Founding Economics and American Conservatism’s Future

Founding Economics and American Conservatism’s Future

Contemporary divisions on the American right are an acute reminder that some of the United States’ most difficult debates have historically revolved around political economy. From the fierce arguments between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson about the constitutionality of a national bank, to the sharp discussions over the New Deal, these disputes get so intense because the participants know that more than economic policy is in play.

The right’s present economic disagreements go beyond the technical merits of free trade versus protectionism, or of markets versus industrial policy. They also raise another issue: whether or not America’s economic future will be consistent with the Founding’s vision and principles, as expressed in the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, George Washington’s Farewell Address, and similar texts.

Historically speaking, modern American conservatism has been strongly informed by and committed to the American…

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