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Arts&Letters

faced by the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies of Latin America following their independence, with radically different outcomes. While Britains former North American colonies, outside of Canada, were welded into a union that survived a titanic civil war, Spains colonies crumbled into a Balkanized patchwork of independent countries. And while the United States was able to exploit economies of scale in a single continental market to catch up with and then surpass Britain as an industrial colossus, for most of their history the banana republics of Latin America have combined nominal political independence with a quasi-colonial role in the world economy as commodity exporters to more advanced industrial economies. A Balkanized, underdeveloped, nonindustrial America, supplying food, timber, and energy to industrial Europe and, later, to industrial Asia was always a possible alternative in successive crises in American history from the Founding to the Civil War, and conceivably could be again someday. McCraw observes: A fusion of many of Hamiltons and Gallatins policies found expression in an economic program that came to be called the American Systemthe fullest program for national economic development since Hamiltons Reports of 17901791. In speeches and legislative bills beginning in 1815 and continuing for two decades, Henry Clay and many others sketched out blueprints for the establishment and then continuation of the Second Bank of the United States, for federal aid to build roads and canals, for development of the West, and for the encouragement of manufactures through high levels of tariff protection. On each of these goals except for the high protective tariffs, the American System mirrored the policies of both Hamilton and Gallatin.
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McCraw notes that, given a choice among four possible economic strategieslaissez-faire reliance on the market; uncoordinated intervention in markets by city, county, state and national governments; systematic government guidance of economic decisions; and top-down, comprehensive government economic management the U.S. has oscillated between the first and the second: And only during periods of major war (18611865, 1917 1918, 19411945) has it taken up even temporary residence in category three. Category twofrequent but uncoordinated intervention in mostly free marketshas been the American way of public economic management. Ultimately, according to McCraw, the dream of an integrated, diversified, and booming economythe aspiration of Hamilton, Gallatin, and many other immigrant nationalistseventually came true. Because his view is retrospective, McCraw does not speculate on what his subjects might think about the present condition of their adopted country. But if ever there were a bipartisan consensus worth preserving and promoting, it is to be found in what Hamilton and Gallatin shared: an emphasis on the legitimacy of government borrowing for the right purposes, combined with an appreciation of the need for the nation to have a sound credit rating in order to keep borrowing costs low; the need for ambitious and comprehensive systems of public infrastructure development, without which markets are fragmented and businesses are taxed by inefficiency; and, above all, a vision of the national interest, a vision which may come less easily to native-born Americans with parochial attachments and local loyalties than to immigrants to the United States who can view their adopted country as a whole.
Michael Lind is co-founder of the New America Foundation and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

Whose City? Which Hill?


by T h o M a s e . W o o d s J r .

In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth, Richard M. Gamble, Continuum, 224 pages

ne of the conventional rights gripes against Democrats like Barack Obama has been their alleged lack of faith in American exceptionalism. The United States, say these critics, is not as other nations, which content themselves with the prosaic pursuit of bourgeois life, but is endowed with a global, world-historic task from which Americans, if they are to be true to themselves, cannot flinch. In fact, both political parties invoke the world-historic mission of the United Statesjust recall the preposterous claims and promises made in John F. Kennedys inaugural addressand neither would consider for a moment the possibility of reducing Americas overseas presence in any significant way. American exceptionalism is a bipartisan phenomenon, and in modern America its most potent expression is the city on a hill, a biblical image employed by John Winthrop in A Model of Christian Charity, the lay sermon he composed in 1630 on his way to New England. In fact, so iconic has that image become that Americans no doubt assume it has been invoked and appealed to in an unbroken tradition from its 17th-century drafting down to the present day. Historian Richard Gamble, in his new book, In Search of the City on a Hill, finds the truth to be quite different. He traces the history of that Winthrop sermon from its composition aboard the Arbellathere is no evidence Winthrop actually delivered the sermon, it turns out, as opposed to
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Michael Hogue

merely writing itall the way down to John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Sarah Palin. In so doing, he found it was the proverbial story of the dog that did not bark. For over two centuries after Winthrop composed the Model, it was altogether unknown to the American public. Only in 1838 was the manuscript published, and in the ensuing years it was cited and discussed only sparingly. And even then, the city upon a hill imagery was almost never emphasized as the documents rhetorical or philosophical crescendo. For the most part, Winthrops reNOVEMBER 2012

