A Book for Our Time of Crisis
Sept. 5, 2022–Editor’s Note: I am reissuing this post because, although it was written more than two years ago, its message continues to go directly to the point. We need Hamilton’s approach as outlined in his Report on Manufactures to address our continuing supply chain problems, and the body blows which both inflation (largely caused by speculation replacing investment) and the Fed’s current interest rate policy are delivering to our nation (and the world).
April 5, 2020—A horrific crisis we could have minimized, if not avoided, is already upon us, but this is no time to simply sit back and let it proceed. It’s time to read my book Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System, and start thinking about the policies we must adopt now to save our nation.
I obviously didn’t know the coronavirus disaster would erupt when I published my book in early 2019. But it was clear to me that the abandonment of the American System of economics had put our nation in grave peril, whether it be from the collapse of a 100-year-old tunnel, the blockage of our vital inland waterways, a financial blowout, or rampant disease. Indeed, as many news outlets are now reporting, there have been an abundant number of forecasts of inevitable viral pandemics, and even preparedness exercises, which have been virtually ignored, administration after administration.
The American System of economics launched by Alexander Hamilton was not developed as a policy of “crisis management;” its perspective would better be characterized as nation-building, with a strong orientation to continuous economic progress. However, Hamilton’s system was born in a period of crisis, and it has been in periods of extreme crisis that some of our greatest Presidents – notably Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – have turned to them as the pathway to recovery.
Yet, tragically, the lion’s share of the American population, and I dare say even a majority of economic professors and policymakers, have shown themselves either woefully ignorant, or openly hostile, to Hamiltonian economics. That’s why it is so critical for Americans to finally learn its basic principles, and how they were put into effect to build our nation.
My book Hamilton Versus Wall Street will start you off on the right path.[The book is available at iuniverse or Amazon.com.]
Some Telling Examples
I have written elsewhere about how the pursuit of Hamilton’s American System would have addressed the current crisis we face with the coronavirus, but a couple examples are worth reviewing here.
Take our inability to supply ourselves with protective equipment for our hospital personnel. This could only happen with the adoption of a fiscal austerity policy that goes against the fundamentals of Hamilton’s policy. He insisted that our nation, and all nations, must be able to provide for its people’s own subsistence, defense, habitation, and clothing. And defense includes defense against disease, as the early Founding Fathers, faced with the periodic ravages of Yellow Fever, knew well.
Similarly, with the shortages of hospital beds and personnel.
Also critical would be the existence of a government-backed credit institution that could be drawn on to surge our requirements in a period of crisis – as FDR’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and Lincoln’s greenbacks did. Hamilton pioneered that approach with his National Bank.
Hamilton even proposed as early as 1792, that the Federal government begin to set up a network of Marine hospitals, to care for sick and disabled sailors. President Adams’ implementation of this plan in 1798 is considered the foundation of the Public Health system which we have so decimated today.
Fortunately, we do have the benefit of one of Hamilton’s proposals, the creation of the Army Corps of Engineers as a resource for expert technological assistance for the nation. That Corps was part of the “standing army,” if you will, that Hamilton insisted our nation required in order to deal with future emergencies. What a stark contrast with the “just-in-time” kind of thinking which has increasingly characterized our Wall Street-dominated economy for more than 50 years now!
A Road Map
What is the key to creating wealth, prosperity, and security in an economy? That is the crucial question we have to answer, and Alexander Hamilton answers it most thoroughly in his Report on the Subject of Manufactures, the fourth major economic paper to come from his pen. Yet most writers about Hamilton and American economic history give that extensive document short shrift.
Not so for Hamilton Versus Wall Street. I present that document as the “Rosetta Stone” for Hamilton’s political economy, and devote two full chapters to elaborating its content. As reviewer Gerald Storch put it, my chapters outlining the Report “are required reading for anyone with the desire to understand those views, but disinclined to read nearly ninety pages of an eighteenth century economic tract.” And as far as I know, you won’t find such a discussion anywhere else!
A large portion of the rest of the 240-page book is devoted to presenting how Hamilton’s American System ideas were put into practice in American history, and around the world. This is a history which has been taken up to some extent by authors such as Michael Lind, and referenced by Hamilton biographer Richard Sylla, but has never been put together in a broad historical sweep as I have done.
Your very idea of what built America’s periods of economic greatness will be challenged. You will meet leading organizers of the American System whom you’ve never heard of – but without whose contribution to our history, we would never have prospered. Their ideas are exciting, and surprisingly modern. And you will learn how Lincoln and FDR utilized Hamilton’s ideas to bring our nation out of the threat of disintegration, into previously unattained economic prosperity.
Ditto with the influence which Hamilton’s American System ideas have had in world history, and how the spread was deliberately organized by our leading statesmen against the power of the British imperial system.[The book is available at iuniverse or amazon.com.]
The Pathway to Survival
The implications of Hamilton’s successful policies for today will be evident throughout the book, but to assimilate them, the reader has to overcome some of the virulent slanders of the first Treasury Secretary. Two chapters are devoted specifically to two major such slanders: one, that Hamilton’s key economic institution, the First Bank of the United States, was a copy of the British Bank of England; and the second, that Hamilton was a supporter of British free trade economist Adam Smith.
In conclusion, I venture to apply Hamilton’s American System approach to the question of how to save our economy today, including with the proposal for a National Infrastructure Bank funded, as he did, by capitalizing existent Federal debt, and devoted exclusively to developing the physical economy. The published proposal is by no means the last word, but rather an exercise in getting people to think, as Hamilton did, of how to bring our nation out of bankruptcy and into the “more perfect union” which our Constitution commits us to promoting. That cannot be done, I argue, without an economy based on principles like those put forward by Alexander Hamilton.
Below you will find the Table of Contents of the book, geared as it is to challenging much of the standard orthodoxy about Hamilton, and how our nation was built.
You need to read Hamilton Versus Wall Street now!
Table of Contents
Chapter I: Alexander Hamilton would have been the foremost opponent of Wall Street today.
Chapter 2: Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures is the Rosetta Stone of his economics.
Chapter 3: What the Report on Manufactures proposes
Chapter 4: Hamilton’s ideas of political economy formed the basis for America’s prosperity.
Chapter 5: Abraham Lincoln, Hamiltonian
Chapter 6: Franklin Roosevelt chose Hamilton.
Chapter 7: Hamilton was a vigorous opponent of Adam Smith.
Chapter 8: Hamilton’s banking system was not British!
Chapter 9: The spread of Hamilton’s economics threatened to bring down the British Empire.
Chapter 10: Hamilton’s political economy is key to saving the American Constitutional Republic.
Chapter 11: A Hamiltonian Vision for Today
 Hamilton and his wife both suffered through serious bouts with Yellow Fever in the great epidemic in 1793.
 See Land of Promise, An Economic History of the United States, published in 2012.
 See Alexander Hamilton, The Illustrated Biography, published in 2016.