Sunday, November 1, 2020

THE FEDERALIST PAPERS PROJECT - A Commitment to Deep Thinking About our Political Origins in the Presence of Noise (Paper Nos. 12 & 13)

THE FEDERALIST PAPERS PROJECT - Part 11.    A link to Project Gutenberg's free source edition of The Federalist Papers.

A nation cannot long exist without revenue. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence and sink into the degraded condition of a province. 

The Emperor of Germany, Hamilton writes, despite vast amounts of fertile land, silver, and gold mines his country boasts, lacked the power to sustain a war and, at times, had to borrow from other countries to meet his financial obligations. This is because his country failed to transform their wealth so that it supplied the treasury, something accomplished through taxes. 

Given the American colony's history of taxation by the British, Americans were not well disposed towards direct taxation. Hamilton advises that excises - levied on particular goods - were a more likely means of funding the treasury.  Given disunited states, he cautions, there was potential for each state to levy duties on the other both discouraging trade and requiring the expense of armed personnel to police infringements. Whereas a single government could put combined resources towards patrolling the greater amount of commerce between the united states and foreign nations. And what does Hamilton suggest being one commodity subject to duties - liquor! Not only to raise a considerable sum, but to discourage its being drunk to excess.

In Paper No. 13, we see Hamilton consider revenue from another angle.  It's the economy, stupid! Actually, it's not the economy he writes of but economy, in other words, the prudent management of resources. Multiple states means multiple governments.  Multiple governments means keeping track of multiple people who must be paid by each government.  Moreover, states or confederacies of a certain size, require the same energy to administer as a large one.

The supposition, that each confederacy into which the States would be likely to be divided, would require a government not less comprehensive, than the one proposed...Nothing can be more evident than that the thirteen States will be able to support a national government, better than one half, or one third, or any number less than the whole. 

As clear as the economic and administrative arguments in favor of the proposed union, in our own time so fraught with disagreement, I wonder if the Constitution uniting our 50 states were put to a vote on Tuesday, if it would pass? I think not.

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