By Leonard Peikoff
What explains the rise of statism in America, a nation founded on laissez-faire capitalist principles? Philosopher Leonard Peikoff takes up this question in this 1980 lecture to a group of businessmen. After weeding through popular yet insufficient explanations, Peikoff identifies the ideas dominating Western philosophy as the crucial determinant.
America, Peikoff argues, was founded as a capitalist nation with a complete separation between the state and economics; the government’s only role was to protect individual freedom. Events of the twentieth century have confirmed that capitalism is the far superior political system to socialism, fascism and communism—the high standard of living Americans enjoy, their rising life expectancies and the general level of peace and prosperity in the West are unprecedented.
Despite capitalism’s practical benefits, Peikoff observes, capitalism is on the decline. Modern America is best characterized, not as a capitalist system, but as a mixed economy in which there is a mixture of individual freedom and government interventions in the economy.
Peikoff addresses common explanations for these trends, such as: Americans are not astute enough to recognize that capitalism is the superior system; elected officials have their own ulterior agenda, contrary to the interests of the American people; or, some particular event, such as the Great Depression or the energy crisis of the 1970s, swung America in the direction of greater government control. According to Peikoff, none of these views is sufficient to explain the rise of statism in America.
Peikoff concludes that government has grown beyond its original scope because of the underlying philosophy that dominates Western culture. Capitalism rests on a certain philosophic base, which is absent today. In its place are a set of philosophic ideas that are hostile to individual freedom.
(MP3 download; 99 min., with Q & A, 71.22 MB)
The description of this product has not necessarily been reviewed or approved by Leonard Peikoff.