Thomas Jefferson famously observed that nobody without a very strong stomach should watch sausage-making or the way Congress tackles legislation. The past few months have proved him right. Congress has displayed a gutlessness and lack of principle over banking and financial reform unusual even for a body not known for its resistance to finance and big business, while its behaviour over healthcare reform defies description, uniting as it did the striking of corrupt bargains, hiding from hard decisions, and the ventilation of prejudices that were primitive when they were first wheeled out in 1948 to defeat Harry Truman’s attempt to institute a national system of healthcare.
The relevance of these events – and non-events – to Joyce Appleby’s The Relentless Revolution is very direct. The book is a brisk, well-written, even-handed and highly persuasive account of the origins, growth, and rather iffy current situation of the capitalist economic order. It begins in the European