By Jefferson, Thomas; Pound, Ezra; Williams, William Carlos; Marsh, Alec; Pound, Ezra; Williams, William Carlos; Jefferson, Thomas
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Extra resources for Money and modernity : Pound, Williams, and the spirit of Jefferson
The Jeffersonian version of the United States sought to limit the powers of finance because to its proponents finance capital represented British imperialism. ll At the same time, however, Jeffersonians recognized the need for the potential liberating power of a national, self-sufficient sort of capitalism, which they addressed in much the same ambivalent fashion as they did the federal government. The Jeffersonian slogan that the best government is that which governs least applies in effect to the financial side of capitalism-it is a necessary evil.
Debt decisively undermines, not the fact, but the meaning of production. It thus puts in question the integrity of experience and the evidence of the senses. Debt imposes arbitrary rules that effectively determine both the value of value and the reality of reality. Like its financial counterpart, cultural debt also generates an aes- 35 Jeffersonian Economics thetic of the unreal. "Men are driven to their fates by the qualities of their beliefs," Williams wrote. He meant that if our beliefs are derivative, if "the culture of immediacy, the active strain, which has left every relic of value which survives today," is overwhelmed by moneyed culture, as he believed, then "the success of [this) unrelated, borrowed, the would-be universal culture which [has been) imposed on men to impoverish them" will end up "disenfranchis[ing) their intelligences" (SE 148--49).
As Drew McCoy has pointed out, "The Jeffersonian vision grew out of an attempt to reconcile classical republicanism with more modern social realities and American conditions" (McCoy 10). Fully aware of these conditions, Jefferson understands that any attempt to "retard" the "natural" progress of what amounts to history itself cannot succeed. As we shall see, Jefferson's idealism is colored by a classical pessi- 16 Jeffersonian Economics mism absorbed from the Roman poets and their Whig popularizers.