The Shapiro Principle: A Godsend for Lovers of Liberty


“I should be able to make a secular argument for why what I’m saying is right,” explains Ben Shapiro in an interview with Dave Rubin. “Otherwise we’re operating in different spheres. If I cite the Bible, it makes no difference to you if you don’t care about the Bible.”

That is a profoundly important truth, which henceforth may be called the Shapiro Principle.

The Shapiro Principle recognizes the fact that the only common ground that human beings have for discussion, argumentation, or persuasion is reason—that is, observation and logic applied to the world in which we live. If a person has faith in God or another dimension or a supernatural world, that is his prerogative. But he rationally cannot expect others to accept ideas based on faith.

If liberty-loving religionists would embrace the Shapiro Principle, they could join forces with liberty-loving secularists—and, together, we could form an unstoppable, reason-based, pro-freedom movement.

Think about it: A mass movement that grounds rights, freedom, and capitalism in reason, observation, and logic would spell the end of socialism, communism, theocracy, and every other form of statism. If such a movement took hold, statism as such would soon be tossed into the dustbin of history, where it belongs.

Toward that end, of course, we need rational, secular arguments for both absolute morality and absolute rights. Fortunately, thanks to Ayn Rand, we have them. Here are essay-length primers on both counts:

So, to all lovers of liberty, whether religious or secular: Are you in? Will you embrace the Shapiro Principle? You have nothing to lose, and enormous value to gain—namely: a civilized, rights-respecting society for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and all generations to come.

The Shapiro Principle is a godsend. Let’s all embrace it. Let’s make the future what it ought to be.

