The record of the American economy since 1945 offers an embarrassment of riches for the historian, and Wyatt Wells has brought them together in a compact and incisive history. His theme is how greatly many economic circumstances changed-and how many other features remained essentially the same. He shows how throughout the period the United States enjoyed not only the world's largest economy but by most measures its most diverse and sophisticated. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed extraordinary change: the development of entirely new industries, such as television and computers; the decline of established industries, such as steel and textiles; the impact of international trade and competition on growing numbers of Americans. As the boom of the 1950s and 1960s gave way to "stagflation" in the 1970s, the 1980s became a time of extensive reorganization, which in turn laid the foundation for another boom in the 1990s. Still, as Mr. Wells notes, industry remained in private hands; political debate consistently returned to the same issues involving the proper role of government in the economy; and the country remained committed to an open international economic system.
American Capitalism examines the development of economic policy (government spending, taxes, regulation, and monetary policy), economic structure (companies, markets, technology, and labor), and ideas about both, explaining the complex interaction of these factors over the past half-century. The book offers an essential short course on American economic development over these years.
Wyatt Wells is distinguished research associate professor of history at Auburn University, Montgomery. His other books include Antitrust and the Formation of the Postwar World and Economist in an Uncertain World. He lives in Montgomery, Alabama.