Naomi Oreskes — The Big Myth

Politics and Prose Feb 23, 2023

The Big Myth is a sweeping history of another disastrous and all-consuming belief that has had a grip on the American public for decades: “the magic of the marketplace.” How did so many Americans come to have so much faith in markets and so little faith in government? The answer, as The Big Myth reveals: a propaganda blitz. Until the early 1900s, the U.S. government’s guiding role in economic life was largely accepted. But then business elites, trade associations, wealthy powerbrokers, and media allies combatted regulation by building a new orthodoxy: down with “big government,” up with unfettered markets. Unearthing eye-opening archival evidence, Oreskes and Conway document campaigns to rewrite textbooks, combat unions, and defend child labor. They detail the ploys that turned hardline economists Hayek and Friedman into household names, recount the libertarian roots of the Little House on the Prairie books, and tune into the General Electric-sponsored TV show that beamed free-market doctrine (and the young Ronald Reagan) to millions. By the 1970s, this crusade had succeeded. Its ideology would define the next half-century across Republican and Democratic administrations, giving us the opioid scourge, climate destruction, giant tech monopolies, and a baleful response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only by understanding this history can we imagine a future where markets will serve, not stifle, democracy

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