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33. See Michael D. Chan, “Alexander Hamilton on Slavery,” Review of Politics 66, no. 2 (2004): 207–31; and James Oliver Horton, “Alexander Hamilton: Slavery and Race in a Revolutionary Generation,” New-York Journal of American History 65, no. 3 (2004): 16–24. See also Federici, “Hamilton and Jefferson on Slavery,” in The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton, 233–36; and Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 201–16.
34. See Darren Staloff, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding (New York: Macmillan, 2007); and Brooke Allen, “Alexander Hamilton: The Enlightened Realist,” Hudson Review 57, no. 3 (2004): 497–508.
35. Letter by Washington to Hamilton, August 28, 1788, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/04-06-02-0432.
36. Letter by Jefferson to Madison, November 18, 1788, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-14-02-0062.
37. Some critics falsely claim that Hamilton, in his multi-hour presentation at the 1787 Constitutional Convention (June 18), praised or proposed monarchism. In fact, he simply stressed that the British Constitution was better (more pro-rights and pro-liberty) than anti-Federalists would admit, and that Britain, at least, was a constitutionally limited monarchy (better than anarchy). He also argued for longer terms for the president, Senate, and even House members (three years), to incentivize leaders to be longer-range oriented and render government less prone to what he saw as the ephemeral, illiberal, and fiscally reckless whims of the populace. Hamilton also was pushing the debate strategically as much as possible toward (and beyond) the Virginia Plan (for more federal power) and away from where the debate was then trending, toward the New Jersey Plan (which wasn’t far from the status quo of the failed Articles of Confederation).
38. Letter, Hamilton to Edward Carrington, May 26, 1792, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-11-02-0349.
39. For evidence of present-day libertarianism’s deep sympathy for anti-Federalism in America’s founding era, see Michael Allen, “Anti-Federalism and Libertarianism,” Reason Papers 7 (Spring 1981): 73–94.
40. Hamilton, “Tully No. III,” American Daily Advertiser, August 28, 1794, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-17-02-0130.
41. For documentation of this theme, see Max M. Edling, A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
42. See David M. Post, “Jeffersonian Revisions of Locke: Education, Property Rights, Liberty,” Journal of the History of Ideas 47, no. 1 (January–March 1986): 147–57; and Stanley N. Katz, “Thomas Jefferson and the Right to Property in Revolutionary America,” Journal of Law and Economics 19, no. 3 (October 1976): 467–88.
43. Rachel Wiener, “The Libertarian War over the Civil War,” Washington Post, July 10, 2013. “The neo-Confederates are largely centered around libertarian author Lew Rockwell” and “the Ludwig von Mises Institute.”
44. See Tara Smith, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Bernard Siegen, Economic Liberties and the Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); and Richard A. Epstein, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985).
45. Hamilton, “First Speech, New York Ratifying Convention [Francis Childs’s Version],” June 21, 1788, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-05-02-0012-0011.
46. Cited in Max Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention, Volume I (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1911), 299.
47. Until “progressive” Democrats passed the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the U.S. Senate was elected indirectly by state legislatures.
48. Cited in Maggie Riechers, “Honor Above All,” Humanities 28, no. 3 (May/June 2007), http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2007/mayjune/feature/honor-above-all.
49. See, from Monticello, “Jefferson’s Religious Beliefs,” which cites his two compilations, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth (1804) and The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (1819–20), https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/jeffersons-religious-beliefs.
50. Thomas Jefferson letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-4987.
51. Reliable sources include Gregg L. Frazer, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 193–96, who contends that Hamilton converted (from nonreligiosity) to Christianity near the end of his life; and David L. Holmes, Faiths of the Founding Fathers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
52. See Douglass Adair and Marvin Harvey, “Was Alexander Hamilton a Christian Statesman?” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., vol. 12, no. 2 (April 1955): 308–29; Gregg L. Frazer, “Alexander Hamilton, Theistic Rationalist,” in Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark David Hall, and Jeffry H. Morrison, eds., The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2009), 101–24; and Matt J. Rossano, “Alexander Hamilton’s Religion: A Temperate Example for Today’s Fractured World,” Huffington Post, January 3, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-j-rossano/hamiltons-religion_b_803677.html. It should be noted that Hamilton once considered pandering to popular prejudice: As Jefferson’s “democratic revolution” took hold in the early 1800s, Hamilton proposed, in a letter to a Federalist on election strategy, forming a “Christian Constitutional Society,” to insinuate publicly that his opponents were immoral, untrustworthy atheists. He wasn’t seeking to wed church and state, but rather to win elections (hoping people wouldn’t vote for atheists). Even so, this was uncharacteristically unprincipled.
53. Cited in Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 659.
54. See Richard M. Salsman, “Holy Scripture and the Welfare State,” Forbes.com, April 28, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/zeafo9p.
55. Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to Theodore Sedgwick, July 10, 1804,” in Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 26, May 1802 – October 1804 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 309–11.
56. “Capitalism” was coined by Louis Blanc in 1850 and next used by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1861. The most famous first use by Karl Marx was in Capital, vol. I (1867).
