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American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930) 
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 American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:38 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
Wow, that was a wild ride through the laissez-faire era, roughly 1870-1900. It was remarkable that the courts responded to gross exploitation of workers by ruling that to disallow such labor practices would harm the liberty of workers to make contracts! That was actually a neat way to avoid admitting that the idea was to protect the interests of the wealthy industrialists.The point is well made, by the end of this section, that laissez-faire made the market less free by the dominance of a few oligopolies.

I wonder at times if Woodard is altogether fair to "nations" other than his own (I assume he's from Yankeedom). He mentions Wilson's racism but not T. Roosevelt's, for example. He also may tend to assume that any effort a president made to create a federal agency was enlightened. But was that necessarily so? He does show us the extreme side of collectivism in the restriction of freedoms in the WW I era, but he seems to view that over-control as an aberration rather than a feature of the communtarian ethos. But he shows that the nation learned the dangers of laissez-faire so that, when conservatives like Coolidge and Hoover came in, they were more mildly laissez-faire than their predecessors. They believed in the federal presence in the lives of Americans. They appeared to accept the judgment of sociologist Lester Ward, who wrote that an active and healthy collective was needed to keep individuals free. Maybe Ward gives the best short summary of Woodard's message in the book.



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Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:29 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
Chapter Five, Laissez Faire, presents a remarkable contrast to the work of President Lincoln described in Chapter Four. Lincoln was a real statesman, with a strategic vision recognising that institutions of government require resources to build an effective nation. But maintaining such a principled stance proved impossible under the sustained assault of venal capital.

Then we get this astounding thievery by corporate crooks in the railway era, with the shocking collusion of Rockefeller and Vanderbilt to establish the oil monopoly by predatory pricing, and by the Chicago meatworks barons to prevent investment in Iowa.

It makes me wonder what it really means to make America great again. Trump is just a flat-out moron, advocating hillbilly policies that will make America destitute. His core constituency is backwaters like the Ozarks. A mad king is no path to greatness. The key to greatness is coordination, seeing principled policies that serve national interests, as Lincoln did. But Trump seems to regard robber barons as great, back to the gilded age while gulling the vulnerable poor.
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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:38 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Chapter Five, Laissez Faire, presents a remarkable contrast to the work of President Lincoln described in Chapter Four. Lincoln was a real statesman, with a strategic vision recognising that institutions of government require resources to build an effective nation. But maintaining such a principled stance proved impossible under the sustained assault of venal capital.

Then we get this astounding thievery by corporate crooks in the railway era, with the shocking collusion of Rockefeller and Vanderbilt to establish the oil monopoly by predatory pricing, and by the Chicago meatworks barons to prevent investment in Iowa.


When we look at these events in history it is clear that even the most perfectly written constitution and Bill of Rights cannot protect all citizens from the creative ways that some will find to exploit others. DWill's thread above of the courts willing to defend the industrialists in their exploitation of workers and children is but one other example.

The insightful Alexis de Tocqueville understood how this possibility could occur. Back in chapter 1, Woodard quotes him from Democracy in America :" I am convinced that the most advantageous situation and the best possible laws cannot maintain a constitution in spite of the customs of the country; while the latter may turn to some advantage the most unfavorable positions and the worst laws. So seriously do I insist upon this head that, if I have hitherto failed in making the reader feel the importance of the practical experience, the habits, the opinion and in short, of the customs of the Americans upon the maintenance of their institutions, I have failed in the principal object of my work".

Woodard says it best when he quotes John Stuart Mill: "The paradox of broad individual freedom is that it requires individuals to act altruistically and the successful to be willing to 'pay it forward' to support the institutional and cultural achievements that made their own ascent possible".



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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
I haven’t read the book but I think it’s time for me to get a copy and see for myself Woodard’s work.

What I’m getting from you guys so far confirms my take on the parallel of the 19th century and what we are witnessing today.

Question for LevV and Robert: Do you agree to the parallels and do you see these as issues confronting your own countries?, also...if these parallels exist in your home countries, do you agree that there is a problem that needs push back? I see a global trend or is this unique to the USA?.



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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
Taylor wrote:
I haven’t read the book but I think it’s time for me to get a copy and see for myself Woodard’s work. What I’m getting from you guys so far confirms my take on the parallel of the 19th century and what we are witnessing today. Question for LevV and Robert: Do you agree to the parallels and do you see these as issues confronting your own countries?, also...if these parallels exist in your home countries, do you agree that there is a problem that needs push back? I see a global trend or is this unique to the USA?.

Hi Taylor, Woodard’s chapter on laissez-faire is really disturbing, beginning with a Foxite rendition of the wonders of a world without tax, and then explaining exactly why there was such an extreme backlash to that absence of government with Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-trust movement.

The parallels are very strong with what is happening today with the insanity of Republican politics. The higher level of education and information today offer much better potential to overcome gross material corruption, but the right is also highly sophisticated.

The tech sector don’t have the potential to corrupt politics to the extent that oil and railways did in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As for the Koch menace, and Trump, I honestly think they are crazed throwbacks to an earlier culture of gross inequality that is superbly depicted by Woodard in this chapter.

Seeing how the US Supreme Court was a tool of capital, like putty in the hands of the wealthy, offers powerful cautionary lessons. Trump is not making America great, he is making America a laughing-stock. I think there is an extreme danger in the context of climate change that Trump’s denial will lead to a collapse analogous to 1929.

The political centre in Australia and most other countries is well to the left of the balance point in the USA. That means there is less oxygen here for extreme political insanity.


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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
You guys are awesome :clap: .

In a mere four posts it has been shown that the worst of history easily repeats itself.

It is a new era for the robber baron, in this new era they should be known as deniers.

The new robber barons pounce on the idea that life is not fair, then deny their own culpability and use bought and paid for libertarian influenced politicians to throw their hands in the air and proclaim that the regulation and restriction of laissez-faire in even the remotest sense is tantamount to full-on socialism or communism. This is bellowed from the mountain top and who’s the first to hear the message? :) its those Appalachians. :yes:

These new age politicians deny the necessity to regulate and tax laissez-faire.



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Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:18 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 5: The Rise and Fall of Laissez-Faire (1877-1930)
Robert Tulip wrote:
The parallels are very strong with what is happening today with the insanity of Republican politics. The higher level of education and information today offer much better potential to overcome gross material corruption, but the right is also highly sophisticated.
There are some striking differences from the time of the Robber Barons. Roosevelt and Taft considered themselves part of a cultivated, educated elite who naturally had the right to advance their own interests but were unable to resist the monopoly power of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and the others. The courts were resistant to the "communism" of organized labor. By contrast with William Jennings Bryan and the populists of the Democratic Party, the Progressives saw themselves continuing the forward-looking politics of the Whigs and Radical Republicans, empowering Main Street against abusive oligarchic power.

The highly sophisticated among today's Republicans are much more cynical. They openly acknowledge donors as their "real base". They expect to be able to manipulate the individualist impulses of the less-educated through Fox News, Facebook and the Breitbart crowd. In order to do so they have talked themselves into abandoning any ideals, one after another, until they now stand for nothing except the interests of the donors and their own ability to stay in office. The party of Bill Barr is just Roy Cohn cloned.



Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:32 am
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