Books

Newly Relevant: Alexander Hamilton

Just when ‘credit’ is starting to sound like a bad word, it’s time to reconsider the man who created the term as we know it: Alexander Hamilton. Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, published in 2004, shows how the founding father established the nation’s financial system. Hamilton created the first national bank, brought the states together and planted the seeds for capitalism. “Alexander Hamilton was the most progressive, and is the most neglected, of the founding fathers,” wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks shortly after the book was published. “He was the most progressive because he saw that America could be a capitalist superpower, and he figured out which institutions it would need to realize that destiny.” Hamilton was also a prominent theorist, of course (his Federalist Papers laid the groundwork for American political philosophy) and saw great potential in the American market system. “He was working at a time when many around him had an entirely static view of economics,” Brooks writes. “They scorned credit, banks and stock markets, and considered manufacturing the least productive form of economic activity.” The award-winning biography gives historical perspective to our present financial woes.