A clear interpretation of US history through the lens of economic innovation and production, with a thematic focus on creative destruction.
"America prospered, in large part, because it accepted that destruction is the price for creation."
As its title says, Capitalism in America covers the history of the United states with a focus on its economic setting and growth. From the joint stock companies of the English colonists to the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, Greenspan and Wooldridge lay out the circumstances leading to, the benefits produced by, and the reactions against the free (and at many times not-so-free) market of the United States. I listened to the audiobook version, read excellently by Ray Porter.
A unifying theme of the book is the necessity of creative destruction for growth. As great as the major leaps of the market were, they meant that investments in previous processes, industries, locations, and jobs were and had to be liquidated, adjusted, or left behind. The authors, thus, also follow the growth of reactionary movements such as the populist Grange Movement and the unionization and regulation of the Progressives—all the while citing the benefits and, more often than not, economic drawbacks and ironies of such things. Honestly elaborating on the dreadful economic impact of plans like the New Deal, the authors nonetheless lay out the social and presidential merits of actions by presidents like FDR to slow or stave off the destructive elements of the market (and give that president, perhaps, more credit than one might expect, or is due). The authors also cover the economic plans of the Cold War and post-Cold War presidents, which many times diverged from their respective executive's party affiliation or persona. The book ends at 2019, noting the various economic benefits of President Trump's deregulation agenda, as well as the looming effects of his administration's declining to cut entitlement spending. While the authors could not foresee the sudden economic downturn caused by the 2020 lockdowns, etc, or the inflation of the 2020-2024 administration, such events do fit within the book's final prediction of recession, as well as within the broader themes of economic cycles.
As an AP US History teacher, I plan to use this book in class. Besides some parts which discuss elements of market economics, the book is clear enough in its language and consistent enough with its themes to be readable by non-economists (and even those aforementioned parts are manageable and made clear within context). While Greenspan takes a generally conservative view of America's economic history, he is, nonetheless, quite even-handed in his treatment, which may be what some readers are looking for. I was tempted to give four stars because of a few minor gripes, but I decided those were due to my own differing views on some of the book's topics and not due to any deficiency in the book, itself.
Hi! I am a writing professor, tutor, ESL instructor, regular columnist for a UK magazine, & soon-to-be novelist, and I specialize in Shakespeare, 19th century lit, and philosophy. Between work, writing projects, and family, I try to maintain a regular reading & reviewing schedule. Open to requests!
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