Classic Reason

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Roy Childs' article "Big Business and the Rise of American Statism," first published in Reason back in 1971, has just gone online at the website of the Molinari Institute.

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  1. Excellent! Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has claimed that liberalism is a movement of the rest of society to restrain the power of big business. Childs showed, rather, that liberal intellectuals were the “running dogs of big businessmen.”

    Thanks for posting the link, and thanks to Roderick Long for making this available online!

  2. Roy Childs. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long time.

    Good stuff.

  3. I like this statement near the end:
    Libertarians themselves should take heart. Our hope lies, as strange as it may seem, not with any remnants from an illusory ?golden age? of individualism, which never existed, but with tomorrow. Our day has not come and gone. It has never existed at all.

    Although there are certainly ways in which (some) Americans were freer “once upon a time” there are also plenty of ways in which people were less free. I prefer a forward-thinking vision in which we look to technology and innovation rather than the state as our first resort when there’s a problem.

    I also like the way he points out the cozy relationship between big business and the regulatory state. Paying taxes on profits apparently doesn’t seem so bad to crony capitalists, if the alternative is significantly lower profits due to competition.

  4. Great article. I’d never heard of Roy Childs before.

    thoreau, don’t forget the deep irrationality 4 billion years of evolution has built into our brains. Even if crony capitalists kept more of their own profits in a competitive setting, the fact that other people, especially including upstarts and self-made-men, would keep their profits too could be enough for crony capitalists to support the regulatory state.

  5. Interesting! An excellent topic, and I think it would be nice to see this topic revisited. I was sort of surprised that out of all the examples presented, no specific arguments were given involving Standard Oil, considering how central to anti-trust intervention that case was.

    ” Ballard not only supported vocational schools as a part of the public schools (which would transfer training costs to taxpayers),”

    This has certainly come to pass. Any public school or university discussion nowadays centers around “does it make people more employable,” as though learning for the sake of having a smart, educated population is a luxury only for the idle rich at private schools.

    “Thus did Wadsworth also advocate compulsory and universal military training: ?Our people shall be prepared mentally as well as in a purely military sense. We must let our young men know that they owe some responsibility to this country.?”

    Sound familiar? My how the times don’t change.

  6. dead elvis,

    Instead of liberal education (an education that equips a person to be a free member of society), today we have servile education. Its purpose, from preschool on, is to teach people not only the skills they need on the job, but the kinds of attitudes that a master desires in a good slave.

    Vocational education, ideally, overproduces skilled and professional labor relative to the demand, in order to reduce its bargaining power. Failing that, it at least externalizes their production cost on the taxpayer.

  7. …an illusory ?golden age? of individualism, which never existed,…

    Actually, that’s about the only passage of the essay that I didn’t like. It sort of runs counter to his quote of Gabriel Kolko’s observation from his history of the progressive era, The Triumph of Conservatism ( BTW, Kolko meant “conservatism” as big business, not a political philosophy), that the dominant trend in the last three decades of the nineteenth century and the first two of the twentieth was not towards increasing centralization but was actually:

    “…toward growing competition. Competition was unacceptable to many key business and financial leaders, and the merger movement was to a large extent a reflection of voluntary, unsuccessful business efforts to bring irresistible trends under control. As new competitors sprang up, and as economic power was diffused throughout an expanding nation, it became apparent to many important businessmen that only the national government could [control and stabilize] the economy. Ironically, contrary to the consensus of historians, it was not the existence of monopoly which caused the federal government to intervene in the economy, but the lack of it

  8. Oh yeah, the essay also appeared in The Libertarian Alternative, Tibor Machan Ed. 1974

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