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America's First and Best Economist

Practice free trade.  Avoid government debt.  Keep the government and the banking system separate from each other.  These quaint and long-rejected policies were Condy Raguet’s prescription for American peace and prosperity.  Now largely forgotten, Raguet (1784-1842) was one of our earliest and best political economists.  Unlike some later advocates of a free economy, Raguet was not a rabid individualist who disdained social obligations.  Far from it.  Nor did he advocate laissez-faire as a pretty theory that would make us all rich.  Rather, he argued knowledgeably and eloquently that economic freedom was the doctrine most compatible with American institutions.

Government interference in the economy inevitably profited some, destroying the republican equality of citizens and turning politics into a scramble for advantages.  Also, in a large country with diverse interests, such actions always profited one region at the expense of another, violating the comity that ought to characterize a federal union.

We have on good authority that the love of money is a cause of evil.  It is also nearly universal.  Contra the Marxists, economics does not explain all of human behavior, but it would be a mistake to underestimate its importance in understanding history and current events.  “Money,” a measure of wealth,...

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