Monday, July 04, 2005

Powell Memo 1971

Jonathan Chait in The New Republic discusses the issue of policies and ideas. One thing caught my attention:

Liberals--who have developed a fascination with corporations and the rise of conservative institutions--have an explanation of their own. They invest enormous importance in a memo written by Lewis Powell in 1971, making the case that corporate America must aggressively defend its interests.

The story of the Powell memo was the first explanation for the rise of the conservative movement and the downturn of liberal politics, that I have learnt of and since it was the only explanation, I accepted it at face value. The real cause may have been much simpler:
My colleague John B. Judis, though, has a far more convincing explanation than a memo that changed the world. In February, he wrote in these pages that businesses adopted a more aggressive and self-interested stance because the U.S. economy changed. In the 25 years after World War II, U.S. business enjoyed a dominant and cushioned position. Therefore business leaders could afford to accommodate unions and reasonable regulations. But, as the rest of the world eventually caught up, profit margins shrank and businesses began fighting unions and looking to Washington to cut their taxes, eliminate regulations, and institute other changes geared toward their bottom line. The cultivation of conservative ideas certainly played a role. But the great shift in U.S. politics resulted not from the persuasive powers of conservative intellectuals but dramatic changes in underlying material conditions.

That's a far more reasonable and straightforward explanation. One which does not need to make use of conspiracy theories.


Post a Comment

^^ Home