Foreshadowing his future role as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton focuses on economic issues in this essay. He claims that a “vigorous national government” would provide many advantages in the area of trade and commercial enterprise. The restrictive tariffs and taxes imposed by states on each other would vanish, opening up new possibilities for local producers and merchants. Like the Chicago School after him, Hamilton cites the freedom of movement as the foundation for prosperity. But unlike the Chicago School he sees the value in imposing tariffs and embargoes from time-to-time. He does not promote any long term ban on shipping but claims that if the United States were unified it could gain a seat at the table of world trade. Not only could it have a seat, it could play with those countries and even force them, through tariffs, embargoes, etc. to open up trade in other parts where those powerful nations held monopolies. He refers specifically to the British and the West Indian trade which was severely limited to American shipping.
Having an “active commerce” and a navy to protect it would threaten the hegemony the Europeans held in the Americas of the 18th century. It would foster and promote the “adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America,” thus securing our economic independence to accompany our political freedom. America has ever been the center for adventurous and free trade but at certain periods of our history, do to the folly of legislatures, presidents and portions of the people our trade has been less than open and free. Currently, I fear that policies of stimulus and pump-priming can only promote dependence and security rather than adventure and freedom. Carbon taxes and environmental policies, designed for technology we currently either do not have or are way too cost inefficient, threaten to cripple the small businessmen and women who form the core of America’s adventurous spirit. Forcing environmental policies that are anti-business will force more companies to go off shore to foreign countries to produce, continue to pollute and cost Americans jobs. Developing green technology that is affordable and then setting the economy on a more environmentally sound course is the only way to keep American economically strong.
A final word on some of the things that stuck out to me in this essay. Hamilton refers to an active commerce giving America wings to “soar to a dangerous greatness.” He also talks of England’s status in the 18th century world as the height of power and glory. As I read, those statements seemed to go together. America has indeed soared to a dangerous greatness and it seems we have taken England’s place as that nation who because of her “superiority” has “plumed herself as the mistress of the world,” and considers the “rest of mankind as created for her benefit.” I pray that America can avoid the “arrogant pretensions of the European” of the 18th century.
If our power and influence has diminished in the eyes of the world that is fine, as long as we are holding true to the values and principles that made this country great and exceptional. But how do we do that? We begin by repudiating the welfare structure, created by FDR and fostered by succeeding presidents, that weakens America’s adventurous spirit and foster dependence. Not only on our government, but on the foreign nations Washington must ever increasingly rely on to fund its welfare mandates. This dependence was on display as George Soros and Federal officials handed our money in New York City on 11 August 2009. As the the New York Daily News reported: “It’s free money!” said Alecia Rumph, 26, who waited in a Morris Park, Bronx, line 300 people deep for the cash to buy uniforms and book bags for her two kids. Thank God for Obama. He’s looking out for us.”
If we continue this pattern of dependence we will go the way of that great 18th century Britannic Empire; maybe not out but certainly down.