Andrew Carnegie: An Economic Biography (Capitalist Thought: Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics)

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9780739189832: Andrew Carnegie: An Economic Biography (Capitalist Thought: Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics)

This biography of Andrew Carnegie emphasizes the economic dimension of his career in industry. It examines his life as a dynamic innovator during the period when the steel industry rapidly expanded and the United States became a major industrial power. Carnegie rose from a poverty-stricken Scottish childhood to a position of international industrial leadership, philanthropy, and peace advocacy, by means of intelligence, entrepreneurship, ambition, tenacity, guile, and ruthless determination. It is shown that Carnegie excelled as an economic actor. His alertness to expected profit opportunities, and success in coping with the uncertainties of the marketplace, made him a major influence on the growth of many of the most important industries of late-nineteenth century United States and world economies. His contribution to the better coordination of the actions of both demanders and suppliers in those industries by managerial, technological, and institutional innovations is emphasized. It is also argued that those profit-seeking actions and innovations occurred in the context of political policies and social institutions that produced a tremendous mal-investment of resources. This mal-investment was a result of protective tariffs, the stimulus and waste of war, and government subsidization of the railroad industry. Carnegie’s role in this massive diversion of resources from other uses to those from which he personally benefitted is also emphasized. Lastly, Carnegie’s actions in giving away the great personal fortune that he accumulated as he built his business empire are examined and their economic implications assessed.

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About the Author:

Samuel Bostaph is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Dallas.

Review:

Bostaph succinctly and effectively distills the career and economic context of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, packing the punch of a book twice its length . . . After a brief overview of how to conceptualize entrepreneurship, the volume methodically follows Carnegie from childhood in Scotland to successes in business and philanthropic endeavors. Bostaph shows that much of Carnegie’s early success relied on questionable insider dealings with Pennsylvania Railroad colleagues but notes that his ability to adopt innovations, motivate subordinates, relentlessly cut costs, and efficiently coordinate markets was the ultimate cause of his phenomenal successes. The best chapter explains that condemnations of Carnegie’s labor relations (especially during the Homestead Strike) are ill-founded, yet Bostaph is quick to criticize Carnegie’s self-deluded misrepresentations and mistreatment of his key partner, Henry Clay Frick. Although the Kirznerian 'market process' approach adopted by Bostaph is useful, the dynamic Carnegie who emerges in this biography comes across as a truly 'unique being' along the lines described by Joseph Schumpeter. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. (CHOICE)

Given its brevity and its focus on the issues of government intervention, firm governance, and property rights, this is the biography that I would recommend to a generalist wanting to understand Carnegie.... By putting the firm’s history into an alternative economic context, this book reveals much about Carnegie and the steel industry.... I hope to see similar works from him on other historical figures. (Eh.Net: The Economic History Network)

Carnegie has been the subject of several long biographies, but Samuel Bostaph, professor emeritus at the University of Dallas, has given us something different: a short economic biography that captures the high points in Carnegie’s life and career. Bostaph’s book is well written and balanced in its evaluation of the wily Scot.... [A]s Samuel Bostaph shows in his excellent biography, a great entrepreneur does more than any politician to improve the quality of life for ordinary people. (Future of Freedom)

Andrew Carnegie: An Economic Biography is a major contribution to the economic history of the United States. Sam Bostaph analyzes the career of Andrew Carnegie, the most important entrepreneur in late-nineteenth century America, using the tools of economic theory. Economics, Bostaph says, is governed by laws, just as the physical world is; and he shows in masterful fashion how Carnegie was able to make use of these laws to his advantage. Carnegie's success stemmed in large part from his superior ability to supply what people wanted, though he was not above using underhanded methods against his rivals and seeking government privileges for his enterprises. Bostaph's insights about economic theory and history and his penetrating depiction of Carnegie's personality will establish this book as a definitive work on this key figure in American economic history. (David Gordon)

In this interesting and eminently readable economic biography, Samuel Bostaph provides an insightful analysis of Andrew Carnegie as a dynamic and alert economic actor and pioneering tycoon in the ‘Age of Steel.’ This volume chronicles Carnegie's rise from poverty to become an international industrial leader, respected scholar, philanthropist, defender of free enterprise, and activist for world peace and democracy. Carnegie is shown to be the most important, and most symbolic, entrepreneur and catalyst in the late 19th century industrialization in America. Bostaph employs economic theory and tools to understand Carnegie's profit-seeking actions and both their positive and negative effects. Carnegie was an innovative and focused businessman with uncommon vision, an unrelenting work ethic, and a rare ability to deal with risk and uncertainty. As an inconsistent advocate of the free market, he is also revealed to be a sometimes ‘crony capitalist’ who went to the government for special privileges. In this outstanding book, Bostaph explains both Carnegie's usually rational and sometimes irrational decisions and actions and their consequences. (Edward W. Younkins, Wheeling Jesuit University)

Dr. Sam Bostaph has created an entirely new category of economic research and writing: the economic biography. Most biographies of men like Andrew Carnegie are written by historians with little or no background in economics, which often leads to false or incomplete conclusions. Dr. Bostaph's economic biography of Andrew Carnegie is the one to read for students of one of America's most famous (and notorious) entrepreneurs. (Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Loyola College of Maryland)

Professor Bostaph is a real-world-oriented economist who has written a perceptive biography of Andrew Carnegie, the great American industrialist and philanthropist, and it delightfully does not shrink from analyzing Carnegie’s minuses either. (Morgan Reynolds, Texas A&M University)

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