In 1776, an age when social media entailed spending a few hours in the evening in the local tavern listening to printed materials read aloud by those fortunate enough to be able to read, Thomas Paine was a blue checkmark account, a million follower maven who coalesced public sentiment for independence from Great Britain and then bucked up the troops for their crucial counterattack at Trenton. He was much more than a mere firebrand, though, expressing key notions of political economy before other American statesmen did.
Article by Thomas E. Wright from AIER.
One of the young rebels who risked his life for freedom by backing independence and crossing the icy Delaware with General George Washington on Christmas night 1776 was Alexander Hamilton. Later, as Treasury Secretary, Hamilton, backed by President Washington, implemented a series of controversial policies that jump started America’s economic miracle. I detail those policies in One Nation Under Debt (2008) and other books.
Hamilton was, in the terminology of public debt expert and author of The Political Economy of Public Debt Richard Salsman, a “debt realist.” Hamilton summarized his view of sovereign debt in an (in)famous 1781 letter to financier Robert Morris, in which he wrote that “A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing; it will be a powerful cement of our union.”
Hamilton, like Morris and other debt realists, realized that government borrowing was rational if the benefits of borrowing, like winning independence, exceeded the costs, which would remain small so long as the debt remained easy to service. By cement of the union, Hamilton meant that bondholders would have a strong incentive to make the new nation work, if only so they would get paid as promised.
As Salsman shows, debt realism was a controversial view throughout history because most policymakers and political economists argued that all sovereign debt is economically and morally pernicious or, at the other extreme, that governments can and should borrow as much as they want, especially if they also print money, because it will have few untoward effects. Both extreme views remain silly but are still widely held to this day.
Interestingly, Hamilton closely paraphrased Paine, who wrote in 1776 that “No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance.” Paine later excoriated the leaders of his homeland, Great Britain, not for borrowing per se, but for borrowing too much. He accurately predicted that the Bank of England would have to stop specie payments, which held off only two months longer than Paine anticipated.
Paine shared with Hamilton a distrust of fiat paper money, suffering through painful hyperinflations in America and France during their revolutions. Like Hamilton, he espoused private bank money (notes and deposits) convertible into gold or silver at a known, fixed rate and backed by the bank’s entire portfolio of assets, which in addition to precious metals should primarily be composed of short-term discount loans and government bonds and other liquid securities.
The author of Common Sense, like Hamilton and Chief Justice John Marshall, thought it common sense that governments should not renege on any of their contracts, including the promises they made in corporate charters. Paine excoriated Pennsylvania in 1786 for revoking the charter of the Bank of North America in terms that Marshall would use in his famous 1819 decision in the Dartmouth College case. If governments could abrogate charters, all three great statesmen knew, “It will lead us,” as Paine wrote in Dissertations on Government, “into a wilderness of endless confusion and insurmountable difficulties.” Nothing short of the “glory” of the Republic was at stake, because if the government could renege on its promises individuals could become “the prey of power” as “MIGHT” overcame “RIGHT.”
Paine and Hamilton also shared an affection for efficient government, one that concentrated on providing core public goods as inexpensively and unobtrusively as possible. Harvey Flaumenhaft has a lovely book about Hamilton’s administrative policies called The Effective Republic. Paine probably influenced Hamilton’s thinking here as well, by quoting in his widely read pamphlets a now too-little-known* Italian thinker named Giancinto Dragonetti to the effect that “The science of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense.”
Paine’s remarkably accurate and pithily expressed ideas about political economy can now be found in a convenient edition of his work, The Best of Thomas Paine, published by AIER and edited by yours truly.
Will America-First News Outlets Make it to 2023?
Things are looking grim for conservative and populist news sites.
There’s something happening behind the scenes at several popular conservative news outlets. 2021 was bad, but 2022 is proving to be disastrous for news sites that aren’t “playing ball” with the corporate media narrative. It’s being said that advertisers are cracking down, forcing some of the biggest ad networks like Google and Yahoo to pull their inventory from conservative outlets. This has had two major effects. First, it has cooled most conservative outlets from discussing “taboo” topics like Pandemic Panic Theater, voter fraud, or The Great Reset. Second, it has isolated those ad networks that aren’t playing ball.
Certain topics are anathema for most ad networks. Speaking out against vaccines or vaccine mandates is a certain path to being demonetized. Highlighting voter fraud in the 2020 and future elections is another instant advertising death penalty. Throw in truthful stories about climate change hysteria, Critical Race Theory, and the border crisis and it’s easy to understand how difficult it is for America-First news outlets to spread the facts, share conservative opinions, and still pay the bills.
Without naming names, I have been told of several news outlets who have been forced to either consolidate with larger organizations or who have backed down on covering certain topics out of fear of being “canceled” by the ad networks. I get it. This is a business for many of us and it’s not very profitable. Those of us who do this for a living are often barely squeaking by, so loss of additional revenue can often mean being forced to make cuts. That means not being able to cover the topics properly. Its a Catch-22: Tell the truth and lose the money necessary to keep telling the truth, or avoid the truth and make enough money to survive. Those who have chosen survival simply aren’t able to spread the truth properly.
We will never avoid the truth. The Lord will provide if it is His will. Our job is simply to share the facts, spread the Gospel, and educate as many Americans as possible while exposing the forces of evil.
To those who have the means, we ask that you please donate. We have options available now, but there is no telling when those options will cancel us. We just launched a new GiveSendGo page. We also have our GivingFuel page. There have been many who have been canceled by PayPal, but for now it’s still an option. Your generosity is what keeps these sites running and allows us to get the truth to the masses. We’ve had great success in growing but we know we can do more with your assistance.
Thank you, and God Bless!