Suresh is much more polite in his criticism than Jefferson's contemporaries were. Foremost among the Jefferson-bashers of history is Alexander Hamilton. Though not as celebrated as Jefferson, Hamilton arguably had even more influence in shaping the modern United States of America. You might say that Jefferson planted the seed of the American Revolution and Hamilton tended the resulting garden.
Hamilton saw Jefferson's vision of populist democracy as misguided and dangerously self-serving. When Jefferson publicly called Hamilton a corrupt monarchist (for such atrocities as creating the US Federal Bank and Customs Service), Hamilton pointed out that Jefferson's tactics were far more likely to bring down the new republic, as quoted by Ron Chernow's excellent biography Alexander Hamilton:
"If [I] had wanted to impose a monarchy upon America, [I] would follow the classic path of a populist demagogue: I would mount the hobbyhorse of popularity, I would cry out usurpation, danger to liberty etc. etc. I would endeavour to prostrate the federal government, raise a ferment, and then ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm."This vicious debate between Jefferson and Hamilton reminds me of today's debate over net neutrality. In one corner, we have the paragons of online populist democracy, led by Google. In the other corner, the titans of industrial Internet infrastructure, such as Comcast.
In contrast to some of my blogger friends who support net neutrality (e.g., Bill Ives, Mal Watlington), I am glad that the government has so far refused to prohibit Comcast and other telcoms from instituting preferential pricing schemes for access to their Internet networks. With lobbyists from Google now crying "antitrust", I think we have reason to suspect that net neutrality--as it is argued in Washington, anyway--is as much about protecting the Google-Amazon-eBay oligopoly of social commerce (as reported in "Going Long" by John Cassidy in today's New Yorker) as it is about protecting individual life, liberty, and pursuit of online happiness.
Which mega-corporation are you cheering for?
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