Friday, September 26, 2008

Addendum: Hamiltonian Thinkers

David Brooks writes an article praising John McCain -- perhaps in fearful reaction to the McCain camp's war on the media -- or perhaps out of genuine respect. He describes all the qualities I used to associate with McCain -- integrity, humility, toughness, and a body that appears to be made out of raw sourdough. Okay, I added that last one. But still -- the fact remains that this election has done a lot to change that perception. Although, it's also fair to note that Obama has been plenty unfair in his ads as well lately.

Brooks concludes, praising McCain: "If McCain is elected, he will retain his instinct for the hard challenge. With that Greatest Generation style of his, he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all — and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign — a serious man prone to serious things."

That sounds great but here's the problem: McCain isn't running to be leader of the Autobots. Facing hard challenges and judge of character may work for Optimus Prime, but the last 8 years have shown us the danger in having a president who is "not an organized administrator" or a "sophisticated conceptual thinker." The financial mess is case in point: Paulson wants to close his eyes and throw a lot of money at the problem, while more conceptual thinkers (yes, I'm citing Paul Krugman yet again) see the issues as slightly more complicated.

Obama, I trust. Why? He's a conceptual thinker. How do I know this? Because unlike every other political candidate in history, when he gave his March 2008 speech on the economy, he appeared to favor Alexander Hamilton over Thomas Jefferson. Politicians love to quote Jefferson, but Jefferson was an agrarian populist who thought the country would be nothing but a bunch of libertarian farmers. Hamilton, on the other hand, was the genius behind the structuring of the American economy. As Obama explained: "The great task before our founders was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young secretary of the treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy. Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market, but he balanced that belief with a conviction that human enterprise, and I quote, "may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government." Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets. And he encouraged manufacturing and infrastructure, so products could be moved to market. Hamilton met fierce opposition from Thomas Jefferson, who worried that this brand of capitalism would favor the interests of the few over the many. Jefferson preferred an agrarian economy, because he believed that it would give individual landowners freedom and that this freedom would nurture our democratic institutions."

In fact, a historical perspective may help illuminate a lot about this election. I'm trying to get a man we call "the Lifetime Learner" to write a special piece on this topic. The Lifetime Learner is a guy who read several books on each President (that's right, even Millar Fillmore) just to be able to say with conviction that Bush was the worst ever. I think the verdict was that he narrowly beat out Zachary Taylor.

Anyway, I'm going to see if I can get a guest post for you this weekend along with the regular posts. I hope the debate comes off tonight and proves that Obama is the Hamilton to McCain's Jefferson when it comes to conceptual thinking. As for populism, however, I'm hoping Obama can play that message as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Watch the debate?

I can't wait to see the VP debate. I almost feel sorry for Palin because she is going to get so destroyed.