Family Fortunes: Third Ways?

Summary book review by John McClaughry in Resurgence 252

Family Fortunes

Allan C. Carlson Wilmington, 2008, ISBN 9781933859408

THE 20TH CENTURY, so the histories say, exhibited a titanic clash between two diametrically opposed ideologies. The first was liberal capitalism, derived from Adam Smith’s seminal The Wealth of Nations. Its mantra was individualism, liberty, property, contract, economic opportunity, free trade and competitive enterprise. A night-watchman state protected the citizenry against violence, fraud, theft and invasion, settled disputes according to law, provided sound money, and stimulated wealth-creating enterprise.

In fierce opposition stood the counter ideology: communism and its gateway drug, socialism, derived from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Its mantra was collectivism, the abolition of private property, state ownership of land and resources, central planning, the dictatorship of the proletariat acting through the vanguard of the party, fashioning the new socialist human, and conformity and order, enforced by a very attentive internal police.


Carlson offers a central prescription: keep competition and the quest for efficiency out of the family and the local community, and at the same time keep intra-family altruism out of meddlesome, bloated and tyrannical central governments.

Conscientious statespeople who absorb the lesson of this imaginative and trenchant book will gain a renewed appreciation of that vital human institution, the family. And they will be reminded that policies that undercut and enervate that institution cannot but weaken any society, and diminish all its brave hopes. •

John McClaughry is a founder of the E. F. Schumacher Society (US), and is President of the Institute for Liberty and Community in Concord, Vermont, USA.