In my last essay, I described how Lewis Powell’s memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped instigate the formation of a coalition of business interests that came to dominate public discussion and policymaking through well-organized advocacy for unregulated markets and minimal government. The effort was organized around neo-classical theory of free market economics which was particularly effectively propounded by Milton and Rose Friedman in their book and television series Free to Choose (Friedman & Friedman, 1990). According to this view, individuals’ pursuit of economic gain in an unfettered market benefits the whole society and government action necessarily limits wellbeing by spending tax money that would be better used by individuals who were not forced to pay those taxes. The result of these efforts has been an erosion, not only in the belief that government can benefit human wellbeing, but in communitarian values that are vital to promoting prosocial behavior. For example, over the past forty years, the proportion of incoming college freshmen in the U.S. who subscribe to values involving being rich and famous has grown and has eclipsed the proportion of freshmen who endorse self-development and communitarian values (Astin, 2002).
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