A very interesting essay, and I know you labored very hard over it, but you might profit by having someone proof or even lightly edit it. Some of the sentences are needlessly long and complex, and thus I doubt few will make it all the way to the end.

Expand full comment

Thanks, Corrine. Good advice.

Expand full comment

>Hamilton viewed the “end” of government as interpreted via the Constitution’s “General Welfare” clause in the broadest terms possible,

I'm unpleasantly surprised that one of the politically sophisticated intellectuals who founded the US understood "general welfare" in this way. It is one of those ambiguities which have an individual ("distributive") and collective meaning. Even worse, it's a collective mystical meaning, ie, the welfare of a mystical entity above and beyond the individual welfare of individuals. It's very strange that Hamilton accepted the mystical meaning in the Enlightenment, the ONLY basically individualist culture in history. The Enlightenment is the product of 400 years (four centuries) of basic cultural change from the Christian supernaturalism of unreal individuals to individualist naturalism of real individuals. Both today's Rightists and Leftists continue the rejection or even denial of Enlightenment indiidualism.

Expand full comment

I shared your piece to my friends on FB, with these comments. :)

America is really a lot more radical than people appreciate. All Americans should understand the history told in the linked piece, and the knock-on effects it has to this day. What we now think of as "Leftists" actually represent a view that goes back to the Founding and beyond. We continue to live out and argue over the subjects of this history to this very day, indeed some would argue that this tension is what is tearing us apart.

Yes, the linked piece is kinda long. If you care about the discussion, and how we got here, find time to read it.

Note that I don't really endorse what seems to be his thesis: that what he calls the laissez-faire Constitution and the resulting social arrangements he describes, are sufficient. The world we are in today shows that they are not.

Humans are a lot less rational than this gentleman and those like him think. America was only able to do the Constitution/new society thing because it was all built on the bedrock of nearly-universal Christianity. The author doesn't acknowledge this much at all but I think it is central.

The falling-away of Christianity is precisely why we have the troubles we do today. Not that Christianity is any cure-all (consider history), but that the parts of being a human that rationality doesn't deal with are huge and important. No society can succeed which does not deal with them properly.

What does "self-interest" *mean*? What does Self mean? What is Life for and how do you live it? Again, the new society dream he describes doesn't deal with these questions At All, and that was possible only because Christianity was there as a backstop. Now that Christianity "isn't there" in at least some sense, we have Issues.

To be clear, the point isn't Christianity vs. non-Christianity. It's some sort of guide to life, and the acknowledgement that you need one versus chaos, versus "you figure it out". I'm sorry, but IME the great majority of people are not all that qualified to wrestle with the Big Questions of life, nor interested. They need the answers, the conclusions, not the questions. And even if you do decide to wrestle with the Big Questions, it takes a lifetime or more. Ask me how I know. 🙂

You're a human being. You're an infant/child for 10 years, a learning youngster for 10 more, and in that time you're supposed to figure out the secrets of life, and how to live one properly, and sally forth and make your adulthood? On your own, by your Self, as in Self-interest? It's going to be self-evident how to do that? It's ridiculous. And I would argue it doesn't even frickin work if there isn't already a set of typical answers in place for those questions.

So, as much as I detest that idiot Hamilton and all like him, the other side doesn't have it right either. One side has way too much faith in their own intelligence and abilities, and the other has far too much faith in the ability of the common man to figure everything out for himself.

And here we are.

Expand full comment

So the state should decide things for us? Or some authority?

No, I think individual self-determination is the answer. We're not stupid, and basically people are good and the ones who are malicious have to answer to the law.

We all figure things out in life, and whether the over-arching state dictates to us or we're free to pursue out own interests, we still have to figure things out.

I don't believe that Christianity is so important. I think what's important is realizing the power of reason and logic that's inherent in all of us, and that serves as the foundation for human interaction. I like to keep religion out of it.

Expand full comment

Great essay as usual. Interestingly this reminded me a of a book I read a few years back called "A Short History of Ma" by Hans-Hermann Hoppe where he writes similar things you've mentioned here but long before the period you cover. I think long ago, man figured out that in order to survive – besides individual wants and needs – he needed freedom of exchange vis-a-vis Lazze-faire to not only survive but thrive. And no authority was needed to achieve it.

Expand full comment

That was interesting and well-done, and motivated me to upgrade to paid. I wish we could get back to a version of government a lot closer to what was envisioned by the founders, but I think the chances of that, in the absence of some huge crisis, are not zero but close to it. But oh well, it's the 4th Turning, so you never know....

Expand full comment