Author Topic: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians  (Read 4918 times)

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Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« on: February 10, 2012, 11:43:46 PM »
Civility in political discourse has been a big subject during the past few years.  I certainly don't expect to be able to improve it, especially on an Internet discussion board, but we can still talk about it - even in an uncivil manner.  I think the anonymity of the Internet simply provides too large a temptation to be hyperbolic and over-the-top caustic to be resisted.  And, of course, that's part of the fun of it for many.

But when it comes to serious political debate out in the real world, it becomes another matter entirely.  This attitude now seems to be spilling over into the actual political discourse of the country, out where things actually get done - or don't.  The incivility is also encouraged by the Limbaughs and the Olbermanns.  What hard-core ideologues don't seem to understand is that these people are getting paid to be outrageous.  I have heard it said that these pundits on Fox News, MSNBC, etc. are perfectly reasonable people, for the most part, in the green room, and then go on TV and proceed to say the most outrageous things.  And their followers lap it all up.

The problem with this is, as we have seen in recent years in Washington DC, that a republic cannot function in such an environment.  The two sides don't have to agree on issues, but they do need to be able to discuss their differences and reach a compromise.  But if each side is going to demonize the other, and even worse, when that is used as a tactic toward winning the next election, the system breaks down.  

We've now grown so accustomed to this mode of operation, that I'm not sure how it will ever change, short of some sort of radical step like a Constitutional Convention.  Our form of government was intended to function with an enlightened population, a population which realizes that all members are a part of a social compact by necessity.  Such enlightened people would realize that it's okay to look out for their own enlightened self-interest, rather than their more narrow unenlightened self-interest, but that part of being an enlightened society means looking out for the best interests of the larger society as well.  While you may not agree with the other side, you need to have the attitude, or at least pretend to have the attitude, that the other side is also made up of basically decent, well-meaning, individuals who simply have a different perspective.  It's good if this level of civility is genuine, but the art of pretending has its place as well.

Jefferson and Hamilton did not get along at all.  In private, Jefferson on occasion even said he "hated" Hamilton and thought he was a danger to the Republic.  Yet, when meeting for official business, Jefferson could pour a glass of wine for Hamilton, just as easily as he could for his good friend Madison, and would even go for strolls with Hamilton through the garden.  What is kind of amusing now, is that we have some people on the far right who imagine themselves to be Jeffersonians, who embody only a very narrow set of facets of Jefferson.  Yet they ardently believe that they are truly "Jeffersonian", and that they embody what the country was "truly" intended  to be.  Many on the far left, of course, are in fact socialists or communists, and embody nothing of what this country was supposed to be like.  But most mainstream liberals embody facets of both Jefferson and Hamilton within their belief systems.  Most mainstream conservatives do this as well, and the difference between them is just a slight difference of degree, or an emphasis on economic issues vs. social issues.

Jefferson did believe in a very limited federal government, in government in general as a necessary evil.  But he also believed that people living within a society had to have a social compact, and believing that all men are created equal, he theorized about ways that the social compact could be built to keep them as equal as possible.  This sums up much of Jefferson, and I suspect that most will recognize the first aspect in today's political right, but the latter aspect goes more with the stereotypical political left of today.  

Hamilton, on the other hand, did not think the people were capable of self governance.  He thought that a select group of elites needed to run things in Washington, that this central federal government needed to be very strong, and that the people needed to leave the running of the country to them.  Most conservatives would see this as a part of today's political left as well.

So it seems that today's left, in fact, encompasses most of Hamilton and about half of Jefferson.  Today's right, on the other hand, has taken the limited government lesson from Jefferson, but only that single part of Jefferson, and made a virtual religion out of it, leaving behind the enlightened compassion of Jefferson.

