Are We “Made of Sugar Candy”?

(p. 11) Less a conventional history than an extended polemic, “Capitalism in America: A History,” by Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge, a columnist and editor for The Economist, explores and ultimately celebrates the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction,” which the authors describe as a “perennial gale” that “uproots businesses — and lives — but that, in the process, creates a more productive economy.”

. . .

. . . , Greenspan’s admiration for the rugged individualists who populate the novels of Ayn Rand (who merits a nod in this history) and the frontier spirit that animated America’s early development shows no sign of weakening as Greenspan has aged. He and Wooldridge lament that Americans are “losing the rugged pioneering spirit” that once defined them and mock the “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” that now obsess academia.

The authors quote Winston Churchill: “We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.” But now, they conclude, “sugar candy people are everywhere.”

Their prescription for American renewal — reining in entitlements, instituting fiscal responsibility and limited government, deregulating, focusing on education and opportunity, and above all fostering a fierceness in the face of creative destruction — was Republican orthodoxy not so long ago. Before the Great Recession it was embraced by most Democrats as well, and more recently by President Bill Clinton, the recipient of glowing praise in these pages.

No longer. “Capitalism in America,” in both its interpretation of economic history and its recipe for revival, is likely to offend the dominant Trump wing of the Republican Party and the resurgent left among Democrats. It’s not clear who, if anyone, will pick up the Greenspan torch.

For the full review, see:

James B. Stewart. “Creative Destruction.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018): 11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 2, 2018, and has the title “Alan Greenspan’s Ode to Creative Destruction.”)

The book under review, is:

Greenspan, Alan, and Adrian Wooldridge. Capitalism in America: A History. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

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