Book Review: Capitalism In America

Capitalism In America: A History

“From the legendary former Fed Chairman and the acclaimed Economist writer and historian, the full, epic story of America’s evolution from a small patchwork of threadbare colonies to the most powerful engine of wealth and innovation the world has ever seen”

Greenspan and Wooldridge cover nearly every major economic event since America was founded. In doing this I came across numerous bits of information I never knew.

“Coolidge prided himself on never working more than four hours a day and never sleeping less than eleven hours”

The authors go into great detail to discuss the history of disruption in America throughout the industrial, economic, political, consumer and social spectrum yet simultaneously applaud the resilience of the domestic American market, showing a continuous ebb and flow of riches and commerce colliding, bringing forth destruction in the name of great fortune and the continued promise of a better life. Astor’s fur fortune and the south’s dominance over cotton is portrayed in such detail one can see it clearly as the pioneering days of commodity capitalism. Crude arbitrage created immense profits from processing plentiful natural resources from the new world and selling them upmarket in the capitals of the old world.

The war between industrialism and agrarianism came to a head in the civil war after which capitalism was declared king and leadership rolled out policy to support the vision of an America complete with great cities and regional power. By 1901 the economics had greatly accelerated, J. P. Morgan made $226M off consolidated steel interests (including Carnegie Steel) firmly placing him among the worlds wealthiest and further modernizing the United States of America. The good life and the business engines behind the good life had found solid footing.

The turn of the century and the decade before the Great Depression is highlighted as the last days of a decentralized government, afterwards big government came into play. Still, during the Great Depression American companies were making more than their international counterparts, the US domestic economy was almost twice the combined incomes of Japan, Italy and Germany. In theory this continued on for decades.

By the 1970’s the managerial capitalism that led to the cozy mid-century life American companies were grappling with a fading future. Fast forward to the GFC (2008 financial crisis) and the authors essentially lay this out as the reason for America’s fading dynamism.; almost a tipping of the hat to the modern phenomenon of perpetual burnout.

“Ghost towns and shuttered factories are the price of progress”

This is an excellent book and I recommend to it any reader who enjoys history. At 496 pages it is not a quick read but there are plenty of supplemental images and charts. Excellent attention to detail. I have actually read the book twice since I first received it in Oct. 2018. Worthwhile for sure. – Chad

Capitalism In America: A History
By Alan Greenspan, Adrian Wooldridge
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press; 1st Edition edition (October 16, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0735222444
ISBN-13: 978-0735222441
Size: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches