(Powell 1971) Attack on American free enterprise system

Powell, Lewis F., Jr. Attack on American free enterprise system [memo]. New York: U.S. Chamber of Commerce; 1971 Aug 23. Available from: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/polluterwatch/The-Lewis-Powell-Memo/.

In this “Powell Memo”, originally submitted confidentially to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the USA of the 1960s and early 1970s is portrayed as sawing off the limb it is sitting on: the capitalist economic system. Powell traces the problem to the reluctance of business executives to devote resources to defending the system as a whole (as opposed to their individual companies), and especially to their unwillingness to attempt to exert influence on the political process through united action mediated by organizations like the Chamber. Powell advocates monitoring and surveillance of academia, the news media, and book publishing, with well-funded intervention to ensure “balance” or “equal time” for viewpoints congenial to capitalism. For example:

Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness”, “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action would be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

Powell also urges aggressive, generously funded efforts to influence government, including amicus curiae briefs to influence the courts.



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Last revision: March 8, 2013