prestidigitation, double shuffling, honey-fugling, hornswaggling, and skullduggery

08/10/19 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General


A little more than a generation ago, a stealthy revolution swept America. It was a dual changing of the guard: Two tribes, two attitudes, two approaches to a good society were simultaneously displaced by upstart rivals. In the world of business, the manufacturing bosses gave way to Wall Street dealmakers, bent on breaking up their empires. “Organization Man,” as the journalist William H. Whyte had christened the corporate archetype in his 1956 book, was ousted by “Transaction Man,” to cite Nicholas Lemann’s latest work of social history. In the world of public policy, lawyers who counted on large institutions to deliver prosperity and social harmony lost influence. In their place rose quantitative thinkers who put their faith in markets. It was The Economists’ Hour, as the title of the New York Times editorial writer Binyamin Appelbaum’s debut book has it.


The first section of Lemann’s elegant history conjures up the corporatist order that preceded Transaction Man’s arrival. The story is shaped around Adolf Berle, a lawyer who, with the statistician Gardiner Means, wrote The Modern Corporation and Private Property, a classic study of the concentration of power in the hands of company managers. Before the publication of that masterpiece, in 1932, other authors had drawn attention to what one of them called the “prestidigitation, double shuffling, honey-fugling, hornswaggling, and skullduggery” employed by corporate executives to dupe their supposed masters, the shareholders. Berle went further. He laid out in detail how shareholders, being so dispersed and numerous, could not hope to restrain bosses—indeed, how nobody could do so. Enormous powers to shape society belonged to company chieftains who answered to no one. Hence Berle’s prescription: The government should regulate them.

A history of socialism in America as compared with Europe -

08/01/19 | by david2 [mail] | Categories: General


The Social Democratic movement first emerged in Germany in the late 1800s under Otto von Bismarck, the country’s first chancellor. It proliferated and flourished in Western Europe as an antidote to the violence of the Russian Revolution, the emergence of totalitarian Communism and the destruction wrought by two world wars. In Europe, and later in Latin America, governments placed a greater emphasis on the role of the state in regulating market economies, protecting the weakest sectors of society, seeking to reduce poverty and inequality as much as possible under a capitalist model, defending the environment and strengthening labor unions, workers’ parties and progressive institutions. The United States missed that train, largely because it didn’t face the same challenges. The American, more deregulated, everyone-for-himself, free-market model delivered the goods for years, without labor parties or strong unions, with a distant and reduced role for the state in the market and society, and with the exclusion of important sectors of its inhabitants from that society. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal was a semi-Social Democratic response to the Great Depression, but it didn’t stick. Until Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the economy’s steady growth kept inequality down, and the middle class thrived. Americans could afford the luxury of a smaller, less expensive welfare state because of its rich middle class. After the 80s, that began to change.

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