Alexander Hamilton and the Politics of Impatience (From Balancing Trade to a Balanced History): Part III

Wealth of NationsAdam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published the same year as the Declaration of Independence,  and Hamilton was right to perceive a growing appreciation of its basic message among his countrymen. Smith wrote to dispel the errors of mercantilism. Hamilton wrote to keep them current.  In particular, he was fond of Sir James Steuart, who represented Smith’s “chief foil.” Curiously, McCraw buries this in his footnotes at the back of The Founders and Finance. (383/4 n. 4) But McCraw is not at all hesitant to declare Hamilton a “first-class student of both economics and administration.”

Hamilton apparently saw “how everything in the national economy was related to everything else.” And “he saw that in the construction of grand strategy, every move must be coordinated so as to make the whole of public policy exceed the sum of its parts.” Hardly reserved in his applause, McCraw proceeds, “And this is what he proceeded to do as secretary.” (93) But one can take a different view, and in the matter of economic theory, one would be right to do so.

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