Retconning Capitalism

Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, New York, on February 5, 2019. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

Sohrab Ahmari’s new book is not about drag queen story hour. It’s not about corporate Pride Month displays. It’s not about DEI or Big Tech. Indeed, Tyranny, Inc.: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty is not really about “woke capital” at all.

That may be unexpected for readers who, like me, are generally familiar with Ahmari’s work—including Compact, the magazine he co-founded in 2022 in critique of liberalism—but still associate him most with “Against David French-ism,” the 2019 First Things article that sparked a major debate about Christian engagement in the culture wars.

This is where I should mention that French, whom Ahmari chose as the avatar of the approach he disdains, wrote the foreword to my most recent book, and he’s also a former senior editor of The Dispatch. Moreover, I’m a libertarian, which is to say party to the political alignment Ahmari seems to despise most. And I’m even a contributing writer at the libertarian Reason magazine, which Ahmari singles out in Tyranny, Inc. for its link to one chapter’s villain.

I mention all this partly for journalistic fair play, but partly to give context for how Tyranny, Inc. surprised me. It’s compelling and needful in many ways for free-market types and the modern right, but the core arguments in Tyranny, Inc. are ultimately unpersuasive—Ahmari’s understanding of coercion, and the state on which it turns, risks upending far more than he lets on.

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