IN PRAISE OF THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. Tyler Cowen had an essay on the Bloomberg site arguing the Articles of Confederation have been greatly underrated. (The link is courtesy of Marginal Revolution, which is Cowen’s own site). The argument appeals to me for two reasons. First, I am fascinated whenever I find that one of my lifelong beliefs has to be corrected. And second, because Mary Jane has finished Chernow’s HAMILTON and has moved on to Joseph Ellis’s THE QUARTET (about the period from the end of the Revolutionary War to the adoption of the Constitution). The Quartet are Washington, Hamilton, Madison and John Jay.
The emphasis in writing about the Articles of Confederation has understandably been on the flaws that the Constitution was intended to correct. And so what I learned from my history courses was the flaws in the Articles of Confederation. But go back to the situation after the end of the war and the difficulties in trying to construct a new form of government from scratch. Cowen says: “Keep in mind that many European thinkers of the time thought that America was hopelessly disunited and that its system of government was due to collapse.”