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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10490/a-students-guide-to-economic-history/

A Student’s Guide to Economic History

August 19, 2009 by

In the title of a famous essay written in 1906, Werner Sombart asked, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? Whether one agrees with his analysis, his premise cannot be disputed: socialism has never enjoyed much of a following in America, except of course among intellectuals. In his vigorous and excellent defense of capitalism, Thomas DiLorenzo dispatches this group of what C.D. Broad called the “clever silly” with entirely appropriate concision.

His principal target lies elsewhere. Most opponents of capitalism profess to be its defenders. The market is fine, these opponents say, so long as the firm hand of government guides it. DiLorenzo is concerned to combat one particular variety of this malign species. FULL ARTICLE


Barry Loberfeld August 19, 2009 at 9:03 am

RE “why the intellectual class favors socialism is that it denounces the material inequality it sees as intrinsic to a capitalist economy”:

Even the economic inequality of the market substantiates the moral superiority of the Left, since the latter is the singular good that will vanquish the evil of the former. “Greed,” like rape and racism, is judged yet another evil spreading throughout society. And the greater the evil of the social masses, the greater the need for the good of the socialist elite. “What you need,” reveals Catharine MacKinnon, “is people who see through literature [!] like Andrea Dworkin, who see through law like me, to see through art and create the uncompromised women’s visual vocabulary.” While the Left condemns the free market for a division of labor based on ability and the alleged concoction of “false needs,” its own politics centers on the dire need of the endarkened masses for axiological experts.

It is precisely the mechanics of this moral elitism that produces a superstructure of political elitism, the coercive rule of self-appointed experts, which is what every socialist government to date has been. What the Left has always condemned “capitalism” for most profoundly is its legal egalitarianism, its “formal equality” — that is, its granting of political equality to moral unequals. In such a society, a Catharine MacKinnon has no more power than anyone else to censor others. Would-be Lenins and Maos and Castros are reduced to the Man on the Street. Each citizen controls his own property, and no cete of socialists is authorized to redistribute that wealth according to any scheme.

The equality of political liberty is the fundamental evil the Left opposes — and the foremost evil the Left seeks to abolish. The feminists didn’t legislate an end to rape, but an end to freedom of speech. What they achieved (especially in Canada) were laws that controlled speech in accordance with their dictates. And once they established this in connection to pornography, they then went on to declare that everything was “pornography,” i.e., an agent of rape causation. (The title of that 1993 text? Transforming a Rape Culture.) The Communists didn’t end hunger and poverty, but any economic (and cultural) activity not under their direction. This abolition of capitalist evil — of capitalist “sham-liberty” — is the one undisputed accomplishment of all socialist revolutionaries and the reason for their praise (and often iconization) by the West’s would-be revolutionaries.

And like all aspects of the Left, it traces back to the same source — Marx: “[While] its heart is the proletariat,” the “head of the emancipation is philosophy,” i.e., the theory class of the socialist elite. So much for the endless ruminating as to why “the workers’ struggle” so engages intellectuals. In time, that “heart” has come to be identified with the Third World, minorities, women, the environment, but in every incarnation it remains an organ to be controlled by that “head,” an epistemological and ethical hierarchy who will rule as philosopher-tyrants.


2nd Amendment August 19, 2009 at 10:28 am

It’s funny that about 100 years later, in 2009 we could write another book:
How Socialism Doomed America and the rest of the world !
the untold history of our country from Keynes to Obama

Jonathan Finegold Catalán August 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I read How Capitalism Saved America around five months ago, and although I think that overall he presents a lot of good information, I was generally not impressed. I read a couple of reviews which show that he makes slight errors in his history, although none of which really discounted his message. Furthermore, and I think this plagues a lot of libertarian books which cover history, the book is not very well sourced. Finally, I think that although it is a good primer, there needs to be a more exhaustive analysis on the topic of Capitalism in the United States, although admittedly a student could find this information in several other books which focus on more specific topics.

It is a book that I frequently source during arguments, but if I had alternatives I would prefer those.

How Capitalism Saved America, I think, is less for students and more for the average American, which couldn’t cope with reading anything more detailed or more difficult. It is a very basic argument against government regulation, and for those that are really interested in the topic it does motivate one to research more. For example, after reading the book I became very interested in anti-trust laws, and at the time I had access to JSTOR, so I downloaded a large amount of PDFs on the topic.

But, the book had plenty of weaknesses, as well.

John Marks August 20, 2009 at 6:10 am

Charles Martin Hall discovered how to smelt aluminum.

“By about 1903, after a settlement with Hall’s former employer, and while its patents were in force, the company was the only legal supplier of aluminum in the US”

I am curious what role patents played in Alcoa’s rise to dominance in aluminum production.

lloyd September 12, 2009 at 8:09 am

I read the book based on the review. I was disappointed. Good point were made about the effects of the anti-capitalist behavior.

However, the basic argument of the anti-capitalists were not well addressed: given that we do not have a free market and never will, how then to address the dark events that will happen?

Some chapters were just way out there. Did the folks at Jamestown starved to death because they did not own property?

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