A while back, I shared this fascinating PragerU video with you about Benjamin Franklin and what it means to be “self-made” in America. I recently watched another video in this series about Alexander Hamilton’s approach to building a prosperous country through capitalism, not conquering. The video is hosted by one of my favorite speakers and writers, Dinesh D’Souza.
D’Souza explains how, in Hamilton’s time, most wealth was linked to land, so if countries wanted more wealth, they would invade other countries or go to war to seize as much land as possible. He compares this type of global wealth acquisition (the old world “conquer-and-seize” model) to kids on a playground with marbles: If the number of marbles (wealth) is finite, how do you get more marbles? You take them from another kid.
But Hamilton, the first U.S. treasurer, wanted to take a different approach for the new American nation. He proposed a more independent wealth creation strategy: capitalism—based on innovation, invention, and enterprise. Given that most countries at that time had achieved their wealth through the old world “conquer-and-seize” model, Hamilton’s line of thinking was revolutionary.
Not only was this new system designed to break the old world model, but it would be accessible to anyone. According to Hamilton, anyone with enough drive and hard work could theoretically be part of wealth creation – it was no longer accessible only to nobility and successful world conquerors. This is the foundation of what we now think of as “the American Dream.”
Obviously, what has actually transpired in America’s history and economy since the late 1700s has been more complex and nuanced than Hamilton’s revolutionary vision, but I think we can agree with D’Souza’s statement that, “Hamilton laid the groundwork for America to become a prosperous urban, industrial, and commercial society.”
As the Fourth of July approaches, we’d do well to remember these humble origins and the ambitious thinking that has given us all the opportunity to build wealth and find success on our own terms.
I hope you enjoy watching PragerU’s informational, entertaining 5-minute video.