Book Review: “Hamilton’s Curse” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

It’s common to hear today from Americans that “if we knew then what we know today, we should never have gone to Vietnam. “ Even my father who served as a Green Beret and who agreed with the Iraq invasion visits his friends names at the Vietnam Memorial with a tear in his eye and regret in his voice. It’s easier to look at Vietnam and understand the folly of that action, but how many people today could knowledgeably argue against the necessity of the Civil War while tracing its root causes?  Now, ask yourself how many people could successfully trace today’s economic problems directly to one founding father? Thomas DiLorenzo successfully does just that.

In “Hamilton’s Curse,” DiLorenzo eviscerates the Hamiltonian policies of Mercantilism. It’s no big surprise to libertarians that the larger the government grows; the more incentivized businesses are to corrupt it and impose laws that benefit them.  In this book the blame for today’s system of crony capitalism is laid directly at the feet of Thomas Jefferson’s archenemy, Alexander Hamilton.

DiLorenzo argues that it is that the policies of big government and central banking espoused by Hamilton that laid the seeds for the Civil War. Also, DiLorenzo condemns Hamilton’s intellectual descendents such as Henry Clay who imposed the “Tariff of Abominations” that drew the first line between the North and South. “Hamilton’s Curse” does a great job of connecting the dots in history for where conservative small government policies were undermined by the central planners. 

It’s entertaining to read about how frustrated Hamilton was by Jefferson, who was too concerned with public liberty.  Their pitched struggle for decentralized control of the economy is one that is too often lost in the politically correct miasma of public education. It is sad to see that Congress today is filled with Hamilton’s intellectual heirs, rather than Jefferson’s.

The book is a quick and worthwhile read for those who are interested in understanding the root causes for America’s problems. DiLorenzo successfully argues that most of today’s problems of American Imperialism arise from the fact that, although it is Jefferson we fondly remember, it is Hamilton’s system we live under today.  As long as America ignores its history and the perils of big government, more men will walk away from cold monuments with tears in their eyes and loss in their hearts.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author or co-author of ten books, on subjects such as antitrust, group-interest politics, and interventionism generally. For those interested in learning more, DiLorenzo will be giving a talk at George Mason University this coming February the 2nd, at 6:00PM.

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