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How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present Paperback – August 23, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Don't be misled by this book's subtitle: rather than a work of history, it's a work of ideology cross-dressing as history. Its value lies in its lively polemic rather than its claims to novelty or historical depth. DiLorenzo (The Real Lincoln) aims to counteract what he believes is the "anticapitalist mentality" among other historians by showing how capitalism has permeated American history since the Pilgrims, how the role of marketplace entrepreneurs has been lost to historical view, and how all government regulation has been injurious to the national welfare. These arguments he presents via brief sketches of some of the major eras of the nation's history. He argues, for example, that the monopolistic robber barons are incorrectly made to stand in for their era's other forgotten great entrepreneurs, and that it wasn't the excesses of the 1920s that caused the Great Depression but rather Herbert Hoover's mild pre-crash attempts at government regulation. What's beguiling is DiLorenzo's single-mindedness. The book ought to prove bracing for those similarly minded and to those of contrary views whose arguments have grown flaccid for want of energetic attack. But the author's notes and bibliography give the game away. There are scarcely any references to works of history. Instead, he cites the great theorists of capitalism, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. There's nothing wrong with that, but it leads one to suspect that the book aims less to enrich historical understanding than to score points. (On sale Aug. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Extolling free markets and upbraiding government intervention, economist DiLorenzo offers a tour of American economic history that is intended to counter the anticapitalist ideas embedded in best-sellers such as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed (2001) and Michael Moore's Downsize This! (1997). While calling these anecdote- and emotion-driven tomes utter economic nonsense, DiLorenzo does acknowledge their influence. Most people, to the extent they understand the principles of free markets, are suspicious of them, citing robber barons, petroleum trusts, and the Great Depression. Inveighing against "myths" that the failures of capitalism were the cause of such historical episodes, DiLorenzo attacks the political response to them as pernicious to consumers, who, he argues, ultimately pay for price controls, regulations, subsidies, and government corporations. To the author's understandable frustration, these types of government intervention accumulate decade after decade, with "political entrepreneurs" almost always overpowering the ability of the market to operate freely. DiLorenzo's presentation challenges widespread beliefs about economic history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum (August 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400083311
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400083312
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas J. DiLorenzo is the author of The Real Lincoln and How Capitalism Saved America. A professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Barron's, and many other publications. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

232 of 258 people found the following review helpful By M. Goodson on August 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is quite obvious that many posting reviews on this book have not actually read it. This may seem fantastic, but one should not be terribly shocked at human irrationality (it's all around us). In fact, the author of the book in question wrote in some length of the anti-capitalistic mentality that contributes to this kind of behavior.

I comment specifically on the "review" by A. Epstein as his protests are typical. However, it is clear that "Arwin Ascendi", "Panopticonman", "Sgt. Rock", "Steven S.", and "F Hayek" also have not read the book (at least, their "reviews" contain no information to suggest so). Epstein wrote:

"25,000 children die every day around the world from hunger. 1 in 4 American children go starving every day. And this is the proud economic system that the author talks about? Capitalism has shown to be nothing but a smoke screen to make the rich richer. Unfortunately, the rest of the world hasn't figured out the trick just yet."

1. Societies of the world are not organized under capitalism. Therefore, the reference to the number of child deaths in this world is irrelevant.
2. The use of the word "starving" in this case is a dysphemism. Compare the "hunger" experienced by the thousands of dead children invoked by Epstein with the "starving" experienced by 1 in 4 Americans. The words of a Russian immigrant who fled soviet Russia during the 1980's illustrate my position well. When asked why he decided to leave the Soviet Union for the United States, this immigrant replied "Why would anyone not want to live in a country where the poorest members of society are also the fattest!"
3. The statistics cited in this book (compiled by the U.S.
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106 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lorenzi on December 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There is one silly argument being made among these reviews that conservatism and capitalism are unrelated. Actually, DiLorenzo, a superb colleague of mine, is more of a libertarian and true free-market thinker than a Tory conservative of the George Will mode. Understand this, and you will have a better appreciation for DiLorenzo's approach to capitalism and its cleansing powers.

People and markets proposer because we act in our own self-interest. Adam Smith was right and some label him 'liberal'. 'Liberal' means something quite different outside the United States. Those who equate Oliver Stone's "greed is good" mantra for capitalism are missing the point. "Greed" is "reprehensible acquisitiveness" and the beauty of capitalism is that the market speaks louder than government dictates or "greedy capitalists". When the government says, "I'm here to help you," it's time to hold onto your wallets. With capitalism, it's your choice. Greed doesn't work; markets do.

DiLorenzo writes with a clear, accessible style. While he is an accomplished researcher and academic, he discovers and disseminates knowledge for a much larger public than other academics. And he is brave enough to take on well-entrenched conventional wisdom, be it the nanny state or worshipful devotees of Abraham Lincoln.

We have a problem with unchallenged soft-headed, bleeding heart, liberal thought on many college campuses. DiLorenzo is part of the solution to the excessive political correctness rampant on many college campuses. Read this and open your eyes and mind. This is a nice companion piece to David Landes' "The wealth and poverty of nations: Why some nations are so rich and others so poor." And it fits with the recent studies of the differences between English and French law, and the impact of their respective legal systems on economic success.
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159 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Tucker on August 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thomas DiLorenzo has a marvelous analytical talent-a knack for drawing the reader's attention to the material that matters-and his new book employs this talent in defense of the whole history of free enterprise in America. How long have we waited for a book like this? A very long time.

Having just read it, I'm confident in predicting continued success and sales. It seems like just the right book to give a market skeptic. "You have doubts about capitalism? Read this."

After years of interacting with students in an urban business-school environment, DiLorenzo knows precisely what are the main points of contention. The chapters are short but careful in choosing just the right episodes to highlight and arguments to present to make his case. His main points are drawn from the Austrian tradition: the classic texts by Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Reisman, but also the public choice school, and also the best economic historians of our time.

He begins with a definition and sweeping defense of capitalism, along with an eye-opening illustration of why such a defense in necessary, citing an egregious history of intellectual defenses of communism. Who remembers that John Dewey called Soviet communism "intrinsically religious" with the "moving spirit and force of primitive Christianity"?

The text never slows, as he marches through the history of the pilgrims, the American Revolution, the 19th century debate over internal improvements, the advancement of workers amidst capitalist advance, the myths of the Robber Barrons, the great depression, the New Deal, the energy crisis, and the modern debate on the environment, social regulation, and the war on vice.

It occurred to me while reading this that this whole book is a kind of guerilla manual for beating back the most common economic myths one is likely to encounter on campus or in public debate. Master this book and you have overcome most of the bad economic thinking of our time.
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