John Holbo has a question:

I’ll state my question first: to what extent did people believe, in the 30’s and early 40’s, that capitalism was doomed?

I’ve been reading James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution (1941). And I would like to propose (but I am happy to be corrected) that he was the anti-Fukayama of his day. Just as everyone violently attacked Fukayama’s bestseller as speculative and rather wishful prophecy, while basically agreeing that, yes, it looks like liberal democracy and globalization will be dominant for the foreseeable future; so it seems lots of people attacked Burnham’s bestseller as speculative and even wishful prophecy, while basically agreeing with his major premise that capitalism and liberal democracy were on their last legs. (In case you don’t know, Burnham is one of those who started as a Trotskyite and ended by writing for National Review.)

To a first approximation, everyone in the 1930s and 1940s seems to have believed that capitalism, and quite possibly democracy, were headed for the ashbin of history; the hope (or fear) appears in the writings of everyone from Orwell to Hayek. The question I have is, given this near-perfect consensus, how did we manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Or did we? We are, it seems, gearing up to nationalize an industry that accounts for 16% of national output--and even libertarian bloggers have been known to speak out in favor of that most socialist of institutions, the Federal Reserve.

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