On 20 January 1981, in his inaugural address as 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan declared: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” It was the soundbite that defined the end of the 20th century. “Rolling back the state” became the mission of the “market revolution” spearheaded by Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
In fact, as Donald Sassoon argues in The Anxious Triumph, the idea that the state and the capitalist economy can thrive apart is nonsense. The modern state and economy are twins born together in the 17th century. Through the age of absolutism and the great 18th-century revolutions, their relationship matured into one of ever-greater interdependence. This was most evident in the newcomer nations of the 19th century, like Meiji Japan or Bismarckian Germany. But it was every bit as true of a “liberal” power like Victorian Britain.
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