A Commercial Republic
America's Enduring Debate over Democratic Capitalism
As recently as 2008, when Presidents Bush and Obama acted to bail out the nations crashing banks and failing auto companies, the perennial objection erupted anew: government has no business in . . . business. Mike OConnor argues in this book that 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, OConnor 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, OConnor 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 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.
“The debate over government’s role in the economy will continue, and students of that debate would do well to read O’Connor’s A Commercial Republic”
—American Political Thought
“An ambitious work of intellectual history. O’Connor takes what he calls a case-study approach, picking one particular issue or idea from each period to help him dissect contemporary worries over the relationship between capitalism and democracy. O’Connor does an excellent job laying out the specific contexts for the various ideas he so carefully explores.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“O’Connor has succeeded admirably in showing how previous generations have engaged with the policy controversies that continue to define the character of political economy in America.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“O'Connor’s retelling forces readers to think about how the long sweep of American History unfolded.”
—Journal of American History
“Mike O’Connor takes readers on a meticulously researched, elegantly written, and endlessly fascinating tour of Americas great economic brawls. Along the way he explodes one of the nations most stubborn myths. Forget the visions of a laissez-faire golden age. From the founding to the present day, the Americans have intertwined politics and economics—the United States has always been a commercial republic. This formidable book has much to teach scholars, citizens, and anyone who enjoys a well-told history.”
—James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and co-author of The Heart of Power
“With a thorough and learned examination of government policies and the American economy from Hamilton and Jefferson to the 1980s, O’Connor has written a major study for scholars, pundits and those interested in public affairs.”
—Joyce Appleby, author of Shores of Knowledge: New World Discoveries and the Scientific ImaginationSee fewer reviews...