10. “The Image of the Entrepreneur and the Language of the Market: Robert A. Taft, Market Rhetoric, and Political Argument, 1933-1944”


Abstract: During his first decade on the national political stage (1935-1944), Robert A. Taft (R-Ohio) contributed to a lively “Old Right” conservative critique of the New Deal’s efforts to achieve economic recovery, promote sustainable growth, and convert to a postwar peacetime economy. This paper examines the senator’s market rhetoric—the ideas on the market, entrepreneurship, and the role of the state that he employed in political arguments after 1935—to understand the foundation of his libertarian brand of conservatism. The following article argues that Taft fused Gilded Age evolutionary naturalism with the Republican Party’s tradition of economic nationalism in order to refute Franklin Roosevelt’s statist liberalism. In particular, he asserted that extra-human natural laws governed the market; that, in the absence of federal interference, it operated flawlessly; that small-business entrepreneurs, not corporations or public enterprise, were the agents of progress; and that the federal government should facilitate, not hinder, entrepreneurial enterprise.