3 pm to 5 pm
“Defining Free Enterprise”
Lawrence Glickman, University of South Carolina
The leaders of the National Association of Manufacturers, the key organization in the promotion of free enterprise as a keyword in the opposition to the New Deal welfare state, frequently complained that, in spite of its best efforts, Americans didn’t understand the meaning of free enterprise. This was a dilemma for its proponents who saw the term as foundational and traditional. Rarely, however, did they respond with definitions of their own. Instead, free enterprisers, from the 1930s through the 1970s often defined it by what it was not. In the 1930s, then, it was contrasted with the overreaching of the New Deal; during World War II, it was described as the converse of fascism. By the 1960s, free enterprise found its opposite in liberalism. “Defining Free Enterprise” will examine the myriad ways in which National Association of Manufacturers and others sought to give the phrase meaning and also their efforts to understand the disconnect between what they took to be the straightforward meaning of the term and their inability to sell it effectively.
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