- Hardcover: 450 pages
- Publisher: Isi Books (December 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1882926374
- ISBN-13: 978-1882926374
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,481,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who Owns America: A New Declaration of Independence
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From the Inside Flap
Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence is the classic sequel to I'll Take My Stand, the famous defense of the South's agrarian traditions. But whereas I'll Take My Stand was theoretical and sectional, Who Owns America? sought to be concrete and national, and it succeeded. The book evokes and defends in realist terms an America characterized by small-property ownership, decentralized politics, and responsible stewardship of the nation's natural resources. In 1936, the year Who Owns America? was published, reform was in the air in America. Plans to pull the country out of the devastation of the Great Depression, including Roosevelt's New Deal, abounded. But, as co-editor Herbert Agar wrote, "No country can be reformed by the people who hate it. The haters can supply useful criticism. But only those who have affection for the national ideal can persuade a people to reform." What was the national ideal, according to regionalist and decentralist writers like Allen Tate, Herbert Agar, John Crowe Ransom, Mary Shattuck Fisher, Cleanth Brooks, and Hilaire Belloc? Their answer was simple. The ideal was nothing other than the original American Dream: the majority of men should be politically and economically independent, not the dependents of either big government or big business. It was a radical statement in 1936 and remains one at the end of the twentieth century. How should a republic exercise power over its citizens? How may economic goods be justly distributed? What status should the small farm have in the life of a nation? By what means may family life be rendered stable? What is the economic role of women in a free society? These are just some of the issues raised, and answered in unique ways, in this book. Though written over sixty years ago, Who Owns America? still challenges many assumptions at play in the American public psyche and is also indispensable in understanding a crucial period of American history. As Edward S. Shapiro observes in his important and substantial new Foreword to this volume, "The urgency of the questions posed by Who Owns America? has not changed since 1936, nor has the answer. The political events of the last two decades have demonstrated the relationship between political freedom and prosperity on the one hand and the widespread distribution of property and economic and political decentralization on the other. Critics during the 1930s derided the contributors to Who Owns America? as romantics, visionaries, and utopians. In fact, the collectivists, with their faith for a better world through industrial giantism and economic and political planning, were the true utopians."
From the Back Cover
"The essays in Who Owns America? not only elaborate and clarify the critique of industrialism, corporate capitalism, and the bureaucratic state put forth in I'll Take My Stand, but defend the widespread ownership of property as the foundation for individual liberty and the morally responsible life. Professor Shapiro's fine introduction positions the book within the political, social, and economic debates of the 1930s and demonstrates its relevance to current efforts to restore private property or find its equivalent."-Mark Malvasi, author, The Unregenerate South "Who Owns America? is one of the forgotten classics of American political protest. Its power to provoke is undiminished, for Who Owns America? is a book inspired by an ideal. Its neo-Jeffersonian vision of a decentralized America-a land of small property ownership and an independent citizenry-continues to shape conservative discourse on the nature of good society. Now back in print, with an incisive Foreword by Edward Shapiro, this spirited volume invites a fresh and careful reading."-George H. Nash, author, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
Top customer reviews
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With a thorough grounding in both the free market and freedom; the authors of this book spoke presciently in 1936 in terms so timeless that their words seem as though they were written last year. Who Owns America explains this phenomenon and also how it can be fixed and avoided in the future WITHOUT resorting to statist economic models such as socialism.
In a series of essays written during the Great Depression, the authors lead the reader through a comprehensive re-thinking of economics, employeeism and priorities.
Too often, economic ideas are presented along a continuum between socialism and capitalism; with the implicit message that options along that continuum are all that is available. For the first time for many readers, this book will open the eyes and the mind to a whole new world of very worthwhile ideas that fall outside of the artificial limitations imposed by economic labels.
I recommend this book very highly to anyone who would like to REALLY understand the fundamental economic issues we are facing instead of blindly accepting the re-digested garbage from people with a current political axe to grind.
