There has been a lot of discussion on the ‘net—forums, blogs and e-mail lists, on what people believe. Some describe themselves as “conservatives”, “pro-life” or “limited government advocates”. One lady whom I respect, calls herself an anarchist and has defined her version of anarchy in detail. She is not your run-of-the-mill, charging the barricade anarchist, but has a distinctive view that has segments that I can agree. But, if I were to use a single description of what I am, what I believe, I would call myself a Jacksonian.
I don’t subscribe to all the classic tenet attributed to being a Jacksonian. The original version has evolved a bit in the 175+ years since Jackson was president. According to wiki, the traditional definition of Jacksonianism is…
The Jacksonian era saw a great increase of respect and power for the common man, as the electorate expanded to include all white male adult citizens, rather than only land owners in that group. In contrast to the Jeffersonian era, Jacksonian democracy promoted the strength of the presidency and executive branch at the expense of Congress, while also seeking to broaden the public’s participation in government. They demanded elected (not appointed) judges and rewrote many state constitutions to reflect the new values. In national terms the Jacksonians favored geographical expansion, justifying it in terms of Manifest Destiny.
I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny. It’s now moot. I do subscribe to the modern definition of Jacksonianism. Walter Russell Mead, writing in The National Interest, best described Jacksonianism in his The Jacksonian Tradition. Charles Prael wrote a FAQ that presented a summary of Mead’s writings and compared the four main policies followed in the US—Jacksonian, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian.
Frequently Asked Questions about Walter Russell Meade’s Spectrum. Or, What the Hell is a Jacksonian?
Walter Russell Meade has postulated an interesting set of definitions for the American political landscape, at least as far as the foreign policy arena goes. Rather than using the traditional left/right, Democratic/Republican models, he’s worked out four schools of “American” foreign policy thought, named after influential American statesmen who epitomize the principles of those schools. In brief, they are:
All four of these schools of thought have had significant impacts in the larger world. Major international organizations derive from these fundamentally American ideals.
Prael continues to define each of these political philosophies.
is really the doctrine that pushes the economic primacy of the United States. Hamiltonians believe that a fundamental link between the government and big business is key to the survival and success of the country. They are, however, realists who believe that the US is at best primus inter pares (first among peers) among other nations. As a result, they believe that the US is best served by international organizations that protect fundamentally American interests.
This is an example of the doctrine that created the IMF, World Bank, NAFTA, and the WTO.
are most interested in protection of American democracy on the home front, and almost as misunderstood as Jacksonians. They believe that foreign entanglements are a sure method of damaging American democractic systems, and are highly skeptical of Hamiltonian/Wilsonian projects to involve the US abroad. Hamiltonians and Wilsonians have a realistic streak, that the United States is fundamentally a state among states, if better managed. Jeffersonians, in contrast, believe that the United States is something better and different. You often find Jeffersonians protesting against international agreements, rather than for them.
Two examples of Jeffersonian doctrine is the ACLU and the Libertarian Party.
believe that both the moral and national interests of the United States are best served by spreading American democratic and social values throughout the world. They want to see the U.S. involved on a worldwide basis with a peaceful international community based on the rule of law.
A prime example of Wilsonian doctrine is the United Nations. Prael continues with this item concerning Wilsonianism.
An interesting point to note is that Wilsonian values are a fundamentally American conceit, yet they have been adopted wholeheartedly by many of the ruling political organizations in Europe, especially by those most passionately interested in furthering the European Union.
Two leaders who have epitomized Wilsonian policies and politics are past President Jimmy Carter and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The Jacksonian Doctrine is the least known of these four doctrines. Prael describes the Jacksonian Doctrine as…
Jacksonians tend to be looked down upon – despite the fact that by the numbers, they appear to be the largest of the four schools. The driving belief of the Jacksonian school of thought is that the first priority of the U.S. Government in both foreign and domestic policy is the physical security and economic well-being of the American populace. Jacksonians believe that the US shouldn’t seek out foreign quarrels, but if a war starts, the basic belief is “there’s no substitute for victory” – and Jacksonians will do pretty much whatever is required to make that victory happen. If you wanted a Jacksonian slogan, it’s “Don’t Tread On Me!”
Jacksonians are generally viewed by the rest of the world as having a simplistic, uncomplicated view of the world, despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. Jacksonians also strongly value self-reliance. “Economic well-being” to a Jacksonian isn’t about protectionist trade barriers. Rather, it is about providing Jacksonians with the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.
A prime example of the Jacksonian principle is Ronald Reagan.
So, what am I?
I believe in personal liberty and minimal government. I accept the need for federal taxation but taxation only at a level to support those governmental minimalist institutions such as the military and the courts. I support the proposition that I should be able to earmark my taxes to those federal functions I support and to withhold my taxes from those functions that I do not support.
I believe in free enterprise economics, specifically Capitalism. I believe that government has no function controlling or constraining free enterprise. I do believe that free enterprise has a duty to support the nation with the fruits of that free enterprise but that support should not be used by the government as a bludgeon to force free enterprise onto paths that would not otherwise be taken.
Conversely, the government must not support artificial means to prop up failing commercial institutions. Rather, these institutions must rise or fall based on their own capabilities. Darwin applies to businesses just as it does to other institutions and societies.
I do not support judicial activism, but prefer a strict constructionist view of the constitution. I believe in all ten of the Constitution’s first amendments including the much maligned and ignored Tenth Amendment.
I believe it is an individual duty of everyone serve in the military or equivalent service organization but I do not believe in conscription for any reason. If the people of this nation are not willing to defend themselves and this nation, both deserve to fall.
I believe in God and am pro-life. I believe that everyone has the right to believe or to not believe as they please without any external influence, support, or constraint. That also means that I do not believe in proselytizing except for those who request it.
I believe that I am personally responsible for my actions and I am not responsible for the actions of anyone else. I believe in charity, and I believe that I have the right to choose how and to whom I provide charity.
That is what I am.