Hamilton Fostered the Preconditions for Capitalism

(p. 345) In a nation of self-made people, Hamilton became an emblematic figure because he believed that government ought to promote self-fulfillment, self-improvement, and self-reliance. His own life offered an extraordinary object lesson in social mobility, and his unstinting energy illustrated his devout belief in the salutary power of work to develop people’s minds and bodies. As treasury secretary, he wanted to make room for entrepreneurs, whom he regarded as the motive force of the economy. Like Franklin, he intuited America’s special genius for business: “As to whatever may depend on enterprise, we need not fear to be outdone by any people on earth. It may almost be said that enterprise is our element.”
Hamilton did not create America’s market economy so much as foster the cultural and legal setting in which it flourished. A capitalist society requires certain preconditions. Among other things, it must establish a rule of law through enforceable contracts; respect private property; create a trustworthy bureaucracy to arbitrate legal disputes; and offer patents and other protections to promote invention. The abysmal failure of the Articles of Confederation to provide such an atmosphere was one of Hamilton’s principal motives for promoting the Constitution. “It is known,” he wrote, “that the relaxed conduct of the state governments in regard to property and credit was one of the most serious diseases under which the body politic laboured prior to the adoption of our present constitution and was a material cause of that state of public opinion which led to its adoption.” He converted the new Constitution into a flexible instrument for creating the legal framework necessary for economic growth. He did this by activating three still amorphous clauses–the necessary-and-proper clause, the general-welfare clause, and the commerce clause–making them the basis for government activism in economics.

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004.

Our Personal Projects Can Create Compelling Idiogenic Motives

Brian Little, the author of the book mentioned below, was persuasively praised in Quiet, a book I liked a lot. (I have not yet read Little’s book.)

(p. 7) When we’re in danger of exhausting ourselves by exercising free traits that go against the grain of our fixed traits, he recommends the use of “restorative niches” in which to recover. After a morning of acting as a pseudo-extrovert on the lecture stage, Little confides, he restores his introverted nature by spending time alone in the men’s room. Alas, on one occasion an opposing personality came along to spoil his solitude. Little describes his biogenic fixed-trait response to the intruder: “I could feel my autonomic nervous system kicking in. He sat down in the cubicle next to me. I then heard various evacuatory noises — very loud, utterly unmuffled. We introverts really don’t do this; in fact, many of us flush during as well as after. Finally I heard a gruff, gravelly voice call out, ‘Hey, is that Dr. Little?’ He was an extravert — he wanted to chat!”
. . .
“Me, Myself, and Us” is most insightful when Little goes beyond polarized divisions — to explore, for example, the effects on our personalities of what he calls our “personal projects.” “Beyond the influence of the biogenic and sociogenic sources of motivation, there is another compelling influence on our daily behavior that I call idiogenic motives. They represent the plans, aspirations, commitments and personal projects that we pursue in the course of daily life.”

For the full review, see:
ANNIE MURPHY PAUL. “‘Who Do You Think You Are?” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., DEC. 28, 2014): 7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date DEC. 26, 2014, and has the title “‘Me, Myself, and Us,’ by Brian R. Little.”)

The book under review is:
Little, Brian R. Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. New York: PublicAffairs, 2014.

Creativity Was Permissionless on the Internet Before Obama Made It a Regulated Utility

(p. A15) Critics of President Obama’s “net neutrality” plan call it ObamaCare for the Internet.
That’s unfair to ObamaCare.
Both ObamaCare and “Obamanet” submit huge industries to complex regulations. Their supporters say the new rules had to be passed before anyone could read them. But at least ObamaCare claimed it would solve long-standing problems. Obamanet promises to fix an Internet that isn’t broken.
. . .
Utility regulation was designed to maintain the status quo, and it succeeds. This is why the railroads, Ma Bell and the local water monopoly were never known for innovation. The Internet was different because its technologies, business models and creativity were permissionless.
This week Mr. Obama’s bureaucrats will give him the regulated Internet he demands. Unless Congress or the courts block Obamanet, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it.

