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Government and the American Economy: A New History [Paperback]

by Price V. Fishback, Douglass C. North

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Book Description

May 15, 2007 0226251284 978-0226251288

The American economy has provided a level of well-being that has consistently ranked at or near the top of the international ladder. A key source of this success has been widespread participation in political and economic processes. In The Government and the American Economy, leading economic historians chronicle the significance of America’s open-access society and the roles played by government in its unrivaled success story.

America’s democratic experiment, the authors show, allowed individuals and interest groups to shape the structure and policies of government, which, in turn, have fostered economic success and innovation by emphasizing private property rights, the rule of law, and protections of individual freedom. In response to new demands for infrastructure, America’s federal structure hastened development by promoting the primacy of states, cities, and national governments. More recently, the economic reach of American government expanded dramatically as the populace accepted stronger limits on its economic freedoms in exchange for the increased security provided by regulation, an expanded welfare state, and a stronger national defense.

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Editorial Reviews


“This book is a penetrating analysis of the changing role of the government in the U.S. economy from colonial time to the present.  Each chapter is a cameo presentation of its topic or period.”--Robert W. Fogel, Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions, University of Chicago, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences
(Robert W. Fogel 2007-01-10)

“This engaging and unique book tells the story of the evolution of the American economy from colonial times to the present – the journey of the United States from a peripheral state in the Atlantic economy to world leader. Along the way, it not only tells the economic story, but a political one, emphasizing the role of the government and interest groups in American economic development. The contributors represent a major portion of who's who in economic history.”--Barry R. Weingast, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor in the Department of Political Science, Stanford University
(Barry R. Weingast 2007-01-10)

“This is an important contribution to understanding both continuities and changes in the dynamics of the American economy and the role of governments at the federal, state, and local levels. The highly stimulating essays on the evolving role of government in the American economy, contributed by world class scholars, will be of interest to economists, political scientists, economic historians, and historians of public policy, who will find much to learn and much to teach.”--Paul Rhode, University of Arizona
(Paul Rhode 2007-01-17)

“Written for the general audience as well as the specialist, this is an ambitious, nuanced and thought-provoking critical evaluation of government’s role in the American economy—from its early history to the postwar era—by a distinguished cast of economic historians.”

(Jeremy Atack, Vanderbilt University 2006-12-21)

“Ever since Adam Smith, our intuition has led us to believe that good government and good institutions are absolutely central to economic development. Modern economic theory and empirical analysis have now converted that intuition into concrete fact. Government and the American Economy is a superb example of this conversion. It is a must read for anyone interested in what makes for long run economic success.”--Jeffrey G. Williamson, Laird Bell Professor of Economics, Harvard University
(Jeffrey G. Williamson 2007-01-03)

"They say that history is written by the winners, but history might be even more interesting when it's written by the economists. . . . It's a fascinating journey."

"A series of stimulating cameos by a distinguished assemblage of economic historians. . . . [The volume] can be recommended with confidence to scholars, students and interested readers."
(Gavin Wright EH.NET)

"An invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to know more about public economies and economic history. The volume includes contributions from leading economic historians, and readers are sure to find the essays easy to understand and enjoyable to read. . . . Highly recommended."
(Choice 2007-11-01)

"This volume not only deftly investigates whether and to what extent these and other policies have augmented standards of living. It also recognizes that such policies produce unintended consequences, including a government--read military-industrial-congressional complex--on which we increasingly rely."
(Joseph M. Santos Enterprise & Society)

About the Author

Price V. Fishback is the Frank and Clara Kramer Professor of Economics at the University of Arizona and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is the author of A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation.

Product Details

More About the Author

Robert A. McGuire was born in Long Beach, California and grew up in Lakewood, CA. He attended Paramount High School (Paramount, CA) where he ran around with a group of rowdy friends as well as participated in cross-country and track. His education continued at Rio Hondo College (Whittier, CA), California State University-Long Beach, and the University of Washington in Seattle where he received a Ph.D. in economics; McGuire is an economist with a strong historical bent. He is presently a research professor at the University of Akron in Ohio and has previously been on the faculty at Ball State University in Indiana and held visiting appointments at Ohio State, Washington State, and the Universities of California at Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Cruz. He is an avid hiker, runner, skier, traveler, and wine collector who spends a week each spring skiing in Colorado, a couple or so weeks each summer in Europe, and the winter holidays in Southern California.

McGuire's research interests are multi-faceted, examining economic development issues that integrate economic, historical, and microbiology perspectives as well as examining various constitutional issues that integrate economics, history, and politics. His most recent book is _Parasites, Pathogens, and Progress: Diseases and Economic Development_ (MIT Press 2011).

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