Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Samuel Gregg ― Alexander Hamilton’s Warning to Fans of Trump and Sanders: Populism Endangers Liberty

“Nothing is more common than for a free people, in times of heat and violence, to gratify momentary passions, by letting into the government, principles and precedents which afterwards prove fatal to themselves.” Alexander Hamilton, First Letter from Phocion (1784)

(The Action Institute)

Populism is in. Reason is out. That picture seems to characterize contemporary American politics. While Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are campaigning for two different parties’ presidential nomination, the two men share in common an incoherent populism. Whether it’s Trump’s tirades about China or Senator Sanders’ insistence that the government can do just about everything and anything, both follow the classic populist playbook. Among other things, this involves identifying the evil-doers (China, the one percent, etc.) supposedly responsible for all our woes and proposing simplistic solutions that will be accomplished, apparently, because they say so.

To be sure, populism is often fueled by legitimate dissatisfaction with the status quo. Americans have good reason to be furious with their political and economic leaders, especially those who rarely venture outside the New York-Washington DC axis. When Sanders shouts that the economic system is rigged and Trump thunders against an out-of-touch political class, they have — as no less than Charles Koch (who’s very critical of both men’s economic policies) has affirmed — a point.

Read the full article HERE