Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review of "Hamilton's Curse" by Thomas DiLorenzo

"Hamilton's Curse" continues the welcome revisionist history tradition of the scholars of the Mises Institute and the Lew Rockwell circle. With this book, Prof. DiLorenzo goes back earlier in American history to expand on the thesis he presented in his two prior works on Abraham Lincoln ("The Real Lincoln" and "Lincoln Unmasked"), i.e. the lamentable victory of the empire-builders, strong central government advocates, and mercantilists of the Federalist Party tradition over the Jeffersonian limited-government faction. With this book, DiLorenzo convincingly buttresses his earlier argument that the Lincoln administration and the War Between the States dealt the fatal blow to States Rights, federalism, and for all intents and purposes, the American Constitution in its original conception.

The author uses direct quotations from Hamilton's hagriographers, as well as his detractors, to prove his case. All of them view Hamilton as the father of the type of government we have today, and all agree that Jefferson's vision effectively died with the defeat of the South and the States Rights doctrine. The disagreements between the two camps are many and profound, of course, as they are based on profound differences in political philosophy. The reader will bring his own prejudices to bear as to whether Hamiltonian America is the way the country should have gone, but an honest reader will not easily dismiss the evidence of political chicanery, double-dealing, and corruption at the highest levels of government that the Hamiltonians used to win their fight. True, politics ain't beanbag, but I will leave it up to the interested reader to judge whether the Hamiltonians were the good or bad guys. Tax and spend liberals and conservative imperialists will doubtless disagree with my answer.

If I have one criticism of this book, it's the final chapter's prescription on how to roll back the damage caused by the Hamiltonians. Prof. DiLorenzo is a minarchist and believes that if we repealed the 16th (income tax) and 17th (popular election of Senators) Amendments, abolished the Federal Reserve, restored the doctrine of States Rights, repealed all the laws that perverted the meaning of the Commerce Clause, and so on, we would be back to the Jeffersonian vision and, presumably, on the right track for good and all. I'm just a bit more cynical about the prospects for "good government", no matter what its size. I say, why not permantly castrate the central government and go all the way back to the Articles of Confederation - as a first step. After that, why not convene an Anarchy Convention to figure out how to eliminate the scourge of government from our lives and our country, forever.
But that's just me. What do you think?