Episode

12/8 American Capitalism In 4 Different Ages w/ Jonathan Levy

December 8, 2021

Sam and Emma host Jonathan Levy, professor of History at the University of Chicago, to discuss his recent book Ages of American Capitalism: A History of the United States. Sam and Emma begin by discussing the newly passed defense policy bill and debt limit increase in the House, which includes a huge weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, something the strange bedfellows of Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders completely agree is a complete slap in the face to the suffering Yemeni people. Then they dive in with Professor Levy about the origins of capitalism in America starting in 1660, where they define capitalism and capital itself, before diving into the question of whether exploitation is intrinsic to capitalism, as well as its relationship to labor. They then discuss the different types of liquidity, before diving into the centrality of empire, specifically the British, empire to the first stage of capitalism. Levy also expands upon how geopolitical spread was crucial to expanding capitalism in the U.S. at this time, and this happened primarily through war-making and the expansion of slavery. Sam, Emma, and Jonathan then plumb the depths of whether capitalism could exist without slavery in the U.S., or if specifically the next era of capitalism, the Industrial Revolution could without it. Jonathan then explains how crucial the Louisiana Purchase and the Haitian Revolution were to the capitalist expansion, before going into how the Industrial Revolution may have been the greatest break in civilization since that of the transition from hunter gatherers to settler colonists. He then explains how this period was defined by speculation, something that we can see manifested today in something like stock buybacks. Going into the age of control, where the New Deal propped up the idea of the male breadwinner, as well as the idea of labor rights and wage parity being the definition of citizenry rather than property ownership, Levy also characterizes the New Deal as not as progressive as some admirers may tend to believe, mostly due to its focus on private enterprise over public investment. Sam, Emma, and Jonathan end on summarizing the post-New Deal aftereffects from those private emphases that ultimately result in massive inflation and economic turmoil during the late 70’s and the Carter Administration, coinciding with the “Volcker shock”, leading to the short-termism, debt-focused Clinton years. Finally, they discuss the turn towards austerity in the 2010’s, how Obama essentially re-made the old economic order in the wake of the 2008 crash, and how the Trump administration and COVID completely fragmented that order, leading to some truly remarkable developments like the massive strike wave we saw this fall.

And in the Fun Half, the MR Crew discuss AOC calling out the Senate parliamentarian in favor of a pathway to citizenship in the BBB bill, Matt cautioning that there won’t be any spring rain frolicking with Dems once the GOP takes House control with Speaker Donald J. Trump replacing Pelosi, Elon Musk giving his thoughts on the bloodthirsty government and pesky electric vehicle subsidies that he would benefit (and already does) benefit from, Ben Shapiro seeing COVID as the new pagan God of the left, and Dave Rubin comparing liberals to literally Cobra Commander from GI Joe controlling a weather machine. Plus, your calls and IM’s!

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