September 16, 2023


Should Progressives See Sohrab Ahmari as Friend or Foe?: In his new book, the alum of The Wall Street Journal and New York Post editorial and editor of Compact magazine condemns unfettered corporate power and embraces the New Deal. (Anita Jain, September 15, 2023, Washington Monthly)

[A]mari's new devil, as befitting his magazine, is the corporation and unfettered capitalism, and he proposes that the only way to check their power is through the embrace of big government. 

For example, Ahmari rails against what he calls "the class-based inequalities in power and income that are inherent to the workings of unrestrained capitalism." A few pages later, he froths about the "coercive origins" of the Industrial Revolution, which sent peasants from working fields to "prison-style workhouses and factories, their bones and tears forming the working-class sediments that underlay the glories of Victorian capitalism." He yearns for the New Deal era when labor won the countervailing power to keep big business in check, leading to the "productive genius of highly regulated, heavily unionized capitalism in which the government coordinated private economic activity." 

The pundit has frequently been clubbed together with a coterie of so-called post-liberal thinkers, including political theorist Patrick Deneen, conservative writer Rod Dreher, and legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, who are not only at odds with contemporary liberalism but have a beef with Enlightenment mainstays like individual liberty, separation of government and religion and, of course, the free market. They've had kind words for government in the style of Viktor Orban's Hungary, which is to say anti-immigration and anti-abortion, but with an expansive social welfare role for government. Describing himself in Newsweek last month as "ferociously conservative on cultural issues," Ahmari endorses the ideas of his brethren but adds a union-loving twist that frets over the income inequality perverting our social compact. 

Putting aside cultural issues to focus on the economic ones, Ahmari structures Tyranny, Inc. as a catalog of corporate coercion, retelling horror stories likely to be familiar to readers of The Nation, Mother Jones, or Jacobin.

Posted by at September 16, 2023 6:44 AM