marks were described as an admirable exposition of the demands of Christian charity, and that was that. Even more surprising to the modern reader, who is often inclined to view the rest of the sermon with impatience as he awaits the reference to the city on a hill, is that as late as 1968, when historian Lee Tuveson wrote his important book Redeemer Nation about the messianic strain in American thought and practice, Winthrops Model of Christian Charity was not mentioned at all. Before proceeding from the relative obscurity of Winthrops Model to

its sudden elevation to iconic status, lets consider for a moment what Winthrop had in mind in 1630. The John Winthrop who told his wife that God would provide a shelter and a hiding place for us and ours had a finite goal, namely a place of asylum for the Puritans and the establishment of proper Christian worship and civil government as called for in the Bible. For him, that meant worship expunged of popish superstition, churches emancipated from the authority of bishops, the Word of God as the central focus of the church service, and a political society in which sin was to be punT H E A M E R I C A N C O N S E R VA T I V E 51

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own interpretation into rather serious question, though he believed Winthrop himself did hold this messianic vision. Gamble is skeptical. Winthrop understood the mission behind the mission, Miller claimed, although it sounded more like Miller was the one blessed with the special gnosis. During Reagans presidency, Theodore Dwight Bozeman accused Miller of having invented the idea of an exemplary Puritan mission and noted that the city on a hill language was a rhetorical commonplace, not the documents interpretive key. Winthrop, said Bozeman, had drafted no The Christian community ought to be installment upon an American plan of restoutraged at the secular appropriation less progress but was of one of its most arresting images. focused on returning church practice to what the Puritans considered its primitive purity. Andrew Delbanco found the Puritans was do to service for the Winthrop considerably more focused Lord, to build up the body of Christ on what was being fled than on what (i.e., the church), to preserve their was being pursued, and Winthrop biposterity from the corruptions of the ographer Francis Bremer noted that world, and to live their lives according the city on a hill phrase was quite to his holy ordinances. Not exactly common and Winthrops message the mission statement later glosses on overall doubtless seemed fairly conWinthrops words would have in mind. ventional to his Puritan audience. In the scholarly realm it was Perry It was Ronald Reagan who seared Miller, the prolific 20th-century histo- the image of the city on a hill (the rian of the Puritans, who did so much shining city on a hill, in his rendito link Winthrops city on a hill to the tion) into the national consciousness. idea of a messianic American con- To be sure, John F. Kennedy had earlisciousness. Miller, although not a be- er appropriated the image for his own liever himself, was fascinated by and use, but thanks to Reagan it became held a great respect for the Puritans, one of the most common refrains whom he sought to rehabilitate after in the American cultural and polititheir treatment at the hands of icono- cal idiom, to the point that foreign clasts like H.L. Mencken. leaders and dignitaries today make According to Miller, Winthrop and reference to it when giving pleasant the Puritans sought to establish a rev- speeches about America. olutionary city in New England that Reagan spoke of the city on a hill would regenerate the world. Miller nearly two dozen times in presidential conceded that the Puritans themselves speeches. His was a city aglow with probably did not understand the full the light of human freedom, a light significance of what they were do- that someday will cast its glow on evingan admission that throws his ery dark corner of the world and on
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ished and Christian charity promoted. Ambitious, to be sure, but finite. This new Christian community of New England, said Winthrop, ought to imagine itself as a city upon a hill, with the eyes of the world upon it. The Puritans had to be faithful to their covenant with God in order not to bring shame on the cause of the Gospel. God would surely bless them if they remained faithful, but he would just as surely withdraw those blessings and punish them if they failed. Winthrop held that the mission of

