Category Archive 'Economic Libertarianism'

03 May 2017

Trump’s Presidency Is Reviving Jacksonianism

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The Democrat Party today is Progressive meaning Statist and Elitist rather than Populist. No wonder its traditional Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, honoring that party’s founders, are being cancelled all over the country. For democrats, there is an imaginary Jefferson, a slave-holding ogre who raped Sally Hemmings. And, for democrats, there is an odious Indian-killing, slave-owning Andrew Jackson.

Jackson today belongs to the Republican Party which has elected an authentic populist president, one specifically eager to take up the legacy of Old Hickory and enforce it.

Robert W, Merry, in American Conservative, has a nice tribute to Jackson making clear his extreme pertinence to today.

Andrew Jackson helped shape a political philosophy that has rippled through the American political firmament for nearly 200 years. Call it conservative populism—an aversion to bigness in all of its forms, including big government, and a faith in the capacity of ordinary folks to understand and to act upon their own interests. Conservative populism includes a natural aversion to entrenched elites, who always fight back against conservative populists whenever they challenge elite power. Republicans of today who tout the leadership of the last great GOP president, Ronald Reagan, should know they are touting the 20th century’s greatest exponent of Jackson-style populist politics.

And when today’s Americans lament the rise of “crony capitalism,” it’s worth noting that their complaint has a political lineage that goes back directly to Jackson, the country’s first great warrior against public policy allowing a favored few to cadge special emoluments from government. He despised any kind of cozy symbiosis between government and private enterprise, and if he could be pulled back into our own time he would look around with the famous scowl that always attended his displeasure and declare, “I told you so.” …

Jackson … harbored no impulse toward economic equality or societal leveling. His aim merely was to ensure that the levers of government were not used to bestow special beneficence upon a well-positioned few. “Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government,” he said. “Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law.” Thus did Jackson declare that government should not interfere with any citizen’s pursuit of wealth and, further, that government had an affirmative obligation to protect the rich from the forces of envy bent on taking their wealth away. The general harbored no redistributionist sentiments.

This expression crystallizes the difference between conservative populism and the liberal version. Liberal populism sets itself against the rich and corporate America. It wishes to bring them down, largely through governmental leveling. In the 2016 presidential campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders distilled the essence of liberal populism, stirring considerable excitement among many Democrats. But Jackson, by contrast, harbored no ill will toward society’s winners. He merely hated government action that favored the wealthy or gave favored citizens special paths to wealth. His message continued: “but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society—the farmers, mechanics, and laborers—who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government.”


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