Monday, July 30, 2012

A New Book by Clyde Wilson and Brion McClanahan

The former says its "goal has been to establish a conservative tradition of thought that, from the War of Independence to the mid-20th century, defended the decentralist, laissez-faire, and non-interventionist regime bequeathed by the best of the Founding Fathers" — Conservatism Without Alexander, Abraham, and Irving. An excerpt:
    Conservatism, for us, has been a powerful and eloquent train of thinkers who have opposed the Hamilton/Lincoln regime of state-capitalism and the Roosevelt/Bush/Irving Kristol agenda of "global democracy." Our conservatism stands strongly contra to the historic Republican party and to "neoconservative" imperialism. In this we are not so much out-of-step as some may think. Russell Kirk, "the father of modern conservatism," considered Alexander Hamilton to be no conservative but rather a dubious "innovator." And more than once Kirk lamented that "the conservative disposition" in the United States has too often been misunderstood by identifying it with rent-seeking behaviour.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

The characterization of Kirk's views of Hamilton are incomplete. While at the beginning of his career Kirk was skeptical of Hamilton's conservative credentials, at the end of his life Kirk had come around to understanding that it was Hamilton who represented conservatism and it was Jefferson who was a radical. Kirk described himself from the 1960's on as a "disciple of the Federalists," and he included writings by Hamilton in his Portable Conservative Reader. How many writings by Jefferson did Kirk include? Precisely this many: zero.

Kirk's last major work, Rights and Duties, includes a robust defense of the Hamiltonian approach to the US Constitution. Kirk rejected the Jeffersonian approach to constitutional construction and wrote a full-throated defense not only of Hamilton's legal theory but also Hamilton's political & economic program. Kirk also did much to argue that the characterization of Hamilton's views by many of his Jeffersonian opponents were exaggerated and distorted. Rights and Duties is well worth reading.

July 31, 2012 at 2:17 AM  

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