June 02, 2010
"Land of Promise" Released Today
Breakthrough Journal contributor Michael Lind's important new work, Land of Promise.
At the core of America's economic growth has always been a dynamic relationship between technology-driven change and political modernization according to Breakthrough Journal contributor Michael Lind's important new work, Land of Promise.
In a sweeping economic history of the United States released today, Lind, who is cofounder of the New American Foundation, traces how the competing Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian philosophies have shaped and defined the history of the United States for the past two hundred years and argues that it is Hamiltonianism that has laid the foundation for America's prosperity.
"In a spirit of philosophical bipartisanship, it would be pleasant to conclude that each of these traditions of political economy had made its own valuable contribution to the success of the American economy and that the vector created by these opposing forces has been more beneficial than the complete victory of either would have been. But that would not be true. What is good about the American economy is largely the result of the Hamiltonian developmental tradition, and what is bad about it is largely the result of the Jeffersonian producerist school."
Dividing American history into three separate republics, Lind explores how new technologies have spawned and smashed America's political economies. The "cataclysmic" periods of American political reform -- the Civil War and Reconstruction, the New Deal and the civil rights era -- were in many respects responses to the epic technological and economic changes. Throughout it all, Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians battled over the future of the United States.
Lind credits Hamiltonians with national civil rights laws, the national highway system, and the Internet. The Jeffersonians, meanwhile, are held responsible for underinvestment in infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as "irrational antitrust laws and anti-chain store laws designed to privilege small producers."
As the information technology revolution nears its peak, having transformed nearly every sector of the economy, Lind argues that the United States must now embark on a familiar, yet uncertain path of political modernization and renewal. The modern American state was built during the Great Depression and World War II, and expanded during the Great Society. But it was not created to address the challenges and opportunities of global finance or transnational production.
Our prosperity in the 21st Century depends on a modernized American system befitting our technology-driven, globalized circumstances: one that supports innovation, infrastructure, and manufacturing and -- in the Hamiltonian tradition -- views government and business as collaborators rather than antagonists.
Will America continue to be a land of promise? Writes Lind, "The American experiment could end in failure." Or we might "emerge fron the trial of the Great Recession as a more productive nation with more widespread sharing of the gains from growth." Will we follow the rich history and potential of Hamilton, or cling to the nostalgia of Jefferson? The choice is ours.