Cover image for The price of greatness : Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the creation of American oligarchy
Title:
The price of greatness : Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the creation of American oligarchy
ISBN:
9781541697461
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edtion.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Basic Books, Hachette Book Group, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
ix, 235 pages ; 25 cm
Contents:
The great desideratum -- One great American system -- Doing full justice -- The tool and the tyrant -- Vexations and spoliation -- Metaphysical war -- Intrigue and corruption -- The vilest of cheats.
Summary:
"In the history of American politics there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison's bitterly personal falling out. Together they helped bring the Constitution into being, yet soon after the new republic was born they broke over the meaning of its founding document. Hamilton emphasized economic growth, Madison the importance of republican principles. Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right--and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment. He shows that each man in his own way came to accept corruption as a necessary cost of growth. The Price of Greatness reveals the trade-off that made the United States the richest nation in human history, and that continues to fracture our politics to this day."--Amazon.
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Summary

Summary

An incisive account of the tumultuous relationship between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and of the origins of our wealthy yet highly unequal nation

In the history of American politics there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison's bitterly personal falling out. Together they helped bring the Constitution into being, yet soon after the new republic was born they broke over the meaning of its founding document. Hamilton emphasized economic growth, Madison the importance of republican principles.

Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right--and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment. He shows that each man in his own way came to accept corruption as a necessary cost of growth. The Price of Greatness reveals the trade-off that made the United States the richest nation in human history, and that continues to fracture our politics to this day.


Author Notes

Jay Cost is a senior writer at the Weekly Standard and has written for the Wall Street Journal , National Review , and Commentary . He holds a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Chicago. The author of A Republic No More and Spoiled Rotten , he lives in Harmony, Pennsylvania.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Weekly Standard senior writer Cost traces the republican beliefs of James Madison and the mercantile leanings of Alexander Hamilton, arguing that competing political philosophies in the earliest years of the United States "prefigured contemporary American politics." Cost's distillation of the source material-the Federalist Papers and Hamilton's essays on government-allows readers with a basic grasp of Constitution-era U.S. history to follow along. Madison's views vested the people with sole authority for government, with a great variety of parties and interests in "well-organized political conflict" and carefully calibrated tension. Hamilton was far more disposed toward strong executive power and favoring the wealthy. Cost's descriptions of postindependence political wrangling and the first decades of the new United States are clear and easily grasped, but his application of the extended battle of ideas through the 19th century is less persuasive, as it is based on an out-of-date understanding of ideas: this early generation of political conflict was vital to the foundation of the country, but given ensuing conflicts such as those over the acceptability of slavery, the American ideological landscape has since become much more complex than accounted for by this work. This is more valuable as a resource on colonial political philosophy than as an explanation of the U.S.'s current conflicts. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

Cost juxtaposes the thinking of two pivotal American founders by showing the respective strengths and weaknesses of their thoughts, especially with regard to issues of political economy. Hamilton and Madison joined in support of the US Constitution because they favored liberal government (the protection of individual rights), republicanism (self-government), and nationalism. They created rival parties when Hamilton, in seeking to promote prosperity through public-private partnerships that would secure the support of financial elites, inclined the nation in the direction of oligarchy. Madison subsequently sought government neutrality among factions through "a sensible middle ground between the extremes of Republican simplicity and Federalist elitism," including some Hamiltonian programs like the national bank and modest tariffs. Ultimately, Madison set in motion a system in which factions combined to push the nation toward ochlocracy, or rule by majority factions, which he had decried in Federalist No. 10, and that accentuated sectional divisions. Cost uses public-choice economics to explain what went wrong, and advocates returning to fundamental principles that promote the common good over special interests. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. --John R. Vile, Middle Tennessee State University


Library Journal Review

Editor (The Weekly Standard) and author (A Republic No More) Cost dispels the myth that the Founding Fathers had a single, unified vision for the nascent United States in this compelling monograph of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and their dueling ambitions for the country. The author describes two themes within which Hamilton and Madison shaped their ideals; for Hamilton, it was national vigor, while Madison sought republican balance. Hamilton hoped to turn the wealthy into conduits for advancing national interests by giving them short-term advantages in the commercial sector. Madison, however, viewed the government as a neutral entity, creating fair policies that benefitted the common good. But rather than pit these goals against one another, Cost makes it clear that both men were justified in their pursuits and that their friendship, devolving into a feud over time, is emblematic of a clash in fundamental American values present since George Washington left office. Equal parts fascinating and alarming, this work illustrates how corrupt our government has always been. VERDICT A fair assessment of two Founders' legacies and highly relevant to our current political climate.-Jessica Holland, Lexington, KY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Author's Notep. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 The Great Desideratump. 17
2 One Great American Systemp. 35
3 Doing Full Justicep. 53
4 The Tool and the Tyrantp. 73
5 Vexations and Spoliationp. 103
6 Metaphysical Warp. 123
7 Intrigue and Corruptionp. 143
8 The Vilest of Cheatsp. 163
Conclusionp. 181
Acknowledgmentsp. 197
Abbreviationsp. 199
Notesp. 201
Indexp. 223