Getting & Spending

One of the oddest intellectual trends of recent years has been the abandonment of economic determinism by writers on the left and its adoption by some writers on the right. The notion that all important human affairs are controlled by economic relations is a key element of Marx's theories, yet the most influential leftist writers of today commonly operate in the fields of literature, history, sociology, and education, rather than in economics.

Conversely, some conservative economic writers with a libertarian perspective tend to raise economic efficiency to the role of both a satisfactory explanation of most human events and a sufficient moral justification for public policy. Jude Wanniski's farcical suggestion that Gaul incorporated itself into the Roman Republic in order to enjoy the advantages of free trade in the Mediterranean is surely the nadir of a decade of conservative flirtation with economic determinism.

The importance of noneconomic factors in shaping human activity is brought out by these three books, which are written from very different perspectives. Working-Class America presents academic articles on labor history; Roughneck is a popular biography of radical labor leader Big Bill Haywood; and The Entrepreneurial Life is a combined instruction manual and cheerleader's guide for people seeking fulfillment by setting...

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