Moving from John Winthrop’s world of seventeenth-century colonial trade to Donald Trump’s twenty-first-century leveraged real-estate acquisitions, Levy weaves a great many precepts from economic theory into his narrative, illustrating their significance with carefully parsed statistics and graphs. But he also finds the social meaning of economic developments in paintings, song lyrics, novels, movies, and television shows ... Rejecting the narrow rationalism focused exclusively on the profit motive, Levy develops a fully human perspective on capitalism, allowing readers to see investment, not profit, as its flywheel. He soberly examines the sluggishness of that flywheel in recent decades, as anxious Americans have preferred the security of immediate liquidity over the risk of long-term investment. Asserting that only political realignment can restore economic health, Levy’s conclusion will stir debate.
Levy has given us a textbook on America that successfully explains history through an economic perspective ... This massive tome provides a clear narrative of how economic power in America has always resided with those rich enough to invest. An understanding of economic principles is helpful but not essential to following Levy’s analysis ... Levy makes a cohesive argument that provides a new perspective on the trajectory of the U.S. but will still feel familiar to any student of history.
... detailed, discursive ... It helps to have some knowledge of economics to read this book, though it’s not essential. Levy is an uncommonly lucid interpreter of numbers and theories and a nimble explainer ... A rewarding exercise in understanding where we are and how we got there.