Author Archives: Mark E. Madsen

Dangerous Oversimplifications and American Political Economy: A Prologue

A very insidious change occurred around 1890, when the study of “political economy” became the discipline of “economics,” following the great Alfred Marshall’s publication of Principles of Economics.  I say “insidious” because the term “political economy” reminds us to study not merely prices, supply, and efficiency, but the institutions, laws, and policies that simultaneously enable […]

Were the Founders Economic Libertarians? Hardly.

Americans generally believe that our Founding Fathers sat down in Philadelphia to draft a constitution for a limited national government with highly restricted powers, and strong guarantees to protect individual liberty. In general, this is true. But Americans today, given four waves of libertarian activism, also believe that the Founders intended for the Federal and […]

Breaking Down the Narrative

Conservatism in the United States arrived at its alliance with libertarianism quite recently, by historical standards.  We forget that mainstream conservatives, such as Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower, weren’t particularly libertarian by today’s standards.  They accepted relatively high levels of taxation and government spending as a matter of course, so long as big portions […]

Liberty “or” Equality, or Liberty “and” Equality?

Among the most persistent narratives in modern politics is the idea that liberalism lost its way in the early 20th century, betrayed its roots and principles, and was supplanted by the welfare state philosophy that now bears its name. True liberals, as the narrative runs, decry the socialism of the New Deal, and keep the […]