In the Jeffersonian system, wage-dependent proletarians are parasites, not producers, and the goal of Jeffersonian political economy is to turn proletarians into producers by giving them farms in the 19th century and encouraging them to start small businesses today. This is a cruel joke, in an economy in which fewer than one in 10 Americans are self-employed and fewer than two percent are farmers. To add insult to injury, modern Jeffersonians insist that workers employed by small business owners should not be protected by many federal workplace regulations. This unmasks the Jeffersonian project for what it is: a defense of the privileges of what Marxists might call the local “petty bourgeoisie” against large-scale managerial capitalism and state capitalism. For these reasons, the vision of an alliance between small farmers and small business owners and wage earners, from William Jennings Bryan to Willie Nelson, has usually failed, even if the New Deal for a time included both farmers and unions in its coalition.
Michael Lind attacks small-government conservatism during his interview with John Stoehr about his new book, Land of Promise.