every age and generation to come. Gone for good was the idea of divine judgment to be visited upon a disobedient city. This was a city that boasted only promise, and a distinctly secular promise at that. Gamble is at pains not simply to trace the evolution of the Model of Christian Charity and its city on a hill in American culture but to insist that the original city on a hill was a biblical image, not a political symbol. It was not a physical place at all but the Christian church itself, conceived of as the community of believers wherever they may be found. The Christian community, Gamble insists, ought to be outraged at the secular appropriation of one of its most arresting images. Ronald Reagan, says Gamble, took hold of a metaphor and reworked it to such a degree that a nation of 300 million people has lost the ability to hear that metaphor in any way other than how he used it. Its political use has been potent enough to all but eclipse its biblical meaning, even among American Christians who might reasonably be expected to resent seeing their metaphor dressed up like Uncle Sam. There is no such resentment, of course. The intellectual debasement of American conservatism, combined with the grotesque and impious neoconservative conflation of Christianity and Americas mission in the world, have decimated the kind of religious sensibilities that would alert the properly formed Christian conscience to blasphemy. Thus when Abraham Lincoln is found to have said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Americas ideals, this does not shock or scandalize American Christians. When George W. Bush said the light shined in darkness and the darkness did not overcome it, and by light meant American ideals, few American Christians batted an eye. So we have the following spectacle: a
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religious image is adapted by an earthly government for secular purposes, in order to urge Americans to pursue a messianic world mission that would have been dismissed with contempt by a classical conservative like Edmund Burke and which bears more in common with the French Revolution and its wars of ideological expansion than it does with anything conservatives would have recognizedand so-called conservatives cheer. If anything, the references to the city on a hill grow more inane over time. Neoconservative Robert Kagan calls the New England Puritans the first imperialists and global revolutionaries. For his knowledge of the Puritans he relies almost entirely on Perry Miller. David Gelernterthe Yale professor who said in 2004 that George W. Bush has already earned his Great President badgedescribes the Puritan city on a hill as the beginnings of Americas sacred mission to spread liberty, equality, and democracy. John Winthrop, Gelernter goes on, was a founder of this nation, we are his heirs, and thank God we have inherited his humanitarian decency along with his radical God-fearing Americanism. Instead of arguing over how best to frame the American mission in terms of the city on a hill, Gamble suggests we ought to ask a different question. We ought to have a debate between exceptionalists of all sorts on one side and skeptics on the other, that is, between those who believe that the United States is somehow exempt from human finitude, the lust for dominion, and the limits of resources and power, and those who do not. Richard Gambles book is an important first step toward that long-overdue debate.
Thomas E. Woods Jr. is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and author of Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse.
NOVEMBER 2012

Honky-Talk Woman
by F l o r e n c e K i n g

Whats the Matter With White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was, Joan Walsh, Wiley, 278 pages

verybody knows who Joan Walsh is. To liberals shes a saint, and they just might have a point: her TV guest spots have established her as Joan of Fallen Archness. Editor-atLarge of Salon, she regularly turns up on the Peoples Republic of MSNBC, wearing her trademark simper and oozing coyness, and obsequiously recites, Yes, Reverend Al to the honkyphobic views of Al Sharpton. But she is likely to appear on Fox News as well, coyness at the ready and wearing the same simper but adding a furrowed brow of troubled understanding as she analyzes and sympathizes with the fears roused by Pat Buchanans predictions of an imminent white-minority America. Her signature characteristics hold fast in her new book. She demonstrates her fallen archness by crafting a title that reminds everybody of Whats Eating Gilbert Grape? and enlists her coyness and her simper in the service of book promotion to see if it really is possible to fool some of the people all of the time, and whoor all of the people some of the time, and for how long. If you read her title as Whats the matter with us white people? you align yourself with her Irish-Catholic working-class origins (the books cover is green with a black-and-white family snapshot) and probably hold the same racist attitudes and prejudices she grew up hearing. If you read it as Whats the matter with you white people? you identify with the later forces that pulled Walsh in the opposite political and cultural direction: going to college; becoming a career woman; working in the media; looking down on uneducated people; and general, all-round moral superiority. Her theme is that working-class

whites are their own worst enemy, having followed where Nixons Southern strategy led and become Reagan Democrats. Threatened by the civil rights movement, resentful over blacks getting something for nothing, disdained by liberal Democrats who ignored them to cater to blacks, they thought that simply voting Republican would make everything the way it used to be: silent minorities, not majorities; no hippies; a perpetual Eisenhower era of prosperity where their middle-class aspirations could proceed undisturbedthe Golden Age of Walshs subtitle. But working-class whites who vote for the GOP, says Walsh, are voting for economic royalists who intend to put them back where they were before FDRs New Deal rescued them from the satanic mills and gave them something for nothingcollective bargaining, the G.I. Bill, federally insured mortgages, Social Security, unemployment insuranceto help them realize their middle-class aspirations. Minorities now had the same middleclass aspirations, and the civil rights movement was the second New Deal. In short, working-class whites and minorities were brothers under the skin and ought to vote accordingly. Whenever Walsh says minority she really means black, because blacks were the minority of her white working-class New York childhood. Puerto Ricans were still a local ethnic problem but blacks had gone national, so to speak, so that Walsh, born in 1952, had a front-row seat for every racial convulsion beginning with the Supreme Courts Brown v. Board of Education school integration ruling in 1954. These were the times that tried mens souls in the close-in Long Island suburbs where she grew up. Its obvious that blacks are her favorite minority even though she knows shes not supposed to have one. Her formative story, which she clings to even as she calls it a fairy tale, is her fathers belief that he and Joan, the brunettes in the fair-haired family,
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