57. The best works on Hamilton’s political economy are Louis M. Hacker, Alexander Hamilton in the American Tradition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957), especially chap. 9; Forrest McDonald, “The Constitution and Hamiltonian Capitalism,” chap. 3 in Robert A. Goldwin and William A. Schambra, eds. How Capitalistic is the Constitution? (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1982), 49–74; Peter McNamara, Political Economy and Statesmanship: Smith, Hamilton, and the Foundation of the Commercial Republic (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998); Michael D. Chan, Aristotle and Hamilton: On Commerce and Statesmanship (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006); and “Hamilton’s Political Economy,” in Federici, The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton, 187–213.
58. Alexander Hamilton, “Final Version of the Report on the Subject of Manufactures (December 5, 1791), at Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-10-02-0001-0007. Source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 10, December 1791–January 1792, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966), 230–340.
59. See Gilbert Chinard, The Correspondence of Jefferson and Du Pont de Nemours, with an Introduction on Jefferson and the Physiocrats (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1931); Robert F. Haggard, “The Politics of Friendship: Du Pont, Jefferson, Madison, and the Physiocratic Dream for the New World,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 153, no. 4 (December 2009): 419–40; and Vernon L. Parrington, “The Heritage of Jeffersonianism,” in Main Currents in American Thought, vol. 2, pt. 1, chap. 2 (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927): “Historically the [French] Physiocratic school is as sharply aligned with idealistic agrarianism as the [British] Manchester school is aligned with capitalistic industrialism. The conception that agriculture is the single productive form of labor, that from it alone becomes the net product or ultimate net labor increment, and that bankers, manufacturers and middlemen belong to the class of sterile workers, profoundly impressed the Virginia mind, bred up in a plantation economy and concerned for the welfare and dignity of agriculture. Franklin had first given currency to the Physiocratic theory in America a generation earlier, but it was Jefferson who spread it widely among the Virginia planters. He did more: he provided the new agrarianism with politics and a sociology. From the wealth of French writers, he formulated a complete libertarian philosophy. His receptive mind was saturated with romantic idealism which assumed native, congenial form in precipitation.”
60. Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–1783). See http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/JEFFERSON/ch19.html. To Madison in December 1787 Jefferson wrote, “I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.” (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-10-02-0210).
61. See William D. Grampp, “A Re-Examination of Jeffersonian Economics,” Southern Economic Journal 1, no. 3 (January 1946): 263–82; Claudio J. Katz, “Thomas Jefferson’s Liberal Anti-Capitalism,” American Journal of Political Science 47, no. 1 (January 2003): 1–17; Michael Merrill, “The Anti-Capitalist Origins of the United States,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 13, no. 4 (Fall 1990): 465–97; and Michael J. Thompson, “The Radical Critique of Economic Inequality in Early American Political Thought,” New Political Science 30, no. 3 (September 2008): 307–24. On the environment, Hamilton (in his Report on Manufactures) extolled a more industrial system in which “the bowels and surface of the earth are ransacked for articles which were before neglected,” so as to enhance human prosperity. In contrast, see Peter F. Cannavò, “To the Thousandth Generation: Timelessness, Jeffersonian Republicanism and Environmentalism,” Environmental Politics 19, no. 3 (May 2010): 356–73; and Linda A. Malone, “Reflections on the Jeffersonian Ideal of an Agrarian Democracy and the Emergence of an Agricultural and Environmental Ethic in the 1990 Farm Bill,” Stanford Environmental Law Journal 12, no. 3 (1993): 4–49, who notes that “the continuing influence of the Jeffersonian ideal in America is critical to determining the future role of the federal government in regulating agriculture to serve environmental objectives.” See also Franklin Kalinowski, America’s Environmental Legacies (New York: Springer, 2016), which includes a chapter praising Jefferson as a proto-environmentalist and another condemning Hamilton as his opposite in this regard.
62. See Robert E. Wright, Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic (Westport: Praeger, 2002) and One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008).
63. See Frank R. Gunter, “Thomas Jefferson on the Repudiation of Public Debt,” Constitutional Political Economy (1991), 283–301; and Herbert E. Sloan, Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001). Jefferson’s exploitation of his creditors and slaves is best captured in his 1787 letter to Nicholas Lewis, in which he complains of a “torment of mind” due to his burdensome personal debts (attributable to his overspending); he reports that he won’t reduce his debts by selling any of his land, “nor would I willingly sell the slaves as long as there remains any prospect of paying my debts with their labor. In this I am governed solely by views to their happiness, which will render it worth their while to use extraordinary exertions for some time.” Cited in John P. Foley, ed., The Jefferson Cyclopedia (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1900), 230.
64. Hamilton letter to Robert Morris, April 30, 1781, in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 2, 1779–1781, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), 604–35. See http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-02-02-1167.
65. See Thomas DiLorenzo, Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution—and What It Means for Americans (New York: Crown Forum, 2008); for an accurate account of the same topic, see John Steele Gordon, Hamilton’s Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt (New York: Walker Books, 1997).
