The Uses of History

Two Cheers for Pragmatic Democracy

This essay first appeared in Society for US Intellectual History Blog, March 16, 2018,

With democracy pragmatic style, complete realization of ideals are always out of reach—and it also means, in the words of Frederick Douglass, “agitate, agitate, agitate”

                  Once upon a time, marketplace thought and practice was associated with the work of accountants and the policies of cold-hearted politicians.  In 1978, Irving Kristol wrote Two Cheers for Capitalism to retrieve the reputation of free markets for their intimate role in democratic freedoms.  The rest is history, the history that is of the surge of marketplace conservatism.  From Ronald Reagan’s 1980 call to “get the government off the backs of the people,” to Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America in 1994, to the current president’s eagerness to deregulate business, marketplace thought and practices have moved from margin to mainstream.

Continue reading