The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression

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9780674058132: The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression

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Burgin tells the story of free market theory in a masterful intellectual history that covers the 1930s to the 1970s. Keynes and the Keynesians declared laissez-faire over and done in the 1930s, Burgin observes, but 50 years later, free market economics had revived... Burgin traces the development of the principles that challenged Keynes and statism-and still do-dwelling on the profound impact of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman. He describes the astonishing and unexpected popular success of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and traces Milton Friedman's role in popularizing free market economics... Burgin covers a complex subject clearly and free of cant. Publishers Weekly 20120831

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Just as today's observers struggle to justify the workings of the free market in the wake of a global economic crisis, an earlier generation of economists revisited their worldviews following the Great Depression. The Great Persuasion is an intellectual history of that project. Angus Burgin traces the evolution of postwar economic thought in order to reconsider many of the most basic assumptions of our market-centered world. Conservatives often point to Friedrich Hayek as the most influential defender of the free market. By examining the work of such organizations as the Mont Pelerin Society, an international association founded by Hayek in 1947 and later led by Milton Friedman, Burgin reveals that Hayek and his colleagues were deeply conflicted about many of the enduring problems of capitalism. Far from adopting an uncompromising stance against the interventionist state, they developed a social philosophy that admitted significant constraints on the market. Postwar conservative thought was more dynamic and cosmopolitan than has previously been understood. It was only in the 1960s and '70s that Friedman and his contemporaries developed a more strident defense of the unfettered market. Their arguments provided a rhetorical foundation for the resurgent conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and inspired much of the political and economic agenda of the United States in the ensuing decades. Burgin's brilliant inquiry uncovers both the origins of the contemporary enthusiasm for the free market and the moral quandaries it has left behind.

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