Beyond Jeffersonian Conservatism and Progressivism (Pt. I of II)

What passes as “American Conservatism” since the 20th century is a misnomer at worst and a Jeffersonian creation unworthy of Hamiltonianism at best. I have offered my own historical evidence across the past four Treatises, especially The Work-Standard and The Third Place. However, what has yet to be written is a Hamiltonian critique of “American Conservatism” that delivers the necessary philosophical and theoretical tracts for why Hamiltonianism has no place in Jeffersonian Ideology. This “American Conservatism” deserves the more fitting title of Jeffersonian Conservatism or Liberal Conservatism. Plenty of non-American observers of US political philosophy and political economy have written about “American Conservatism.” They have raised their own criticisms from the standpoints of other Ideologies, including their own nations’ conceptions of Conservatism.

From a foreign, non-American perspective, Jeffersonian conceptions of “American Conservatism” are anything but Conservative. In economic life, it tries to reinvent the Market/Mixed Economy by claiming the taxation policy techniques of Keynesianism as its own. The idea that cutting taxation rates will “stimulate” economic activity to bring a Liberal Capitalist nation out of a Recession or Depression was something pioneered by John Maynard Keynes, a man whom “American Conservatism” has oftentimes despised for his Welfare Capitalism and favorable attitudes toward Production for Utility. In social life, the promotion of faith and homeland is touted but never truly practiced insofar as such values contradict the concurring emphasis on the primacy of the Private Citizen over the Civil Society. Family is an exception to this rule insofar as it in hindsight an extension of the Private Citizen. “American Conservatism” does not have a tradition or a culture that goes beyond the Constitution, because contemplating such concepts would eventually require some form of decision-making by the Federal government. As the Federal government has become an “evil” to the “good” of the State governments, it cannot be allowed to support initiatives toward the creation of an authentic American National Culture befitting of the American National Consciousness.

All of those issues and more are what makes some Americans, the vast majority of which are more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian in their political-economic outlook, to refrain from realizing that Jeffersonianism is not the only American Political Tradition. There is another Political Tradition as old as Jeffersonianism also exists alongside it. Hamiltonianism’s advocacy of a centralized Federal government was never meant to be an end in and of itself. It was always intended to be the means of achieving specific goals that could not otherwise be realized by the States as they fall within the domain of this Union.

Unfortunately, far too many Americans fail to realize that, and so they dwell too much on the legacies of foreign movements, organizations, and parties that cannot be readily marshaled in the American National Consciousness. While Pan-Germanism, Italian Fascism, Sovietism, Bolivarianism, Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, and so forth can be contemplated since some Americans can trace their ancestries throughout parts of the Eurasian landmass, the Weltanschauung they represent cannot be reapplied in America without any unnecessary compromises. Why should we expect Hamiltonianism to be reapplied in other parts of the world?

There is a fundamental difference between borrowing aspects of Hamilton’s Protectionist trade policies and organizing a nation after the American Federal-State System. Of course, there will always be opportunities for something to be Americanized by the Federal government, but not every development from the rest of the Americas, Africa, Europe, Russia and Asia is going to be relevant to the American National Consciousness. What the Jeffersonian conception of “American Conservatism” has shown is that it is only great at tearing down what has come before it. When the time comes to envisage something new, it becomes helpless and powerless, quavering in the midst of World History. The past twenty years have demonstrated that the Ideology is driven by a political form of Nihilism.

One should ask: “What is Nihilism within a political context? Nihilism in this sense means the absolute negation of an Ideology, thereby resulting in the lack thereof. When an Ideology is revealed to provide no suitable alternatives to the policies of the opposing Ideology, it loses credibility and clout among the State and Totality. Complacency sets in as the result of inertia, setting the stage for other Ideologies with their own proposals to take its place.

But when an Ideology lacks its own Weltanschauung, as is the case with “American Conservatism,” it becomes beholden to the very forces that it claims to oppose. Worse, it loses any sense of dynamism and vigor to the extent that it consequently grows complacent. Complacency yields the inability to create or innovate, which in itself is aggravated by petty dogmatism and factionalism. What has been consistently one of the main motivations surrounding “American Conservatism” since the 1950s?

US History has repeatedly demonstrated that “American Conservatism” is intellectually barren and politically nihilistic in nature. The Ideology did not begin with the Federalists, but with the Progressives, specifically those who opposed the apex of Progressivism in the New Deal. Thus, it has no tradition to defer to, no connection to the distant past because the Ideology is a modern invention. The Ideology has long sought to reverse the advancements of Progressivism without any ideas on what should be replacing Progressivism.

If one could envisage an America where Progressivism ceases to exist in its entirety, “American Conservatism” ceases to exist as well. “American Conservatism” would become purposeless, aimless, directionless. That is because “American Conservatism,” as it is commonly understood by Americans and non-Americans alike, is in final analysis the negation of Progressivism. The analogy is akin to eliminating the Gold Standard as embodied by the Bretton Woods System without ever conceptualizing the Work-Standard or any suitable equivalent at par value.

Does one not realize that many of the positions associated with “American Conservatism” are essentially the negations of positions held by Progressivism? For every proposal, every position touted by the Progressives, “American Conservatism” has to offer the absolute opposite. The 9/11 Attacks, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and the broader the War on Terror, and the Great Recession demonstrated that the Ideology experienced a political void that was readily filled by the Trump Presidency. But even the Trump Presidency was in many respects an attempt at negating the Obama Presidency that came before it.

It is foolish to squander the legacy of Hamiltonianism on this Jeffersonian conception of “American Conservatism,” any more than it is equally naive to rest its laurels on the Progressives. Neither understood the key aspects of Hamiltonianism as they were more inclined at coopting whatever they could borrow from it. After all, some of their policies over the past century alone required some form of action by the Federal government, with or without the assistance of the State governments. This shows that a “Hamiltonian conception of American Conservatism” does not exist in contemporary America and that, if it were to be realized in any meaningful manner, would be diametrically opposed to both the Jeffersonian Conservatives and Progressives on a philosophical and theoretical level.

And what about the equally poor state of “American Nationalism?” What passes as such today is either Liberal Nationalism or Racial Nationalism, both of which are coopting religion to provide some semblance of Divine Right. In the end, they are opposing conceptions of Nationalism. Racial Nationalism is inclined to insist that the American National Consciousness can only be defined in racial terms, where racial groups are constantly being invented and reinvented to promote a specifically Anglocentric and Protestant interpretation of the American Essence. Its eventual goal is to redefine the Union as a patchwork of locales characterized by racial groups that refuse to view each other as members of the Union. Liberal Nationalism, meanwhile, likes to think that America was always built on Neoliberalism and that it cannot be anything other than a fervent adherent of Jeffersonianism. Worse, Liberal Nationalism can and will promote the sort of Regionalism that is so antithetical to the integrity of Federalism by rejecting the idea of America as a Union, essentially putting the interests of individual States first before the American people.

Always remember that every Nationalism is a set of claims made about a Totality. Whatever one Nationalism posits about the Totality, it can and will be opposed by another conception of Nationalism. The sort of Hamiltonian Federalist Nationalism that I wrote about in The Third Place is worthy of being revisited at a time when America is increasingly becoming home to a multiplicity of opposing conceptions of American Nationalism. If one of the goals surrounding The Work-Standard was an attempt, not the definitive attempt, at pondering over a Federalist conception of American Socialism, it is only inevitable for me to eventually outline the Federalist conception of American Nationalism in far greater detail than I had done previously. New information collected over the past several months or so have given me additional material to work with and new conclusions to draw from.

Categories: Philosophy

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