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In this booklet, the free market anarchist Roy A. Childs takes a careful historical look at the rise of American business empires, and the regulatory state supposedly introduced to curtail their power. A closer look at the evidence shatters the conventional, Patriotically Correct text-book treatment of the regulatory state as a check on big business: in fact it was largely the product of the Robber Barons’ corporate empires: their much-desired creation, their most powerful ally, and their most dangerous weapon against disruptive competitors, demanding customers and smaller-scale alternatives.
“THIS, THEN, WAS THE BASIC CONTEXT OF BIG BUSINESS; these were the problems that it faced. How did it react? Almost unanimously, it turned to the power of the state to get what it could not get by voluntary means. Big business acted not only through concrete political pressure, but by engaging in largescale, longrun ideological propaganda or “education” aimed at getting different sections of the American society united behind statism, in principle and practice.
“TO A LARGE DEGREE IT HAS BEEN AND REMAINS BIG businessmen who are the fountainheads of American statism. If libertarians are seeking allies in their struggle for liberty, then I suggest that they look elsewhere. . . . and begin to see big business as a destroyer, not as a unit, of the free market. Liberals should also benefit, and reexamine their own premises about the market and regulation. Specifically, they might reconsider the nature of a free market, and ponder on the question of why big business has been opposed to precisely that. Isn’t it odd that the interests of liberals and key big businessmen have always coincided?
“LIBERTARIANS SHOULD TAKE HEART. OUR HOPE LIES, not with any remnants from an illusory ‘golden age’ of individualism, which never existed, but with to morrow. Our day has not come and gone. It has never existed at all. It is our task to see that it will exist in the future. The choice and the battle are ours.”
“Big Business and the Rise of American Statism” first appeared as a two-part serialized essay in the U. S. libertarian magazine Reason, with parts of the article in issues 2.11 and 2.12 (February — March 1971). This chapbook features an excerpted version of the essay, which is an off-print of Ch. 23 from the market anarchist anthology Markets Not Capitalism, edited by Charles W. Johnson and Gary Chartier (Minor Compositions, 2011).
Roy A. Childs, Jr. (1949–1994) was a New York essayist, activist and critic. As a teenager, he published two essays — “The Contradiction in Objectivism” and “An Open Letter to Ayn Rand” — which became incredibly influential in creating a “free market anarchist” tendency within the emerging libertarian movement in the U. S. Influenced by the teaching of Robert LeFevre, he was involved in the Rampart College Freedom School, the Society for Individual Liberty, publications including The Individualist and Libertarian Review.