The myth of Henry Ford as an enlightened capitalist is too useful to die. This myth posits Ford as tough minded enough to work his employees hard on the assembly line, but smart enough to see that, unless he paid them enough to buy the products they made, capitalism would be doomed. The liberal economist Robert Reich takes this view of Ford in Aftershock, his analysis of the American political economy in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. (Such a generous reading of Ford makes sense in that Reich argues the central problem in American capitalism is the lack of purchasing power of the middle and working classes). It is also worth remembering that in 1914 the Wall Street Journal accused Ford of “economic blunders, if not crimes. They may return to plague him and the industry, as well as organized society.”

Ford also portrayed himself as...

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