Friday, May 6, 2011

Sheldon Richman on the Guilded Age

Arguing that the Guilded Age brings a false sense of nostalgia to many lovers of capitalism (and subtly remarking that "capitalism" may not be the best name for a belief in the free market, see this link) Sheldon Richman writes:
The Gilded Age of course has been criticized by enemies of the free market — corporatism and the free market have been sloppily and even intentionally conflated — but what’s often unappreciated is that writers sympathetic to the free market have disparaged the Gilded Age as broadly illiberal and contrary to the spirit of free enterprise. Where many libertarians see laissez faire, these writers saw corruption and privilege distorting commerce.
As one of the authors cited put it:
The interpretation of American history which views the latest nineteenth-century businessman as a free enterpriser, while describing government activity as an attempt to restrain laissez-faire, is simply not borne out by the facts.
The whole article is worth a read, especially if you're into history and/or economics.

What I appreciate most about it is the progressive streak it entails: true freedom, including truly free markets, still have not been attained, and we should be trying to move forward, not backward. Unfortunately both the Left and the Right almost completely miss the central point of free markets, namely that all privilege should be abolished. The Left seems to think abolishing privilege also requires controlling markets (which is a gross non-sequitur with painful consequences), while the Right apparently doesn't mind a system with privilege (which is morally repugnant).

I guess that's why I'm (basically) a libertarian.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear feedback!