The other side of the argument in conservatives' favor, though, is that if you look at the country today, we have completely failed Jefferson's vision.  Instead, we have become almost a purely Hamiltonian country, with the very strong federal government inserting itself into all affairs, completely overwhelming the sovereignty of the individual states.  The nearly total focus on being as much of a financial and economic powerhouse as possible, rather than being more focused on culture, is very Hamiltonian as well.  It is very true that with more government intrusion comes less individual freedom, so the conservatives - even those of today - can provide a valuable function by helping to push us toward keeping government from getting even further out of control than it already has.

We live in a much, much, more complex society today than that of the 18th century, and we need correspondingly much more government, but it is also in the nature of society for government to grow stronger over time, even if all else remains the same.  The ideal government would only do what is needed, and not actively - on its own - go around seeking out new things to do.  Of course, we differ on what it is that government needs to do, but I suspect that most recognize that the federal government has been in the proactive mode for quite a long time now.  Jefferson's solution for this was for each new generation to reinvent the Constitution for it's own time.



Well, I'm afraid that this turned into a bit of a ramble, but it gets some thoughts out there that I've been wanting to express.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 11:59:58 PM by Undecided »

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2012, 12:41:46 AM »
With the exception of this...

Quote
We live in a much, much, more complex society today than that of the 18th century, and we need correspondingly much more government

I pretty much agree with everything you said.

It was a very good post.
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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2012, 12:45:23 AM »
I think that one of the points I wanted to get across is that the right and left in this country both embody various principles of the founders.  If we could somehow put the fringe elements and the demonization aside, we might discover that we're not so alien from one another after all.

Offline nraforlife

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 09:20:06 AM »
"We live in a much, much, more complex society today than that of the 18th century, and we need correspondingly much more government,"

Trite, often claimed and utterly untrue. Most of what the Federals do is not only unConstitutional but actively harmful to the vast majority of Citiizens, including 70 - 80% of the military budget.

A weak toothless federal government would be a Blessing.

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 09:36:44 AM »
I think that one of the points I wanted to get across is that the right and left in this country both embody various principles of the founders.  If we could somehow put the fringe elements and the demonization aside, we might discover that we're not so alien from one another after all.

i heart a lot of this talk of civility.  i think one of our mistakes is to think that back in the day politics used to be more civil.  i just do not know.  i mean Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton.  Not exactly the epitome of civil discourse.  Think of the attempts by Conway and associates to remove Washington, they use of innuendo and outright smears.

with regard to people being alike, i am not so sure.  i can agree with people every once in a while but i don't think that people whose first thought is "kill the homosexual", i am referring here to ivan, is someone to whom i could compare myself.  Would you compare yourself to that person?  Is political and sexual violence your go to in political disagreement?
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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 10:07:35 AM »
In regards to civil discourse in my estimation the combination of partisan talk radio, partisan cable TV, partisan internet sites has ratcheted up and amplified what is actually, by historical standards, a normal animosity filled diametrically opposed right vs left struggle for power, which hasexisted since the beginning of the founding of the country.       The bitterness and the spread between the way right and left think is no different now than it always has been, advances in technology have just made it more pronounced.   
So let's see how fucking brilliant I truly am.

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2012, 10:22:59 AM »
I think that one of the points I wanted to get across is that the right and left in this country both embody various principles of the founders.  If we could somehow put the fringe elements and the demonization aside, we might discover that we're not so alien from one another after all.

i totally disagree.  the current mentalities that make up what we refer to as "the right" these days bears little to no resemblance to the traits espoused by the founders.

the founders despite their differences in approach were all men of letters  meaning they respected scholarship, education and reason.

do you see that represented anywhere on the right currently?  in fact,  you would be hard pressed to come with any unifying meme of the right these days besides fear and punitive hate;  that certainly wasn't a motivator for the founders.

the right today is composed of loutish, emotionally stunted,  anti-intellectual zealots who bear little resemblance in extreme to their counterparts on the left and certainly little resemblance to the founders.

peace

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2012, 10:29:57 AM »
In regards to civil discourse in my estimation the combination of partisan talk radio, partisan cable TV, partisan internet sites has ratcheted up and amplified what is actually, by historical standards, a normal animosity filled diametrically opposed right vs left struggle for power, which hasexisted since the beginning of the founding of the country.       The bitterness and the spread between the way right and left think is no different now than it always has been, advances in technology have just made it more pronounced.   

