A leading economic historian traces the evolution of American capitalism from the colonial era to the present--and argues that the country has reached yet another turning point that will define the era ahead.head.
Many readers will doubtless be daunted by the prospect of reading a history of the United States economy that is almost 1,000 pages long. But it’s well worth the time and effort ... a stunning accomplishment from history professor Jonathan Levy. It’s a history and analysis of the various economic systems from the Colonial period to the 2016 election. And it’s relatively free of jargon and written in lively, accessible prose ... Some of the material covered will be familiar ... I can honestly say I’ve never before read a work of economic history that’s actually quotable ... Levy’s gifts as a historian are most evident in his clear explanations of key economic concepts, some of them so fundamental to our world we might not realize they need explaining, such as credit ... while this book’s strongest chapters are on history before 1950, Levy’s assessment of the late-20th and early-21st century economy is astute and troubling ... an indispensable guide to understanding American history—and what’s happening in today’s economy.
... deftly weaves strands of economic, business, political, social and intellectual history into an engaging, accessible narrative of how and why the United States became the world’s most successful economy. Prodigiously researched, elegantly written and relentlessly interesting, Levy’s opus should be required reading for every college history and economics major ... vivid ... Unfortunately, Levy’s magisterial volume is undermined by his tendency to characterize every major development in American capitalism as a change in 'liquidity preference,' a Keynesian tic that will be distracting to the general reader and unconvincing to those who might understand it ... We could also do without Levy’s repeated attempts to enhance his woke creds by applying present-day norms and morals to earlier eras ... These are disappointingly ahistorical assessments from such a fine historian, one who has now given Americans reason to restore economic history to its rightful place in the study of the past and our understanding of the present.
Mr. Levy is less successful at developing his thesis than he is at announcing it. His haziness on the nomenclature and history of finance is one problem, his want of authorial craft is another. Evelyn Waugh laid it down that a good writer no more wastes words than a master tailor does cloth. Mr. Levy writes as if his publisher were paying him by the sentence ... Even familiar phrases and concepts lose something in the author’s translation ... too numerous pages ... Mr. Levy need not worry about today’s capitalists sitting on their money. Thanks to lawn-level interest rates, limitless public spending and the envy vector of social media, blue-chip stock prices, measured as a percentage of GDP, are higher than they have ever been. Mr. Levy designates this time in finance the Age of Chaos. He could be more right than he knows, but for reasons that he seems not to be entirely aware of.