Allen Tate's 'Notes on Liberty and Property' in my estimation is the keystone of this book. Tate's essay concentrates on the correlation between political freedom and the widespread diffusion of freehold private property amongst the citizenry. Andrew Lytle's 'The Small Farm Secures the State' is also a meaningful contribution. Donald Davidson's ideas on regionalism were rather unlikable to me given that he favors establishing regional political blocs at the expense of state sovereignty. It seems evident that making politics more decentralised would not entail annihilating state sovereignty. The shared ideal embodied in the text of this New Declaration of Independence was that Americans should be independent not only of big government but its attendant companion big business. The agrarians are not anti-capitalist per say or demagogues; but as Anglo-Catholic distributist G.K. Chesterton quipped that "the problem with capitalism is that there are not enough capitalists." The contributors together reasoned that the increasing corporate collectivism and growth of collectively-managed property is tantamount to the destruction of private property, and will inevitably yield to the attendant perils that come with socialism. The authors buoy the case that there is a strong correlation between political freedom and a widespread diffusion of political power and economic resources. They were, by and large, critical of an interventionist imperial foreign policy and tended to favor trust-busting to uproot monopolistic cartels. They offered a bleak prognosis if the continuing concentration of power and capital goes unabated. The agrarian writers seem to be enmeshed with ideas of trade protectionism which would be anathema to their conservative forefathers John Taylor of Caroline and John Calhoun. While against the New Deal, a few contributors tinge on advocacy of too much government meddling in economy. I say this not to malign the spirit of the book again recollecting that they advocate political decentralization and a market economy.
Mary Fisher's essay entitled 'The Emancipation of Woman' is eerily prophetic of bad sociological trends in early twentieth century that have reached fruition today. Fisher addresses how women ostensibly seeking "emancipation" from motherhood have been pushed into a dehumanizing existence in the workplace. Today, the woman has to work to pay family's share of income tax. Erstwhile children have come to be viewed by many as a liability, a burden and something entirely undesirable. Feminism is perhaps the greatest misnomer of all time, it ran amok where it disavowed the femininity of women in favor of androgyny. The trauma of the Second World War and the Sexual Revolution exacerbated the attack on traditional womanhood and the family. Nature and tradition set the ordinary course of a woman in day-to-day life as being involved with family in her distinct role as nurturer, as the life-giver, and as a mother. Fisher's essay is alarmist, but a needed critique as the so called Emancipated Women is becoming an atomized cog in economic machine and alienated as her natural state of being is attacked by an increasingly materialistic society. Today, being a homemaker carries a stigma of being a pariah.
The final essay features English Anglo-Catholic distributivist Hilaire Belloc who offers a critique of 'Modern Man.'
All things considered, this book is a spirited critique of crass Yankee capitalism run amok; big business and big government go hand in hand. It offers so sound, prudent social and culture criticism with Southern and Midwestern sobriety. The ideas pressed forward in this book generally have a largely Jeffersonian flavor, a trenchant Tocqueville style of analysis and Calhoun's clarity of communicating ideas.
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There is an aura of populist conservatism with a distinctively Southern and Midwestern sense of sobriety, in such statements as:
"The diversity of regions rather enriches the national life than impoverishes it, and their mere existence as regions cannot be said to constitute a problem. Rather in their differences they are a national advantage, offering not only the charm of variety but the interplay of points of view that ought to give flexibility and wisdom... The regions should be free to cultivate their own particular genius and to find their happiness..., in the pursuits to which their people are best adapted, the several regions supplementing and aiding each other, in national comity, under a well-balanced economy." -Donald Davidson
"...The diffusion of an energetic population over our vast territory is an object of far greater importance to the national growth and prosperity than the proceeds of the sale of the land to the highest bidder in the open market..." -Andrew Johnson
"Corporate mergers and all devices of economic and legal control, usurious interest with wholesale foreclosure, unsound manipulation of the nation's volume of money by banker, broker, and politician-all these have made of us a nation of dispossessed people." -John C. Rawe
"The joint-stock corporation, when overgrown, is the enemy of private property in the same sense communism is. The collectivist state is the logical development of the giant corporate ownership, and, if it comes, it will signalize the triumph of Big Business." -Richard B. Ransom
"The elected candidate, in the President's chair and in Congress, was supposed to represent the people and to foster the general welfare. In practice, they represented the will of the Northeast and fostered the welfare of the Northeast..." -Donald Davidson
"The Northeast has manipulated the Federal mechanism so as to encourage, as a cardinal objective of national policy, a gross overemphasis on industrialism and speculative finance, with a corresponding injury and neglect of agriculture and small business, to say nothing of the general injury resulting to manners, morals, and human happiness." -Donald Davidson
If you find this book interesting than I would recommend reading economic critiques and treatises by Wilhelm Roepke, G.K. Chesteron and Hillare Belloc.