Harrold James on Hamilton’s Moral Consensus

Europeans today have latched onto the practical side of Hamilton’s argument – that is, the idea that debt mutualization might be a means to cheaper credit; but they have worked out neither the political institutions, nor the shared public virtue, that Hamilton deemed crucial. The extended and politicized debate about debt restructuring has made a Hamiltonian solution more difficult, because the credit of the countries that would be party to it has become questionable.

Collective burden-sharing is in the long run the only non-catastrophic way out of Europe’s current crisis, but that requires a substantially greater degree of political accountability and control on a European level. The lesson to be learned from Hamilton and the US is that the necessary institutions will not function without a greater degree of moral consensus as well.

Harold James in Alexander Hamilton’s Eurozone Tour


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