Before and after World War II, a serendipitous confluence of events created a healthy balance between the market and the polity—between the engine of capitalism and the egalitarian ideals of democracy. Under Roosevelt's New Deal, unions and collective bargaining were legalized. Glass-Steagall reined in speculative finance. At Bretton Woods, a global financial system was devised explicitly to allow nations to manage capitalism. Yet this golden era turned out to be lightning in a bottle. From the 1970s on, a power shift occurred, in which financial regulations were rolled back, taxes were cut, inequality worsened, and disheartened voters turned to far-right, faux populism.
Robert Kuttner lays out the events that led to the postwar miracle, and charts its dissolution all the way to Trump, Brexit, and the tenuous state of the EU. Is today's poisonous alliance of reckless finance and ultra-nationalism inevitable? Or can democracy find a way to survive?