Friday Roundup, December 28th

Hamilton’s declarations about liberty and republicanism and his actions as the first Secretary of the Treasury did little to convince many of his contemporaries that he was sincere.  Jeffersonians routinely accused Hamilton of harboring imperial ambitions, of being a monarchist, and of trying to subvert both liberty and the republican form of government.  Jefferson himself also called into question Hamilton’s loyalty to the United States, his personal courage, and his horsemanship!  More recently, Hamilton’s conservative and libertarian critics have seen him as a “big government conservative” indistinguishable for the most part from the progressive advocates of the contemporary administrative state.  Conservative politicians have become, at least when it comes to style and tone, decidedly Jeffersonian.  Hamilton’s critics’ case has been helped by the embrace of Hamilton by liberal writers such as Michael Lind and by bastions of liberal thought like the Brookings Institution which runs The Hamilton Project, a wonky economic policy unit.

  • David Henderson of Econ Log reviews Luigi Zingales’ A Capitalism for the People.
  • Nathan Schlueter has a short essay “Sustainable Liberalism” that is of the Built Better Than They Knew variety re: the American Founders. This seems worth pondering.

The positivist tradition in philosophy gave scientism a strong impetus by denying validity to any area of human knowledge outside of natural science. More recent advocates of scientism have taken the ironic but logical next step of denying any useful role for philosophy whatsoever, even the subservient philosophy of the positivist sort. But the last laugh, it seems, remains with the philosophers — for the advocates of scientism reveal conceptual confusions that are obvious upon philosophical reflection. Rather than rendering philosophy obsolete, scientism is setting the stage for its much-needed revival.

Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself. Yet it seems the very antithesis of reason to insist that science can do what it cannot, or even that it has done what it demonstrably has not. As a scientist, I would never deny that scientific discoveries can have important implications for metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, and that everyone interested in these topics needs to be scientifically literate. But the claim that science and science alone can answer longstanding questions in these fields gives rise to countless problems.