Capitalism and the American Political Ideal

By Edward S. Greenberg | Go to book overview

8. Corporate Liberalism and the
Functions of Government

For a while, during the opening and middle years of the Corporate‐ Liberal era, it appeared as if the United States had managed to overcome most of the problems that have plagued all capitalist societies. Perpetual economic growth with low inflation seemed the norm. Class conflict seemed like a relic of a dimly remembered past. Enjoyment of the world's natural resources seemed virtually an American birthright. The United States, it seemed, was contented and confident. Giant corporations, blessed with unprecedented productive, financial, and technical capacity, produced goods and services in quantities never before imagined. The organization of key sectors of the work force into labor unions guaranteed regularized, even civilized collective bargaining arrangements and transferred the classic labor-management confrontation from the factory floor and the streets to the negotiating table and the government office. Government programs in social insurance and social welfare eased discontent and provided a modicum of humanitarian justice. America's position as the pre-eminent capitalist power gave it access to cheap raw materials in the Third World and favorable access to markets for its finished goods and agricultural products all over the nonsocialist world, in developed and less-developed nations alike.

It was also a time of political, cultural, and intellectual consensus in American life, and an almost strident self-assurance. 1 It was a time of belief in the inevitability and the beneficent effects of American power in the world; in the limitless possibilities of science and technology; in the inevitability of perpetual economic growth generated by the market system, American ingenuity, and government economic management guided by the dictates of economic science; and in the possibility of

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