Fifty years ago this month, on January 17, 1961, outgoing U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made one of the truly memorable presidential speeches of all time. Through his justly celebrated farewell address, Eisenhower wanted to alert his fellow Americans to two great dangers threatening public life in the Republic. For the first time in its history, the U.S. was home to a permanent arms industry. Allied with the military, this newly created military-industrial complex constituted a menace of "unwarranted influence" over U.S. decisions on momentous issues of war and peace, and for the structure of American society itself.
It's the political puzzle of our times: Why, in the wake of the most spectacular failure of free-enterprise in 80 years, was it the global right that became stronger, not the left?
In the 1930s, the last time capitalism failed so destructively, radical opposition movements won the day: Demanding both immediate aid for the Depression's suffering, but also bigger structural changes in the economy. Pressured by these radical forces, governments' response went well beyond "stimulus." Instead, government was given powerful, countervailing powers to offset the skewed dominance of business and wealth -- everything from unemployment insurance to stronger regulations (aimed especially at finance) to union-friendly labour laws.