Posts Tagged ‘American capitalism’

What’s the matter with us Americans?

January 14, 2015

Europeans think Americans have gone crazy.  Ann Jones, who has lived in Europe for decades, said her European friends once respected the United States, but no longer.  Here are questions she gets from her European friends.

  • Why would anybody oppose national health care?
  • How could you set up that concentration camp in Cuba and why can’t you shut it down?
  • How can  you pretend to be a Christian country and still carry out the death penalty?
  • Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?
  • cia-loves-u-760208Why can’t you understand science?
  • How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?
  • How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?
  • How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
  • How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
  • Why do you Americans like guns so much? Why do you kill each other at such a rate?
  • Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up trouble for the rest of us?

She added:

authoritarianism9fd18cThat last question is particularly pressing because countries historically friendly to the United States, from Australia to Finland, are struggling to keep up with an influx of refugees from America’s wars and interventions.

Throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia, right-wing parties that have scarcely or never played a role in government are now rising rapidly on a wave of opposition to long-established immigration policies.

Only last month, such a party almost toppled the sitting social democratic government of Sweden, a generous country that has absorbed more than its fair share of asylum seekers fleeing the shock waves of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

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Martin J. Sklar on corporate liberalism

November 30, 2014

The giant business corporation is a type of institution which has made possible economic growth and creation of wealth on a scale never before seen in history.  It also is a concentration of economic and political power that is dangerous to a free and democratic nation.

One of the great issues of American public policy, for more than a century, has been how we the people can get the benefit of the corporate form of organization without allowing it to swallow up everything else in American life.

sklar.corporatereconstructionMarty Sklar, a college classmate of mine at the University of Wisconsin in the 1950s, went on to become a historian whose field of study was this issue.  I didn’t keep in touch with him after college, but I recently read magazine articles paying tribute to him as a historian on the occasion of his death.  I was intrigued enough to get a copy of his major book, which is out of print.

The Corporation Reconstruction of American Capitalism, written in 1988, is about the debate over corporate monopoly and anti-trust law in the era when corporations first came to dominate the U.S. economy.

It covers roughly the same period and issues as Altgeld’s America, but in a very different way.  Ray Ginger’s book is about the hurly-burly, corruption and violence of street-level politics and labor struggles in Chicago, while Sklar’s book is about high-level discussion of public policy.

American statesmen saw that corporate trusts and monopoly represented a dangerous concentration of power, which farmers, laborers and independent business owners could not withstand.  But at the same time, these same corporations increased economic efficiency and productivity and raised the American material standard of living to a level never before seen.

I remember Marty in his college student days as a strongly committed left-wing radical.  But in his book, he seems well-content with the workings of American capitalism and American statesmanship.

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