Were Andrew Jackson's Policies "Good for the Economy"?

By Whaples, Robert | Independent Review, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Were Andrew Jackson's Policies "Good for the Economy"?


Whaples, Robert, Independent Review


From the point of view of most twenty-first-century Americans, Andrew Jackson was at best a lunatic, at worse a monster. Jackson's unpardonable sins include building his wealth on the backs of slave labor, massacring Native Americans, and trampling the Supreme Court's rulings to send the Cherokee to their doom on the Trail of Tears. (1) In addition, he was a wild man--who married a woman who wasn't yet legally divorced and who carried to the grave festering wounds and bullet fragments from two duels (Remini 1981, 1). His contemporary critics damned him for constantly overstepping his authority, calling him a demagogue whose violent partisanship unsettled the economy. Many of his deeds clearly deserve condemnation. But the majority of the American people seemed to love this war hero and successful businessman, electing him with landslide majorities in both 1828 and 1832.

Were Jackson's policies ultimately good for the economy? The answer to this question hinges on what is meant by "good for the economy" and depends on one's implicit model of how an economy functions--on what it takes for an economy and its people to grow and prosper. What is "the economy"? In a word, it is "us." If we, the people of the economy, are prospering, then the economy is prospering. The millions of individual decision makers in the economy are us, so "what's good for the economy" means "what's good for us." The thrust of modern economic thinking and much of economic history is that widespread prosperity and economic growth come from establishing a society' with (1) secure property rights, which gives people incentives (2) to put their resources into high-valued uses--for example, to develop (not waste) natural resources, to work smart and hard, to take responsible risks, to trade, to become educated--and (3) to develop new technologies (Margo 2013).

Economists often look at the proximate sources of economic growth using mathematical models, which simplify the entire economy into a single equation--a production function that models how the economy turns inputs (such as land, labor, and capital) into specific outputs (such as corn, cotton, and cloth) and ultimately into the gross domestic product (GDP). These models emphasize that the two direct channels to growth in per capita income are increasing the amounts of inputs per person and increasing "total factor productivity" so that the same amount of inputs produce more output, especially because technology' improves.

Andrew Jackson would probably have had little use for these models, but he had an intuitive feel for what would allow the American economy--or, more precisely, the American electorate of the early nineteenth century--to grow and prosper. However, it is vitally important to realize that Jackson and his electorate defined "us" much differently than we do today. They defined "us" as white people--excluding American Indians and African Americans, whom they saw as impediments to progress or resources to be exploited or both. The bulk of this essay, therefore, will take on Jackson and his policies from the point of view of the early-nineteenth-century electorate. In these terms, Jackson's policies were arguably pretty good for the economy'. However, the moral failures of this outlook and these policies should not and cannot be ignored.

Jackson's Land Policies

Perhaps the most important Jacksonian policy that encouraged growth and prosperity for the electorate was his push for an increase in the amount of land available for cultivation in a country in which 71 percent of the labor force worked in agriculture (Carter et al. 2006, 2:110). Jackson's key policy was Indian removal, which allowed whites access to fertile land, especially in the South Central and upper Midwest regions. The electorate's point of view was that because Indian hunters were using the land very inefficiently, they had no right to it.

An Indian chief explained that "[w]e must have a great deal of ground to live upon. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Were Andrew Jackson's Policies "Good for the Economy"?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.