I love this story so much because it replicates the story I tell to begin Chapter 4 of FREE ENTERPRISE: in 1948 the 15 y.o. son of DeWitt Emery, a leading free enterpriser, has to write an essay explaining free enterprise but can't find a definition for it any reference work. /1
Emery was so upset by this that he sent his secretary to the Chicago Public Library, where, despite being assisted by three top-notch reference librarians, she was unable to find a definition of free enterprise either./2
This set off what I call in my book a "free enterprise freakout," a periodic condition of free enterprise discourse, the first of which happened in 1943, when a Gallup Poll revealed that only 3 in 10 Americans could define the term "free enterprise."/3
The interesting thing about the Gallup Poll is that George Gallup's article about this in Nov, 1943, which highlighted the danger of this condition of ignorance, offered no definition of the term either./4
As I show in my book, this concern set off a wave of free enterprise definition contests, of the sort that Emery's son, a high school freshman, participated in as did thousands of students around the country./5
The advertising journal PRINTERS INK even held a juried contest in 1944, in which ad men and women were invited to send in their best definition that "John Q. Public could understand."/6
The journal received dozens of entries but its editors ultimately abandoned the contest because Leonard Dreyfuss, the ad man who suggested the contest, was displeased with all of them. /7
Pat Frayne, a labor reporter, offered my favorite response: this phrase, long "used a cliche-club over the head of organized labor and cliche-cloak for management," was now shown to have "neither a dictionary for a father nor an encyclopedia for a mother." /8
Free enterprisers soon turned this problem into a virtue by describing it as "traditional,", with deep roots in history extending back to the Founders at least, and also a species of American "common sense."/9
If you are interested in reading more about the (mostly failed) quest to define free enterprise and how this contested term evolved to stand primarily in opposition to the New Deal, and, later, the New Deal Order, here is a link to my @yalepress book./10
yalebooks.yale.edu/book/978030023…
Oh, and one other relevant thread in my book is that advocates of "free enterprise" were so frustrated by their inability to define it that they periodically discussed ditching the phrase and replacing it with something else./11

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More from @LarryGlickman

11 Nov
I disagree that Trump ran as an "economic populist" in 2016. He called for tax cuts for the rich, opposed increasing the minimum wage (@PeterBeinart says otherwise), & called for eliminating health care for millions. The populism was purely performative.
nybooks.com/daily/2020/11/…
Here's a good @washingtonpost roundup on Trump's minimum wage claims during the 2016 campaign. /2
washingtonpost.com/news/fact-chec…
Trump said a bunch of bs stuff about how his taxes would go up, but his proposed plan made clear that it benefitted the wealthy, that it was a typical Republican plan./3
taxfoundation.org/details-analys…
Read 10 tweets
26 Oct
The irony of the 60 Minutes interviews is that Biden faced much tougher questions. They asked him, and not the guy who recently bragged about acing a dementia test, whether he was senile. They asked him, and not the guy who just got out of the hospital, about his health. /1
When Trump couldn’t name a policy priority, rather than zeroing in on his inability to do so, Stahl changed the subject to “Who is our biggest foreign adversary?” Other than COVID, she didn’t ask him to defend or explain any of his policies or about his personal tax avoidance./3
To be fair, Stahl had more questions that she didn’t get to ask because he walked out early, but there was nothing about his threats to free and fair elections, about about kids in cages, or about tax cuts for the rich, about corruption in his administration, or climate change./3
Read 9 tweets
24 Oct
This piece is incredibly credulous about Trump's approach to the economy and in accepting the myth that, prior to Trump, the GOP embraced "sacred verities about government debt." nytimes.com/2020/10/24/bus…
First, the record over the last forty years makes it patently obviously that the GOP only embraces these "sacred verities" when a Democrat holds the presidency. /2
It quotes an AIE economist saying that Trump has "completely moved the Republican Party away from reducing Social Security and Medicare spending" but not Trump's own claim that he would consider cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his second term./3
vox.com/2020/3/6/21168…
Read 16 tweets
18 Oct
One problem with this article is that it does not explore the long history of the term "white supremacy," which arose in the Jim Crow and was proudly and frequently used by white politicians and other thought leaders. /1
nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/…
The people who first embraced it were not critics but self-defined white supremacists, as in this claim by Georgia Senator A. O. Bacon in 1904. /2
At the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901, the attendees, who bragged "there is not a representative of the negro race among its one hundred and fifty members," framed the Civil War/Reconstruction era as a time of "negro supremacy." /3
newspapers.com/clip/61348423/
Read 11 tweets
8 Oct
Lee's statement that "we are not a democracy" has a long genealogy on the American right, and is not that different from what others have said recently. /1
Remember that in 2016, Trump economic advisor, Stephen Moore, said, "I'm not even a big believer in democracy." /2
theintercept.com/2016/08/09/cap…
As Lisa McGirr shows in the "Preface to the New Edition" of her classic study of conservatism, Suburban Warriors, such statements are not uncommon. In 2014, Tea Party Rep. Fred Yoho confessed to "radical ideas of democracy" by limiting voting rights to property owners (p. xxi) /3
Read 9 tweets
27 Sep
Echoes of Louis Hartz: "We are a country founded along the contours of a philosophy...liberalism...that underlies our founding documents and our national ethos of individualism, self-reliance, liberty, equality and tolerance."
nytimes.com/2020/09/26/opi…
Since Hartz wrote THE LIBERAL TRADITION IN AMERICA, scholars have challenged this view of a triumphant and monolithic liberalism, as well as the idea of "national ethos."
What about the competing traditions of civic republicanism or producerism, to name only two? What about the re-evaluation of Locke's work in the scholarship of the late Richard Ashcraft and many others?
Read 4 tweets

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