ENTERPRISE: The Dynamic Economy of a Free People by Stuart Bruchey

ENTERPRISE: The Dynamic Economy of a Free People

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An inclusive but oddly bland audit of the origins, development, and implications of American capitalism. Positing a vigorous economy as the pivotal element in the success of the so-called American experiment, Bruchey (The Wealth of the Nation, 1988; The Roots of American Economic Growth, 1965) offers a sociocommercial history of a great power whose competitiveness may or may not be in eclipse. Free enterprise, he asserts, came to the US during its colonial era in the person of ambitious emigrants ""investing their lives in the promise of the New World."" The author follows up on this widely shared perception with a roughly chronological survey that hits such high points as the Industrial Revolution, the emergence of securities markets in the wake of the Civil War, the conquest of successive frontiers, the advent of railroads, foreign trade, the Great Depression, post-WW II prosperity, and the latter-day problems of a high-tech age marked by global interdependence. Along the way, he examines the ties that bind economic growth to advances (or changes) in sociopolitical, legal, and allied institutions. Toward the end, Bruchey comes to the none-too-startling determination that, while government has played an important role in the domestic economy's evolution, most genuinely vital decisions have been made in and by the private sector. This being the case, he concludes, the wealth of the nation has been created by its citizens, largely ""because they have been free to work, save, invest, and innovate."" On the trickier question of whether America's living standards and economic might are enduring relative declines, the author temporizes, arguing for national debate to establish military, diplomatic, and geopolitical priorities. An ample, albeit essentially prosaic, overview.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press