Jack Rakove, one of the most reliable sources when it comes to making sure that the words and deed of the Founding Fathers are taken in vain, has come up with in interest analysis of partisanship. This appeared in the Book, the online review site for The New Republic; and the book he was examining is Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States by Michael Lind. This is a book that tries to use the distinction of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian thinking as a framework for interpreting economic history.
Lind has apparently attracted many champions, one of whom is
David Brooks in his capacity as columnist for The New York Times. As one who believes that any assertion made by
Brooks should be taken with less than a grain of salt, this made me curious
about both the book and Rakove’s review. When it turned out that Brooks accused
Lind of not being Hamiltonian enough, I suspected that Rakove would take me on
a delightfully informing ride.
Basically, he manages to kill two birds with one stone.
First he offers his own take on economic history. Then, he not only demolishes
the whole Hamilton-Jefferson dichotomy (along with partisan divisiveness) but
also establishes that all of the
Founding Fathers were smart enough to be empirical, rather than ideological. It
would make no sense to ask what either Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson
(or, for that matter, Benjamin Franklin or George Washington) would do in the
face of our economic crisis. None of them would advocate any action without
first assessing the situation in which their actions would be embedded. That
assessment would necessitate wrestling out differences of opinion as to just
what the situation actually was, something we seem to be very poor at by virtue
of the extent to which we have allowed knowledge to become contaminated by
divisive partisan ideology.
My guess is that any of the contributors to our original
Constitution, if transported to the present day, would barely recognize the government
in terms of what had originally be envisaged and ratified.