The New England Puritans believed in what Fischer called “ordered liberty.” Ordered liberty was the notion—intuitive to many of today’s American liberals and conservatives alike—that while individuals have rights, it’s necessary for the state to put limits on them to preserve the social order. Gun control is a straightforward example: Individuals may have the right to bear arms (for the purposes of sport and self-defense, for instance), but if there were no limits on that right, so the thinking goes, America would turn into a bloodbath. To protect our right to go about our lives without getting shot, we forfeit some of our individual rights to the state, which is granted the power to regulate us for our own good (permits, background checks, wait periods, red flag laws, bans on certain kinds of guns, etc.). . .
The Scotch-Irish were militantly committed to their unconditional independence and autonomy. Unlike the Puritans, they did not view their individual rights and freedoms as privileges granted them by the state. Far from the bestower of rights, to the Scotch-Irish, governments were an invading, oppressive force, that could only encroach on one’s freedom, not give it. One’s entitlement to be left alone, to do what one wished with one’s family, property and land, was a natural right, which the Scotch-Irish were prepared to fight and die for.
The reference is to David Hackett-Fischer’s classic Albion’s Seed. We can see the conflict everywhere today. The Puritans want mask mandates. The Scotch-Irish are adamantly opposed. The Puritans think that pronouns are important. The Scotch-Irish do not. The Puritans work in the virtual world. The Scotch-Irish work in the physical world. The Puritans want green energy. The Scotch-Irish want to drill, baby, drill.
For Walter Russell Mead, in Special Providence, the Puritans were Wilsonian in foreign policy, wanting to remake the world along moral lines. The Scotch-Irish were Jacksonian, wanting to be left alone, and ready to fight if attacked. In addition to those two traditions, there were Hamiltonians, wanting a world of freedom of the seas and trade. And there were the Jeffersonians, wanting government to keep a low profile, both domestically and internationally. Mead describes American foreign policy as a fortunate blend of these four traditions. I would describe myself as 50 percent Jeffersonian, 30 percent Hamiltonian, 15 percent Jacksonian, and 5 percent Wilsonian.
I see levying economic sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a Wilsonian policy. The Jacksonians would say that it is not our fight. The Hamiltonians would wonder about the cost of wrecking the global economy with sanctions. The Jeffersonians would worry about the new powers represented by sanctions, and how those powers will be abused in the future. Given my leanings, I find the sanctions policy too Puritan. I do not go along with Twitter-mob diplomacy.