NLF Highlights

The Rise of the Business Mogul as Politician

Highlights for May 28th

Corporate America has always played a weighty, often determining role in our political life.  And toward the turn of the twenty-first century corporate influence in our politics began to take on a new form.  Nowadays, we’ve grown accustomed to the sight of business tycoons, lacking a scintilla of political experience, offering themselves up as “public servants” and for the highest offices.  And they do so brashly, suggesting that it’s precisely their lives as entrepreneurial autocrats commanding their own business empires that makes them best qualified to set things right in the political arena.

Here, we offer three considerations of this phenomenon. In the May 2018 issue of New Labor Forum, Lily Geismer explores how this peculiarity of the business mogul as political leader came to be and why it is such an authoritarian threat to democracy. And New Labor Forum Editor-at-Large Steve Fraser examines the emergence of the business mogul as both policy maker — in the form of the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Bill Gates, and the Walton family, to name a few– and as elected official, with our 45th President as only the most flagrant example. We also offer a review essay by Andrew Elrod of two recent books by Gordon Lafer and Nancy MacLean exploring the wildly successful work of corporate chieftains to propose and pass legislation of their liking.

Napoleons in Pinstripes: The Rise of the Business Mogul as Politician

By Lily Geismer/ New Labor Forum

“As you know, I am not a politician. I have worked in business, creating jobs and rebuilding neighborhoods my entire adult life,” Donald Trump announced at a Charlotte, North Carolina rally during the 2016 election. At the Republican National Convention, he similarly promised, “I made billions of dollars in business making deals. Now I’m going to make the country rich again.These statements, in some respects, have represented the least aberrant aspect of Trump’s political career. Similar promises by politically inexperienced..

Read the full article here. 

Playing God

By Steve Fraser/

Titans of industry and finance back then [at the turn of the century] often assumed that they had the right to supersede the law and tutor the rest of America on how best to order its affairs.  They liked to play God.  It’s a habit that’s returned with a vengeance in our own time. The Koch brothers are only the most conspicuous among a whole tribe of “self-made” billionaires who imagine themselves architects or master builders of a revamped, rehabilitated America…

Read the full article here.

Book Review: Property Supremacy

By Andrew Elrod/ New Labor Forum

Over the past decade, some of the sharpest minds of the American left have analyzed the sociological origins, the political ideology, and the sources of financing behind the ascendant libertarianism of late twentieth and early twenty first-century America…

Read the full review here.

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