8 / CHRONICLESnPERSPECTIVEnTHE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS by Thomas FlemingnJefferson was of the opinion that the tree of liberty was notna hardy perennial that could be safely neglected. Oncenplanted by a revolution, it needed to be periodicallyn”refreshed by the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Jefferson’snradical vision of revolutionary violence was muted, in laternyears, by his conservative skepticism, but the two principlesnare not all that far apart. There is a point at whichnradicalism and reaction converge, and that point is a moralnresentment against entrenched mediocrity. Except in a fewnrare and fortunate eases, “the powers that be” in this andnany land are a remarkably uniform set of real estatenswindlers, market manipulators, and well-oiled officeseekers.nDecent men, whether they are radical editors,nconservative philosophers, or hardworking men of business,ncannot always suppress their natural disgust with the cor­nnnruption of a system based, in principle, on liberty.nAmericans continue to speak of their country as the landnof the free, and few of us—on the right or the left—wouldnexchange our system of liberal socialism and two partynelections for any current alternative (e.g., state socialismnand one party). It remains true that the generation growingnup after the Second World War is less free than theirnparents, who were less free than theirs. In three generationsnwe have seen the creation of a tax on labor (“income tax”),nthe assertion of government’s prior right to a worker’snincome (“withholding”), and the rejection of family responsibilityn(“Social Security”). These things may all be as goodnas leftists claim—although some of us have our doubts—nbut there is no denying the erosion of our liberties.nAt least we would have thought there was no denying it.nA Princeton political scientist, Benjamin Barber, writingnrecently in Harper’s (November ’86) is calling for a progressivenvision based on “the idea that liberty is not the enemynbut rather a product of government institutions.” Onenhundred years ago, such a statement might have seemed anwitty paradox. After nearly 70 years of appalling tyrannynexercised by Soviet government institutions, even liberalsnwill find it hard to smile at Prof Barber’s warmed-over NewnLeftism.nThroughout this century one standard argument on thenleft has run along these lines: Individual (or communal)nfreedom doesn’t work because unscrupulous businessmennamass huge fortunes at the expense of the working classes.nThe Virginia reactionary George Fitzhugh made the samencase: Left to itself, a society based on “freedom andnequality” will result in a tyranny of the unscrupulous overnthe principled. There is some truth in this reasoning.nUnfortunately, the examples generally used to make thencase—the robber baron industrialists at the turn of thencentury—are not really relevant.nThose “evil capitalists” of legend, Jim Fisk, Jay Gould,nAndrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan, were not, by andnlarge, representative of the bourgeois men of business whontransformed the social and economic life of Europe and thenUnited States. Of these four, only Carnegie actually built ansuccessful industrial empire. The rest got rich in what isnnow being called “the old-fashioned way”: watering stock,njiggering freight rates, colluding with friends in the government.nMorgan, who specialized in takeovers, is usually saidnto have improved no company by his management. On thencontrary, once he had made his money on the stock deal,nhis interest waned.n