1853
Essays on the Progress of Nations: In Civilization, Productive Economy, Wealth, and Population, by Ezra Champion Seaman, 1869
Wages and Trade in Manufacturing Industries in America and in Europe, by Jacob Schoenhof, 1884
It is difficult to imagine that Lindsey will convince conservatives and libertarians to embrace the Doctrine of High Wages if he is not willing to even mention the right wing's war on labor.
I have been writing for several years now that republicanism and capitalism are largely incompatible. A return to republicanism would be welcome, but not on the terms Lindsey lays out.
 Read pages 176 to 188 of the February 1866 Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered urging passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, This is as good a summary of what a republic is supposed to be as any you are going to find. It consists of carefully selected quotes from many of the founding fathers. In the 1850s, Senator Sumner was such a persistent and powerful critic of Southern slave holders that in May 1856, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks nearly killed Sumner on the floor of the Senate by beating him over the head with a cane. Brooks continued to beat Sumner even after Sumner had lost consciousness. Other Senators were prevented from stopping the attack by Virginia Representative Henry A. Edmundson and South Carolina Representative Laurence Keitt, who brandished a pistol. Sumner required three years to recover before he could return to his Senate seat, and suffered chronic, debilitating pain for the rest of his life. Two weeks after the attack, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "I do not see how a barbarous community and a civilized community can constitute one state. I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.”
 Kevin Phillips, Chapters 6 and 7, "Defeat and Resurrection: The Southernization of America" and "The United States in a Dixie Cup: The New Religious and Political Battlegrounds," American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century
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