66. Alexander Hamilton, “Report Relative to a Provision for the Support of Public Credit” (January 9, 1790), in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 6, December 1789–August 1790, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962), 65–110, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-06-02-0076-0002-0001.
67. Alexander Hamilton, “Report on a Plan for the Further Support of Public Credit” (January 16, 1795), at Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-18-02-0052-0002. Source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 18, January 1795–July 1795, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1973), 56–129.
68. Alexander Hamilton, “Final Version of the Second Report on the Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit (Report on a National Bank)” (December 13, 1790), in The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 7, September 1790–January 1791, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 305–42, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-07-02-0229-0003.
69. Contemporary foreign policy theory classifies Hamilton as a “realist,” which is true only to the extent that the term connotes a selfish approach; but modern theorists who conflate altruism with morality consider the “realist” policy to be amoral at best (insufficiently “humanitarian” toward those in need abroad) and immoral at worst (imperialistically assaulting innocents abroad), all of which Hamilton rejects. For a reasonable account see Carson Holloway, “Alexander Hamilton and American Foreign Policy,” First Principles, Heritage Foundation, September 15, 2015: “Hamilton’s thinking does justice to the complexities of foreign policy by giving due attention to the claims of both prudence and principle. By acknowledging the role of national interest in foreign policy, it manifests a realism that understands that politics, both domestic and international, will always be influenced by the self-regard of political actors. . . . Hamiltonian foreign policy is realistic insofar as it acknowledges the importance of national self-interest, but it is not an amoral realism [nor] a foolish idealism that believes foreign policy cannot be moral unless it is animated primarily by altruism.” For the precise distinction between the “realist” and rationally-selfish approach, see Craig Biddle, “U.S. Foreign Policy: What’s the Purpose?” The Objective Standard 10, no. 2 (Summer 2015).
70. On Hamilton’s view of foreign relations, see Frisch, The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793–1794: Toward the Completion of the American Founding; Federici, “Hamilton’s Foreign Policy,” 148–86; Carson Holloway, “Alexander Hamilton and American Foreign Policy,” First Principles Series Report #57 on Political Thought, Heritage Foundation, September 15, 2015; Brooke Allen, “Alexander Hamilton: The Enlightened Realist.” Hudson Review 57, no. 3 (2004): 497–508; Helen Johnson Looz, Alexander Hamilton and the British Orientation of American Foreign Policy (The Hague: Mouton, 1969); Karl-Friedrich Walling, Republican Empire: Alexander Hamilton on War and Free Government (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999); Lawrence S. Kaplan, Alexander Hamilton: Ambivalent Anglophile (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001); John Lamberton Harper, American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and Gilbert L. Lycan, Alexander Hamilton and American Foreign Policy: A Design for Greatness (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970).
71. In January 1794, Hamilton wrote that “after wading through seas of blood, in a furious and sanguinary civil war, France may find herself at length the slave of some victorious Scylla or Marius or Cæsar.” In The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 15, June 1793­–January 1794, edited by Harold C. Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), p. 671.
72. Thomas Jefferson letter to William Short, January 1793, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-25-02-0016.
73. Cited in Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 495–96.
74. See Roland Ringwalt, “Jefferson, the Great Practical Protectionist,” The Protectionist, November 1910, 333–37; and “Protectionists Who Came from the Democratic Ranks, The Protectionist, August 1910, 172–76. See also Douglas A. Irwin, “Revenue or Reciprocity? Founding Feuds Over Early U.S. Trade Policy,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 15144, July 2009. Excerpt: “The Federalist policy of moderate tariffs, non-discrimination, and conflict avoidance”—which was opposed by the anti-Federalists—“provided much needed stability during the critical first decade of the new government.” https://www.dartmouth.edu/~dirwin/w15144.pdf.
75. Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson, Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), x–xi.
76. Federici, “Hamilton’s Foreign Policy,” 186.
77. Cited in Federici, “Hamilton’s Foreign Policy,” 167.
78. Hamilton, “Second Letter, from Phocion to the Considerate Citizens of New-York on the Politics of the Times, in Consequence of the Peace,” April 1784, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-03-02-0347.
79. During his presidency (1801–1809) Jefferson came to acknowledge the importance and validity of implied constitutional powers (e.g., the extralegal Louisiana Purchase), of banning slave imports, of unquestioningly servicing the national debt, and of manufacturing’s net productiveness. Madison came to regret the damage done (the War of 1812–1814) after he and Jefferson targeted Britain with harsh protectionist measures (the Embargo of 1808) and left the nation unprepared militarily (by steep cuts in defense spending and the standing army). Madison also regretted his refusal to renew the (First) Bank of the U.S.’s charter in 1811, as public finances went awry for five years before he approved a successor bank (albeit in the form of a politicized Second Bank of the U.S., 1816–1836). Albert Gallatin, an early and unrelenting critic of Hamilton, nonetheless, as Treasury secretary under Jefferson and Madison (1801–1814), repeatedly praised Hamilton’s public financial architecture, even as his bosses pushed him to try to uncover prior misdoings. James Monroe (U.S. president, 1817–1825) came to regret his earlier charge that Hamilton engaged in peculation; nevertheless, in 1827 Hamilton’s widow, Eliza, rejected the ex-president’s in-person attempt to apologize (see Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 727–28).


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