The Atlantic

A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy

The Green New Deal’s mastermind is a precocious New Yorker with big ambitions. Sound familiar?
Source: John Trumbull / Caitlin Ochs / Eric Vidall / Reuters / Thanh Do / The Atlantic

The economic thinker who most influenced the Green New Deal isn’t Marx or Lenin. No, if you want to understand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s bid to remake the economy to fight climate change, you need to read Hamilton.

Yes, Alexander Hamilton. Long before he was associated with theatrical hip-hop, former Treasury Secretary Hamilton called for policies that sound familiar to us today. Like Representative Ocasio-Cortez, he wanted massive federal spending on new infrastructure. Like Donald Trump, he believed that very high tariffs can nurture American manufacturing. And like Elizabeth Warren, he was willing to bend the Constitution to reform the financial system.

Hamilton, in short, successfully used the power of the federal government to boost manufacturing, to pick winners and losers, and to shape the fate of the U.S. economy. He is the father of American industrial policy: the set of laws and regulations that say the federal government can guide economic growth without micromanaging it. And the Green New Deal, for all its socialist regalia, only makes sense in light of his capitalistic work.

In the days since Ocasio-Cortez debuted the Green New Deal, consensus has hardened: It is legislation by listicle. “An aspirational climate policy wish list,” writes the democratic socialist Ryan Cooper. “A needlessly long wish list,” says The New York Times’ David Leonhardt. “An untrammeled Dear Santa letter without form, purpose, borders, or basis in reality,” adds National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke, in Buckleyan reverie.

Even its supporters seem to concede that the Green New Deal is a binder of climate policies duct-taped to an Easter basket of socialist goodies: Its individual parts may be great, but you have to admit that it looks like it might teeter over. Its critics, meanwhile, ominously suggest that it prizes ideology above science—something I have also warned of.

But both views are, on the whole, incorrect. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal is not only a set

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