[Marxism] Confiscation of American Prosperity

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 29 07:06:00 MDT 2008


The Crime of the Century

Michael Perelman, The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From 
Right-Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression. 
Palgrave Macmillan. 239 pp.

Economist Michael Perelman has written a whodunit about a heist, but not 
just any heist. His new book dissects the grandest bit of thievery in 
modern human history, the robbery that snatched away the economic 
security of the great American middle class and made America’s rich the 
richest rich the world has ever seen.

Perelman book

How did all this happen? Perelman takes us back to the initial crime 
scene, the United States of the early 1970s, a society then completing a 
quarter-century of unparalleled prosperity. Most Americans had shared in 
those good times. Most expected them to continue.

But not everyone felt that way. Corporate America’s movers and shakers, 
back in the early '70s, sensed a world spinning out of — their — 
control. They feared marketplace challenges from abroad. Western Europe 
and Japan had rebuilt their war-torn economies. They also feared 
challenges at home, from social activists and angry workers. Even 
consumers were organizing.

Corporate leaders, amid these challenges, panicked. They rejected the 
basic assumption behind America's good times, that balance in economic 
life — and prosperity for all — requires an active role for trade unions 
and government regulators. Corporate leaders would instead link up with 
radical conservatives and help speed what Michael Perelman calls a 
“right-wing revolution.”

That revolution would rewrite the nation’s economic rules and leave in 
its wake a deeply and ferociously unequal United States.

Michael Perelman names names as he fills in the outline of this broad 
sweeping story with intriguing detail on who did what when. He 
introduces us, for instance, to Lewis Powell, the corporate lawyer — and 
future Supreme Court justice — whose 1971 memo for the U.S. Chamber of 
Commerce rallied the nation’s power-suits to rise up and “save” free 

“Each time the United States has increased income inequality,” author 
Perelman reminds us along his story-telling way, “disaster has followed.”

And disaster, Perelman notes, will surely follow our contemporary 
right-wing revolution. Perelman explains why, patiently laying out how 
top-heavy distributions of wealth deflate broad-based consumer demand, 
pump up speculative asset bubbles, and invariably invite a “culture of 

Perelman ends his whodunit with a look at “the presumptive cops” on the 
beat, his fellow economists, the academics who could have and should 
have blown the whistle on the right-wing’s frontal assault on American 
prosperity. They did not. Michael Perelman has. More power to him.

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