Angus Burgin, The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Great Depression (Harvard University Press, 2012)
In The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Great Depression, Angus Burgin, a historian at Johns Hopkins, offers the fascinating story of a trans-Atlantic group of intellectuals who, beginning in the 1930s, came together in an effort to articulate and promote an alternative vision to the then-dominant ideas of Keynesian economics. In this short essay, I describe Burgin’s impressive contribution to the intellectual history of modern conservatism, and then offer some concluding thoughts on neoliberalism as a constitutional value today.
The basic story of the resurgence of conservatism, including free market ideology, in the second half of the twentieth century is well known. What this fine book adds is a sensitive and nuanced portrait of those thinkers—economists, mostly, but not exclusively—who, through several generations of struggle, among themselves and with their antagonists, shaped the ideas of what has come to be known as neoliberalism. Burgin’s overriding argument is that these people made possible the eventual triumphs of free market ideas in the public sphere. Although often articulated in abstract and technical terms, these were ideas that would have a profound impact on American life and politics. Continue reading "The Global Community of Ideas that Created Neoliberalism"