U.S. Politics and the Global Economy: Corporate Power, Conservative Shift

By Ronald W. Cox; Daniel Skidmore-Hess | Go to book overview

3
Business Conflict
and Cold War Ideology

The internationalist policies of foreign military aid and global market development pursued by the Truman administration did not lack for sharp challenges from nationalist interests and ideologues. Conservative politicians and businesses oriented toward the domestic market were concerned with the growth of government and organized labor, “subversion” from the left, and the potential threat of foreign competition assisted by the liberality of the United States. The early 1950s were a period of both opportunity and frustration for this right-wing coalition of interests.

The U.S. intervention in Korea raised administrative and policy questions about the mobilization of the economy on a war footing. In the face of concerted business opposition and public antipathy, the Truman administration shied away from the kind of public control of prices and product distribution that had characterized World War II. Yet although the right resisted the socialistic aspects of wartime governance, it expressed frustration at the apparently limited objectives of the U.S. military force in Korea and sympathized with General MacArthur's insubordination and extension of the conflict. As discussed in the previous chapter, a significant fraction of U.S. capital had a stake in the Asian market, now radically shrunk by the Chinese revolution and communist advances into Korea, and had reason to fear the further gains of revolutionary socialist-nationalist movements in East Asia.

The position of the 1950s nationalist right in the United States, as expressed by Senator Robert Taft, for example, was ultimately untenable. On the one hand, it yearned for a return to the pre—New Deal minimal state and a world without communist regimes. Yet, as critics of liberal containment strategies, they desired the rollback of communism abroad as well as the rollback of the interventionist state (and trade unionism) at home. One historian reports that Taft was “furious” at the modest size of the new Eisenhower administration's cuts to the federal budget for fiscal year

-67-

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