For the full commentary, see:
L. GORDON CROVITZ. “INFORMATION AGE; From Internet to Obamanet; BlackBerry and AT&T are already making moves that could exploit new ‘utility’ regulations.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Feb. 23, 2015): A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 22, 2015,)

Penguin “Bellwether of Climate Change” Thriving in Antarctica

AdeilePenguinsThriving2015-03-16.jpg “Rather than declining as feared, the Adélie penguin population generally is on the rise, scientists say.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A3) For the first time, researchers have counted all the world’s Adélie penguins–a sprightly seabird considered a bellwether of climate change–and discovered that millions of them are thriving in and around Antarctica.
Rather than declining as feared due to warming temperatures that altered their habitats in some areas, the Adélie population generally is on the rise, the scientists said Thursday.
“What we found surprised everyone,” said ecologist Heather Lynch at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., who led the penguin census. “We found a 53% increase in abundance globally.”
Counting the birds by satellite, Dr. Lynch and imaging specialist Michelle LaRue at the University of Minnesota found that the Adélie penguin population now numbers 3.79 million breeding pairs–about 1.1 million more pairs than 20 years ago. In all, they identified 251 penguin colonies and surveyed 41 of them for the first time, including 17 apparently new colonies.

For the full story, see:
ROBERT LEE HOTZ. “Antarctic Penguins Thrive.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 11, 2014): A3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 10, 2014, and has the title “Adélie Penguin Census Shows Seabirds Are Thriving.”)

Hamilton “Was the Clear-Eyed Apostle of America’s Economic Future”

(p. 344) The American Revolution and its aftermath coincided with two great transformations in the late eighteenth century. In the political sphere, there had been a repudiation of royal rule, fired by a new respect for individual freedom, majority rule, and limited government. If Hamilton made distinguished contributions in this sphere, so did Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. In contrast, when it came to the parallel economic upheavals of the period–the industrial revolution, the expansion of global trade, the growth of banks and stock exchanges–Hamilton was an American prophet without peer. No other founding father straddled both of these revolutions–only Franklin even came close–and therein lay Hamilton’s novelty and greatness. He was the clear-eyed apostle of America’s economic future, setting forth a vision that many found enthralling, others unsettling, but that would ultimately prevail. He stood squarely on the modern side of a historical divide that seemed to separate him from other founders. Small wonder he aroused such fear and confusion.

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004.

Lincoln Defended Innovative Rail Against Incumbent Steam

(p. A15) “Lincoln’s Greatest Case” convincingly shows that 1857 was a watershed year for the moral and political questions surrounding slavery’s expansion to the west, something that Jefferson Davis’s preferred railroad route would have facilitated. Mr. McGinty’s discussion of Lincoln’s philosophy and the career-making speeches he would develop in the late 1850s allows us to see the transportation disputes in light of the political and cultural dynamics that would lead to the Civil War. The book is also a case study of discomfort with new technology–and the futility of using a tort suit to prevent the adoption of inevitable innovation.
The book ends on an elegiac note, with steamboats making their inevitable passage into the mists of history. The rails, which could operate year-round through paths determined by man, not nature, would reign supreme, thanks in part to the efforts of a technophile future president.

For the full review, see:
MARGARET A. LITTLE. “BOOKSHELF; When Steam Was King; A dispute over a fiery collision pitted steamboats against railroads and the North against the South. Lincoln defended the rail.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Feb. 23, 2015): A15.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Feb. 22, 2015, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Technology’s Great Liberator; A dispute over a fiery collision pitted steamboats against railroads and the North against the South. Lincoln defended the rail.”)

The book under review is:
McGinty, Brian. Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America. New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 2015.

Remaining Airline Regulations Increase Fares and Reduce Services

(p. 256) Kenneth Button makes the case for “Really Opening Up the American Skies.” “The deregulation of the 1970s, by removing entry quantitative controls, led to a considerable increase in services. It also increased the capability of individuals to access a wider range of destinations from their homes via the hub-and-spoke system of routings that emerged. This pattern has been reversed since 2007. The largest 29 airports in the United States lost 8.8 percent of their scheduled flights between 2007 and 2012, but medium-sized airports lost 26 percent and small airports lost 21.3 percent. . . . In sum, the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act only partially liberalized the U.S. domestic airline market. One important restriction that remains is the lack of domestic competition from foreign carriers. The U.S. air traveler benefited from the country being the first mover in deregulation, and this provided lower fares and consumer-driven service attributes some 15-20 years before they were enjoyed in other markets; the analogous reforms in Europe only fully materialized after 1997. But the world has changed, and so have the demands of consumers and the business models adopted by the airlines. . . . But remaining regulations still limit the amount of competition in the market and, with this, the ability of travelers to enjoy even lower fares and a wider range of services.” Regulation, Spring 2014, pp. 40-45 http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2014/4/regulation-v37n1-8.pdf.

Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 249-56.
(Note: ellipses in original.)

The article quoted by Taylor is:
Button, Kenneth. “Really Opening up the American Skies.” Regulation 37, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 40-45.