Lopate Mentions “The Whiskey Rebellion” and My Critique of Johnson and Kwak

I’m very pleased that when interviewing Simon Johnson and James Kwak today, regarding their Vanity Fair article criticizing the modern Tea Party by comparing it to the Whiskey Rebellion, Leonard Lopate mentioned my dissent from their view of the finance history of the founding era, and their view of the Whiskey Rebellion, as I explain here. Makes me feel better than the way I felt when ranting in my most recent post. Then again, Tea Party people’s seizing on my critique of Johnson & Kwak to promote specious Tea Party history is unsurprising but so pointless, such a waste of everybody’s time.

[UPDATE: I should add that the interviewees totally ducked Lopate’s question with truisms about populism — truisms that contradict what they said about the Whiskey Rebellion in their essay — but indeed they were nervous throughout all parts of the interview that had to do with the Whiskey Rebellion and with Hamiltonian finance, much more comfortable talking today’s policy, and I have to believe the way they were waving away certain issues, they’d seen my post. So that’s nice.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: One of them said, in what seemed a grudging admission/dismissal of something, words to the effect of “there’s some controversy over whether Hamilton wanted to ever pay off the debt, but leaving that aside …” and unlike in their essay, they almost but not entirely avoided saying throughout the interview that Hamilton’s plan was to pay the debt off. Two things on that: 1) There is no “controversy” at all about what Hamilton was doing regarding the debt, which Johnson and Kwak still don’t want to see as something that by 1791 AH had spent eight dedicated years tending and growing; 2) Let’s not swing all the way the other way. I never said Hamilton necessarily sought a permanent debt (although some on the right accuse him of that). He wanted long-term, easy, ready government access to big credit, which he wouldn’t have achieved if he’d made it look as if specific bond issues would never pay off!]

[FINAL UPDATE: The bottom line here isn’t about Hamiltonian finance or the Whiskey Rebels. It’s what I posted on Twitter: Liberals, if you’re this uncomfortable with the history, why invoke it to make your point? The Tea Party actually does better with this!]


One thought on “Lopate Mentions “The Whiskey Rebellion” and My Critique of Johnson and Kwak

  1. Perhaps Hogeland was uncomfortable with his “rant” as referred to above, but it was extremely effective, and he should do more ranting. We should not be surprised when people construct narrative history which is self-serving. From the Donation of Constantine, to controversy over the British Constitution (was 1066 a conquest or not?) until now, they have been commonplace. They are a symptom of two pernicious attitudes among non-historians (and poorly trained historians). The first is that history is reliably accessible through narrative, when (most) historians realize that reality is not narrative. The second mistake that both Progressives and Conservatives make is that an appeal to historical events can win what are essentially moral arguments. This leads to either a naturalistic fallacy or to fallacious appeal to authority. This is not to say that we cannot refer to past events when reasoning about the present. I recommend Paul Krugman’s blog as an excellent example of a steadfast effort to hold the arguments of conservatives to the fire of objective fact. Please keep ranting, Mr. Hogeland.

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