Sunday, April 10

This is what happens when one gets flippant with people who study history

ZenPundit is back from vacation and wrote to respond to Pundita's snit at being branded a Hamiltonian realist and to elaborate on why he termed the Democracy Stage Show Kit essay (see sidebar) "Hamiltonian realism." With his permission I publish our exchanges:

"Pundita, Your DSSK essay was, in fact, the very first piece of yours that I read. Actually I haven't read the Mead book either. I was using "Hamiltonian" in its truest sense (Hamilton I have read) of an awareness of the complexity and fallibility of human nature intersecting with government and requiring a realism about the latter's perfectibility as a system. (Personally, on schools of foreign policy I like McDougal's Promised Land-Crusader State dichotomy.)

Hamilton made his case in the Federalist papers to dispel the inevitable purist complaints of the radicals--the Henrys, Paines, Sam Adams, etc.--in order to establish a Constitutional system that would actually work in the real world.

Hamilton understood the difference between Jefferson's romantic agrarian idealism and republican realism and pushed Washington to be the strong executive so that the new national government would actually be capable of taking effective decisions, unlike the Confederation.

Hamilton, in short, dealt with republican governments as they would actually work when infused with interests and factions. His contributions, I would argue, kept our system from being hijacked by demagogues for a want of clarity about a leader's motives and the wisdom of the crowd.

So, more or less, I saw a similar clarity in your Democracy Stage Show Kit essay: democracy being a fine thing but not a deus ex machina moment where a good parade erases elite interests or the factions that operate behind the scenes. Probably not quite the same thing as what Dave [Schuler at the Glittering Eye blog] means by "Hamiltonian"--I've meant to get into that debate with him....

[Signed] Mark (ZenPundit)"

"Mark, may I publish your reply? I think Pundita readers would enjoy it. I certainly did.

[Signed] Pundita"

"Feel free to publish it though you might wish to drop the parenthetical aside on Walter McDougal since that would probably confuse people who are not up on the minutia of diplomatic historiography.

The great thing about our founders--Franklin, Madison, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Mason and the rest--is that they really had read deeply--Montesquieu, Locke, Polybius, Aristotle, Machiavelli--and frequently in the original languages.

They also had the trial run of writing state constitutions. Most of the delegates to the [Constitutional Convention or 'Continental Congress'] had been involved in writing constitutions for the various states; they had several years in which to observe what wasn't working. Their view of human nature had no illusions and that's one reason why, Hamilton excepted, they died [of natural causes].
[Signed] Mark"

Well. More reasons to prod one's children to study Latin and ancient Greek. And another reminder about the usefulness of studying history. At least those Pundita readers who don't get around to perusing Mead's book can nod knowingly at a cocktail party if the author's name comes up in conversation. Now as for McDougall's Promised Land-Crusader State dichotomy....

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