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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, February 16, 2007

No Hotbed of Laissez-Faire for Labor

From the free-market economic historian Jonathan R. T. Hughes's The Governmental Habit Redux (37):
In addition to controls over wages, entry into trades, apprenticeships, indentured servitude, and black slavery, the labor contract was also subject to nonmarket controls over business enterprise in general. . . . [T]he colonial world was no hotbed of laissez-faire for labor. It was a world well described by A. E. Smith not as a democratic arcadia, but a place where men with money thrived by making the poor work. A tradition was established: "It is a familiar story that mankind, when confronted in America with a vast and trackless wilderness . . . threw off its ancient shackles of cast and privilege and set forth upon the road to freedom. Among the social institutions found most useful in the course of this march were those of African slavery and white servitude."
The reference is to Abbott Emerson Smith's Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607-1776, 1947.

4 comments:

James Greenberg said...

Ah, the good old days.

Wait.

There's no such thing as the good old days.

Sheldon Richman said...

The good old days are ahead of us.

James Greenberg said...

Sounds like something Kurt Vonnegut would have written circa 1966.

But I will borrow a cup of optimism from you today, Sheldon. Much obliged!

Sheldon Richman said...

James, you are welcome to the cup so long as you promise to return it on the next day that I need it.