[T]he fount and matrix of the [19th Century world] system was the self-regulating market. It was this innovation which gave rise to a specific civilization. The gold standard was merely an attempt to extend the domestic market system to the international field; the balance-of-power system was a superstructure erected upon and, partly, worked through the gold standard; the liberal state was itself a creation of the self-regulating market. The key to the institutional system of the nineteenth century lay in the laws governing market economy.
Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness. Inevitably, society took measures to protect itself . . .
Karl Polanyi. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. (1944)
Polanyi goes on to describe the cataclysmic fall of 19th Century civilization and the horrific struggles which produced the new world he saw emerging as World War II came to its bitter end. Astonishingly, in the 21st Century, the wealthy elites of the United States came to believe they could recreate their imagined 19th Century utopia.
And dream on: 55% of likely voters think Barack Obama is a socialist.