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Thinking the Unthinkable: Think-tanks and the Economic Counter-revolution, 1931-83 Paperback – April 10, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Fontana Press (April 10, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006375863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006375869
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,039,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Williams on July 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Richard Cockett teaches history at a state-funded university in London, England. He supplements his taxpayer-provided salary by writing books such as this one - "Thinking the Unthinkable: Think Tanks and Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931-1983". However, the research for this book was also funded by taxpayers in the form of a Research Fellowship through the British Academy. He has shown continued and consistent success in reaping handouts from the State, gotten by confiscating the wealth of tax victims and redistributing it amongst others. That said, he has compiled a nearly exhaustive history of free-market think tanks and their usurpation by conservatives and Tories to camouflage their advancing of anti-capitalist corporatism. This is a very informative, well-researched, and necessary book to anyone who doesn't know what is happening.

After Antony Fisher died in 1988, percipient observers realized that this founder of Buxted Chickens (England's first factory chicken farm) was also the mainspring to the revival of free market ideas in Britain. These ideas, honed by the Mont Pelerin Society and evangelized by Fisher, gave the conservatives and Tories the cannon fodder that their propaganda guns shot at the British public in their successful attempts to replace British Keynesian-style socialism with a new corporatism - an anti-capitalist economic fascism that is kept hidden and camouflaged by their rhetoric of the free market. Hence, an interesting history of propaganda and disinformation in need of being fleshed-out and written.

Cockett is to be commended for fleshing out what he was able to flesh out. There is simply nothing comparable to his history of the rise of free-market think tanks and the usurpation of their rhetoric by conservatives and Tories.
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A mostly readable history of the institutional and political means used from the 1940s to make conservatism once again popular among politicians and the public. This is written for an academic audience and sometimes the amount of details is overwhelming. Overall I enjoyed it even though I skipped a few parts.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Junglies VINE VOICE on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
This magisterial tome captures much of the flavour of the fight back from the collectivist vision of the control of the commanding heights of the economy to the more market orientated societies that we have today. The story begins with Friedrich Hayek, the main protaganist of John Maynard Keynes who's ideas were hijacked in the name of social justice continues through the advice of Hayek to Anthony Fisher to make the intellectual case among intellectuals through the founding of the Institute of Economic Affairs to the end of the first Thatcher Government in 1983.
More than this it is the story of a classical liberal revival mainly through the tenacity and dedication of a team of two who were once described as the last remaining free marketeers in England - Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon.
It is the story of the importance of ideas and their acceptance and implementation. It is the story about a group of people around the world struggled against the tide to show how their philosophical beliefs had relevance to men and women across the world. It is the story of visionaries, of those who think outside of the box, who turn their dreams into reality. The people who believe in human nature and the ability of people to want to be free, who want to express their individuality, their initiative, their enterprise and who cannot be forever suppressed and oppressed.
It is a story of faith and hope. A journal of change in society against all the reactionary forces raging against it. It is a testament to the power of ideas and to the fact that one or two people can affect change throughout the world.
I highly recommend this book to any serious student of politics and change in contemporary Britain.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
This fascinating book explores the rise and fall of dogmatic economic liberalism. This is the ideology of capitalism, embraced first by Thatcher then by Labour, whose inevitable conclusion is the present slump.

The monetarists - Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman - believed that the market was the solution to every problem. They passionately urged the privatisation of everything, a policy now almost universally seen to have failed. As Professor Robert Nield, a member of the 1968 Fulton civil service reform committee, wrote, "I cannot think of another instance where a modern democracy has systematically undone the system by which incorrupt public services were brought into being." (Public Corruption, Anthem Press, 2002, p. 198.)

The market is neither fair nor efficient. As Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointed out, "In spite of the confidence that is so often expressed in how well markets work, there is a huge body of research suggesting that many investors are simply not rational, and if that is the case, then the prices that emerge in the market may not provide good `directions' for what to invest in." This refutes economic liberalism's main claim, that only the market can produce a rational price system. The price system works only with `perfect competition ... under conditions of perfect information', which of course never happen in the real world.

Cockett admits, "economic liberalism as applied in the 1980s effectively wiped out a large part of Britain's manufacturing industry. ... maybe it would have been better to `see ideology less proud and industry more content'.
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