The Roots of Capitalism

John Chamberlain

Capitalism is a system that can stand on its own attainments, writes John Chamberlain, and he offers here a fast-paced, provocative look at the intellectual forces and practical accomplishments that have created American capitalism.

He begins at the right sector: the world of ideas, with Adam Smith and his contemporaries who overthrew the mercantilist order. He is especially lucide on the relationship between economic and political freedom. 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 James Watt, Eli Whitney, and Henry Ford—all these diverse elements are shown to be part of the tradition of a free society in which American capitalism has grown and flourished.

The period of time investigated here cover the 18th through the 20th century with a special focus on American history. For this reason, it makes for a great introduction to history from an economic point of view. And, truly, Chamberlain knew his economic theory. This book provides a wonderful refutation of the idea of “perfect competition” and the labor theory of value.

The reader will experience the most satisfaction from the extremely clear prose of this master stylist. He was of a generation that sought to reach people in the most humane way. This makes this book so breezy and transparent that you can hardly put it down.

This is 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.

The Roots of Capitalism by John R. Chamberlain
Meet the Author
John R. Chamberlain
John Chamberlain

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.” Influenced by Albert Jay Nock, Chamberlain credited the writers Ayn Rand, Isabel Paterson, and Rose Wilder Lane with his “conversion” to what he called “an older American philosophy” of libertarian ideas. Along with his friends Henry Hazlitt and Max Eastman, he helped to promote the work of F.A. Hayek, writing the foreword to the first American edition of The Road to Serfdom 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 that had been edited by Albert Jay Nock. Its first editors included Chamberlain and Henry Hazlitt. After stepping down as editor, Chamberlain continued his regular column for the periodical, “A Reviewer’s Notebook.”

John Chamberlain
Narrated by Millian Quinteros. This audio book is made available through the generosity of Mr. Tyler Folger.
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Van Nostrand, New York, 1965