The $10 bill is no place for a woman.

At least, not yet.

Unfor­tu­nately, a female gracing the ten seems inevitable in light of our political class’s obsession with identity pol­itics and vic­tim­ization.

When Treasury Sec­retary Jack Lew announced this summer that he was replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a yet-unnamed woman, he called it a triumph for our “inclusive democracy.”

Because nothing screams democracy like an unelected bureaucrat making uni­lateral deci­sions.

Being on the face of a bill is a high honor, reserved for only the greatest political figures in our nation’s history. American cur­rency isn’t just a sign of our eco­nomic prowess, it’s also one of our largest public memo­rials. Our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives ought to delib­erate on who best rep­re­sents the country before bestowing this honor.

Since the stan­dard­ization of our cur­rency in 1928, however, this task has fallen to bureau­crats. This is the embod­iment of pro­gressive admin­is­trative rule.

But the lack of def­erence to repub­lican gov­ernment is not the worst sin Lew com­mitted in replacing Alexander Hamilton on the ten. That honor is reserved for his com­mitment to placing a woman in his stead.

Being placed on a dollar bill ought to be a result of merit. But for now, that’s a problem if you want a woman there. Make no mistake, there are many suc­cessful women in our history. But we don’t just put suc­cessful people on our money, we put only the greatest of the great — those figures who created or saved the Union, or guided it through times of intense troubles. And when it comes to women, America simply doesn’t have an equiv­alent to a Queen Eliz­abeth or even a Mar­garet Thatcher.

Take Harriet Tubman, a likely choice for the honor of being on the ten based on online polling. She saved many blacks from slavery and served as a useful Union spy. She even lead a mil­itary expe­dition at Com­bahee Ferry during the Civil War, the first female to lead troops in the war. Those are notable accom­plish­ments, but they are simply no match for those of Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was a war hero and a political genius. During the Rev­o­lution he raised and trained his own artillery company and demon­strated his courage and tac­tical acumen at the battle of Harlem Heights. Wash­ington pro­moted him to Lieu­tenant Colonel and retained him as a senior aide.

Hamilton co-authored the Con­sti­tution and served as one of its premier defenders in the Fed­er­alist Papers. He opposed slavery and oversaw the cre­ation of a political union strong and prin­cipled enough to one day defeat it.
During his tenure as Treasury Sec­retary he did nothing less than save the republic by fixing its credit problem and putting its shoddy finances in order. He spent 30 years in public service in the con­ti­nental con­vention, pres­i­dential cabinet, and Con­gress.

It’s not just Harriet Tubman: no American woman and few men from Hamilton’s gen­er­ation or any other comes close to reaching that level of political greatness.

Therefore, the only reason to award a woman a place on the ten has nothing to do with achievement and every­thing to do with pol­itics.

This obsession with identity creates faction and destroys the public sense of a common good. Liberal prin­ciple pits dif­fering groups against one another with nar­ra­tives of vic­tim­ization and oppression.

Women, we are told, need to be on our cur­rency because “their” accom­plish­ments haven’t been rec­og­nized enough. This is absurd. Indi­vidual women are not rep­re­sen­tative of all women every­where.

Identity should not be more important than accom­plishment. That’s the problem with placing a woman on the ten. The decision to do so empha­sizes what someone is over what they’ve done. It under­mines the classic American ded­i­cation to merit and ability in favor of trib­alism.

We can do better than that. We can hold off on putting a woman on the ten until one of them earns the honor.