Capitalism is a system that can stand on its own attainments, says John Chamberlain, and he offers here a fast-paced, provocative look at the intellectual forces and practical accomplishments that have created American capitalism.
In clear, unequivocal language he discusses the ideas responsible for our economic institutions, the originators of these ideas, and the times in which they first became important. The political theories of the men who hammered out the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, the thinking of John Locke, James Madison, and Adam Smith, the deeds and discoveries of the James Watts, Eli Whitneys, and Henry Fords—all these diverse elements are shown to be part of the tradition of a free society in which American capitalism has grown and flourished. A unique blend of political and economic theory and the practical accomplishments of businessmen and innovators, The Roots of Capitalism provides valuable insights into the ideas underlying the free economy.
For many years the system we call capitalism was on the defensive. It existed in the here-and-now, and its imperfections, whether inherent or not, were plainly apparent to everybody. Socialism, on the other hand, was something to be attained in the future, a thing of shining colors wrapped in the gossamer tissue of a dream. Its imperfections, if there were to be such, were still concealed in the womb of time. When contrasted with a dream of perfection, capitalism was manifestly at a disadvantage. But with the advent of socialist economies (Communist Russia, China) and the semi-socialist, or “mixed," systems of Scandinavia, Britain, and New Deal America (to say nothing of the "national' socialisms of Nazi
Germany and Fascist Italy), capitalism no longer requires apologists. Under any comparative audit of systems it comes out very well indeed. It may have its islands of poverty, its "contradictions,"
but it does not murder people as a matter of policy or shut them up in concentration camps. It does not force men and women to accept uncongenial occupations or goods that are subjected to the approval of a small “planning” bureaucracy. It does not reduce life to a continual round of abject permissiveness.
John Rensselaer Chamberlain (1903–1995) was an American journalist, the author of books on capitalism, and dubbed "one of America’s most trusted book reviewers."
A graduate of Yale in 1925, John Chamberlain began his career in journalism at the New York Times in 1926, and he later served there as both an editor and book reviewer.
Influenced by Albert J. Nock, he credits the writers Ayn Rand, Isabel Paterson and Rose Wilder Lane with his final "conversion" to what he called "an older American philosophy" of libertarian and conservative ideas. Along with his friends Henry Hazlitt and Max Eastman, he helped to promote the work of Austrian school economist F.A. Hayek, The Road of Serfom, writing the "Foreword" to the first American edition of the book in 1944.
In 1946, Leonard Read of the Foundation for Economic Education established a free market magazine named The Freeman, reviving the name of a publication which had been edited by Albert J. Nock (1920-1924). Its first editors included Chamberlain, Henry Hazlitt and Suzanne La Follette, and its early contributors included Max Eastman, Morrie Ryskind, and the Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek. After stepping down as editor, Chamberlain continued his regular column for the periodical, "A Reviewer’s Notebook." He later joined the classical liberal Mont Pelerin Society.