Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 13, 2013

in Growth, History, Myths and Fallacies

… is from historian Forrest McDonald’s 1987 Foreword to Burton W. Folsom’s important volume The Myth of the Robber Barons: in particular, this quotation is found on page x of the 5th edition (2007):

It is commonly held that the Whig Party of Clay and Webster and its successor Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley were “pro-business” parties, and that the Jacksonian Democrats were anti-business.  What comes through here is something quite different.  The Whigs and Republicans engaged in a great deal of pro-business rhetoric and in talk of economic development, but the policies they advocated, such as subsidies, grants of special privileges, protective tariffs, and the like, actually worked to retard development and to stifle innovation.  The Jacksonian Democrats engaged in a great deal of anti-business rhetoric, but the results of their policies were to remove or reduce governmental interferences into private economic activity, and thus to free market entrepreneurs [as opposed to political entrepreneurs] to go about their creative work.  The entire nation grew wealthy as a consequence.

Sadly, and as Deirdre McCloskey might have predicted, the Democrats eventually came to be persuaded by their own ‘anti-business’ rhetoric – with that rhetoric too easily morphing into anti-market rhetoric – while too many in the ranks of the Republicans were never really able to avoid taking their own pro-business (as opposed to pro-market) rhetoric quite seriously.

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