As recently as 2008, when Presidents Bush and Obama acted to bail out the nation's crashing banks and failing auto companies, the perennial objection erupted anew: government has no business in...business. To the contrary, Mike O'Connor argues in this book: Those who cite history to decry government economic intervention are invoking a tradition that simply does not exist. In a cogent and timely take on this ongoing and increasingly contentious debate, O'Connor uses deftly drawn historical analyses of major political and economic developments to puncture the abiding myth that business once operated apart from government. From its founding to the present day, our commercial republic has always mixed--and battled over the proper balance of--politics and economics.
Contesting the claim that the modern-day libertarian conception of U.S. political economy represents the "natural" American economic philosophy, O'Connor demonstrates that this perspective has served historically as only one among many. Beginning with the early national debate over the economic plans proposed by Alexander Hamilton, continuing through the legal construction of the corporation in the Gilded Age and then the New Deal commitment to full employment, and concluding with contemporary concerns over lowering taxes, this book demonstrates how the debate over government intervention in the economy has illuminated the possibilities and limits of American democratic capitalism.