THE WEALTH OF THE NATION: An Economic History of the United States by Stuart Bruchey

THE WEALTH OF THE NATION: An Economic History of the United States

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A concise, readable, but flawed analysis of the wellsprings of 200 years of US economic growth and development; by the author of The Roots of American Economic Growth (1965). At the outset, Bruchey (American Economic History/Columbia) cogently argues that in the 19th century the Supreme Court was the institution chiefly responsible for maintaining ""the foundations of the country's economic development which the Constitution of the United States had originally put in place."" Another recurrent theme is the role played by government in spurting economic growth. States and municipalities often provided incentives to private companies to develop such amenities as canals and railroads. Bruchey also effectively challenges the notion that great economic hardship radicalized 19th-century farmers. By 1914, America was the world's leading industrial nation. A combination of high domestic savings rates, the influx of foreign capital, the adoption of mass production techniques, and a healthy and well. trained work force made this possible. But, unfortunately, Bruchey's analysis of 20th-century economic history is notably partisan. For example, he accepts the standard Keynesian interpretation of the causes of the Great Depression, failing to take persuasive Monetarist counter. arguments into account. And he repeats the liberal shibboleth that the War on Poverty fell victim to the funding demands of the Vietnam Wax without refuting the proposition that the poverty program's own spiraling costs and unrealistic expectations may have doomed it to failure. While Bruchey provides a great deal of interesting information, this history would have been a more valuable contribution had his presentation been more balanced.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row