Well, i agree that there is a lot of bitterness.  As to shootings there are people like Jim David Adkisson.  ANd let's not forget violence on the left.   There was that guy who bombed those abortion clinics...oh, yeah.  Rightie.  Well there was that guy who firebombed Russ Carnahan's off...oh yeah...rightie.  Well there was that guy who killed the abortion doct...oh, yeah...rightie.  Well there were those two guys who beat that tea partier...oh, yeah...not guilty.
"You could access his memories, assuming there's no brain damage. Of course you'd have to have an electro-magnetic probe placed in the base of your skull whilst immersed without clothing in the old tank, and you'd be heavily drugged." -- Dr. Walter Bishop

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2012, 10:36:10 AM »
Fiddy Cent is a conservative.
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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2012, 10:44:50 AM »
....................    The bitterness and the spread between the way right and left think ........................

There is no difference. You are both driven by a fascistic version of Statism in which War both at home & in foreign lands is the health of the State.

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2012, 10:45:22 AM »
There is no difference. You are both driven by a fascistic version of Statism in which War both at home & in foreign lands is the health of the State.

Look at you..thinking you know stuff or make sense.
"You could access his memories, assuming there's no brain damage. Of course you'd have to have an electro-magnetic probe placed in the base of your skull whilst immersed without clothing in the old tank, and you'd be heavily drugged." -- Dr. Walter Bishop

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2012, 10:57:38 AM »
There is no difference. You are both driven by a fascistic version of Statism in which War both at home & in foreign lands is the health of the State.

nra,  what "war at home"?  be specific.  don't just say shit because you think it makes you sound like you're saying something of merit.  what "war at home"?

also,  name the wars of agression started by the left as opposed to those started by the right;  they don't stack up equally no matter what nonsense you're being fed in your newsletters.

the repubs want to attack iran;  the dems don't.  that should be a clue for you.

peace

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2012, 01:22:49 PM »
"We live in a much, much, more complex society today than that of the 18th century, and we need correspondingly much more government,"

Trite, often claimed and utterly untrue. Most of what the Federals do is not only unConstitutional but actively harmful to the vast majority of Citiizens, including 70 - 80% of the military budget.

A weak toothless federal government would be a Blessing.

This is the reason Jefferson thought that the Constitution should be rewritten for each generation.  The social compact needs to be changed to keep up with changes in society.  Yes, there is a means of amending the Constitution, but it has not been used nearly enough, perhaps because the process turns out to be too difficult.

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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2012, 01:24:56 PM »
This is the reason Jefferson thought that the Constitution should be rewritten for each generation. 

You're really hung up on this "feeling" of Jefferson; aren't you?
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Re: Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2012, 01:27:17 PM »
i heart a lot of this talk of civility.  i think one of our mistakes is to think that back in the day politics used to be more civil.  i just do not know.  i mean Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton.  Not exactly the epitome of civil discourse.  Think of the attempts by Conway and associates to remove Washington, they use of innuendo and outright smears.

That's right, but I think this refers to the nature of political discourse in the country in general, not necessarily between any two particular people.  Of course, relations between individuals are going to occasionally spiral out of control.  Hamilton was a bit of a hot head and allowed himself to be goaded into participating in a barbaric way of settling differences.

Quote
with regard to people being alike, i am not so sure.  i can agree with people every once in a while but i don't think that people whose first thought is "kill the homosexual", i am referring here to ivan, is someone to whom i could compare myself.  Would you compare yourself to that person?  Is political and sexual violence your go to in political disagreement?

No, that sort of thing has no place in civilized discussion and rightly should be shouted down and marginalized.