I’m constantly asking myself how much abuse can commerce in America take before it stops working or is so degraded as to be minimal?
I am first looking at Britain after WWII. Led brilliantly by Winston Churchill during the war, the nation immediately elected a pure socialist government led by Clement Attlee and Aneurin Bevan in 1945.
England immediately bought all the large industry with government bonds, socialized medicine and created a communist five year plan. Every functioning private industry was nationalized from steel and autos to transportation and telecom. Most of coal was nationalized.
England remained a highly stratified hereditary class society, so most of the hereditary elite remained in their top management positions. The creaky old industrial world just got more creaky and unable to innovate.
This communist model lasted until Churchill was returned to power in 1951. Because the election was close and the government coalition only lasted until 1955, Churchill was unable to undo much of the socialization that had been completed. Britain remained a socialist backwater until Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s made an effort to reverse the damage of socialism.
England was a major auto, coal, steel, clothing and pharmaceutical powerhouse before WWII. After the war it was insignificant and has remained so since then. It lost its empire as a source of exports but gained the wealth of the commonwealth as the natives moved to London and made it a wealthy and vibrant center. Only London.
In summary, England is evidence that a vital commercial society can be reduced to economic ruble for nearly a century after sufficient socialization of industry. England is not a pure case because WWII did a great deal of damage to the capital of the country. Much of that was offset by the U.S. Marshall Plan aid. The second problem with a pure case example is that the hereditary elite remained in control of the society and that makes commerce ineffective under any circumstances.
In any case, a valid conclusion can be drawn: a sufficiently powerful central government can destroy commerce, especially if meritocracy has never had a chance. England today is coasting along. As is most of the rest of the world, on the driving power of the United States which continues to generate innovation and vigorous global commerce.
P.S. A powerful sign of modern commercial failure is found in England: half the resident Jews have left since 1990.