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May 29, 2011 9:48 pm

A Modern Liberal's View of Capitalism

Joyce Appleby describes herself as a "left-leaning historian ... with strong libertarian trends." She has written a partially good book on the history of capitalism--The Relentless Revolution. I reviewed it in Liberty and would be interested in comments by writers on this blog.  My overview, expressed with a somewhat rhetorical flourish:

At the start, The Relentless Revolution is like an exhilarating train ride, full of insights and a historian’s gold mine of information, but it loses steam and slows to a crawl once the Rubicon of the Industrial Revolution has been crossed. At the end, Appleby is praising the US government for trying to rein in the capitalist beast.

Along the way, Appleby appears to adopt the Kenneth Pomeranz view that slavery may have contributed to the Industrial Revolution as much as or more than trade did. I'd like to see some reaction to that. Otherwise, however, she offers some good sense about the causes of the Industrial Revolution--showing nicely how scientific theory and British practicality worked together and admitting that Britain had a more open society than the rest of Europe (and of the world), and that the openness was an important factor, too.

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