March 24, 2018


What's Good for GM is Good for Marcuse: Conservatives Against Capitalism: From the Industrial Revolution to Globalization by Peter Kolozi.  (GRANT HAVERS, University Bookman)

As he persuasively demonstrates, America has always had conservatives who opposed capitalism, particularly the simon-pure free market version. Moreover, these enemies of the unregulated market economy have not been mere flashes in the pan. Some of the most important figures in American history, including John C. Calhoun and Theodore Roosevelt, have been right-wing adversaries of the moneyed classes. This tradition may even be enjoying a resurgence, as Kolozi persuasively contends, due to the rising instability and socioeconomic inequality that have bedeviled American capitalism since the near collapse of the system in 2008. Even if most establishment conservatives no longer undertake a systematic critique of capitalism, the populist insurgency of Donald Trump arguably builds on a tradition that has never been comfortable with laissez-faire.

Kolozi does an impressive job of discussing different traditions in American history that count as hostile to capitalism. Unsurprisingly, he devotes considerable attention to the South, the one region of America that has a discernibly feudal past. Kolozi credits both the antebellum defenders of slavery (including Calhoun but also James Henry Hammond and George Fitzhugh) and the twentieth-century Southern Agrarians (including John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, and Robert Penn Warren) with producing some of the most penetrating critiques of laissez-faire capitalism, even if their motives stemmed from the self-interested desire to preserve racial hierarchy and privilege.

Their racism is a substitute for economics. There is no economic argument against trade and immigration.

Posted by at March 24, 2018 5:15 AM


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