Blogs > Liberty and Power > Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism

Mar 23, 2007 3:14 pm

Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism

I like revisiting classic, and unfortunately forgotten, works in the (classical) liberal, or libertarian, canon. This pays several dividends. For one, it brings great books to the attention of people who never knew they existed. Moreover, old books often contain insights and information you can find nowhere else. Murray Rothbard was fond of pointing out that, contrary to what people assume, knowledge does not advance inexorably"onward and upward." Important things can be omitted, overlooked, and forgotten. Consequently, later books on a subject can be less complete than earlier books. So it is wrong to think that the older books need not be consulted because subsequent work incorporates everything of value from the past.

I first became acquainted with the late Arthur A. Ekirch Jr.'s The Decline of American Liberalismin my college days. The book was first published in 1955, then reissued in 1967. It was a History Book Club selection and, I've been told, a contender for a national book award. Ekirch wrote nine other books, including Ideologies and Utopias: The Impact of the New Deal on American Thought (1971)and The Civilian and the Military (1972), especially relevant today....

Ekirch wrote for the intelligent nonspecialist, and his work sets the standard for accessible scholarship. The Decline of American Liberalism is a great place to start because it provides a readable look at the whole of American political-economic-intellectual history in under 400 pages. I highly recommend it.

Read the rest of this week's TGIF column,"Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism," at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Cross-posted at Free Association.

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More Comments:

Sheldon Richman - 3/24/2007

Absolutely. It wouldn't hurt the movement (is there only one these days?) for there to be a Ekirch revival.

Lester Hunt - 3/24/2007

Not the least of the books virtues, as I remember it (years ago I loaned my only copy to a student who never returned it), is that it is well written.