An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power

4.06 avg rating
( 738 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780060505127: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power

Throughout time, from ancient Rome to modern Britain, the great empires built and maintained their domination through force of arms and political power. But not the United States. America has dominated the world in a new, peaceful, and pervasive way - through the continued creation of staggering wealth. In this authoritative, engrossing history, John Steele Gordon captures as never before the true source of our nation's global influence: wealth and the capacity to create more of it.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

John Steele Gordon is a columnist for American Heritage and the author of A Thread Across the Ocean, The Great Game, Hamilton's Blessing, and The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in North Salem, New York.

From The Washington Post:

More than a century ago, the steel titan Andrew Carnegie declared in his book Triumphant Democracy: "The old nations of the earth creep on at a snail's pace; the Republic thunders past with the rush of the express. The United States . . . has already reached the foremost rank among nations, and is destined soon to outdistance all others in the race. In population, in wealth, in annual savings, and in public credit; in freedom from debt, in agriculture, and in manufactures, America already leads the civilized world."

No historian, in Carnegie's day or since, has denied America's extraordinary economic growth, but interpreters have not agreed on the benefits and costs of that growth. Nor have they agreed on what constitutes the most important lesson of America's economic development. When they approach history's altar, some have argued that the lessons are to be found in the fire, from the raging engine of economic growth. Others have taken their lessons from the ashes, from the suffering of those singed in the process.

In An Empire of Wealth, John Steele Gordon, an accomplished historian of American business and a columnist for American Heritage magazine, puts the focus back on the fire, and he does so with verve and passion. His absorbing popular history recounts the triumphal saga of a collection of colonies that, having broken free of Europe's constricting hand, went on to convert a vast patrimony of virgin forests and generous natural resources into the world's most powerful economic system -- succeeding so wildly that today, with 6 percent of the world's land and population, the United States boasts "close to 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product."

Gordon is a knowledgeable and relentlessly optimistic chronicler, relating with great panache how America's turn toward liberty, growth and innovation produced wonders of synergy. He captures well the epiphanies of inventors, industrialists and speculators as these legendary self-made men spun together the fibers of American dominance. And he vividly recreates the climate of exigency that made America's wars such powerful economic catalysts. An Empire of Wealth offers a Promethean narrative of America's rise to economic dominance. Gordon's account is both highly readable and enlightening.

With a near-perfect ear for the apt quote and the telling phrase, Gordon marches the reader through America's seminal economic accomplishments -- from Alexander Hamilton's financial plans to the Erie Canal, the cotton gin and the piecemeal nurture of a blossoming economy; to the rise of steam energy, transatlantic shipping, the railroad, the telegraph, and the mega-businesses of petroleum, electrical energy, steel and automobiles; and finally to the Cold War boom and the Internet. Before the reader's eyes, an undeveloped land dotted with scattered farms, primitive roads and modest local markets is transformed into a Hamiltonian system of robust expansion, audacious investment and global reach.

Unfortunately, however, this narrative of primary colors and bold strokes lacks nuance and contrasting detail. As inventions and breakthroughs carry the story forward, Gordon downplays the unsavory aspects of a more textured American economy and swiftly dispatches more complicated issues like new economic departures. As a result, his conclusions are modestly scaffolded, offering more a point of view than a historical analysis.

While Gordon informs us that many "captains of industry" were impressive philanthropists, he does little to explain how this benevolence coexisted with brutal business practices and labor policies. Fascinated by the results of wealth production, he pays but passing attention to the circumstances under which this wealth was produced. He is satisfied to suggest that things were certainly worse elsewhere. No doubt they were, but these important issues bear profoundly on the story at hand. After all, concern about economic justice led Americans to make crucial modifications in laissez-faire capitalism in the hopes of adjusting an irregular and sometimes manipulated market.

Indeed, we read so little about business excesses that we are unprepared for Gordon's mention of the federal government's 1907 offensive against the Standard Oil petroleum monopoly. He concludes his discussion of the oil cartel's dissolution by noting an irony: The breakup made John D. Rockefeller much wealthier. Does this tell us something important? Gordon fails to ponder the question.

Elsewhere, he suggests that Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie fought federal regulation because they came of age in an era when the government was easily corrupted -- as if the Gilded Age business community was more trustworthy. The issue is not trust but something deeper, which Gordon simply lets slide. "The trouble with capitalism is capitalists," Herbert Hoover once said. "They're too damn greedy." Gordon quotes Hoover's chestnut but devotes too little thought to the hazards of unregulated profit motive.

Gordon's enthusiasm also leads to some debatable conclusions, especially in the closing pages of his account. The calamitous recent decline in technology stocks, which set off a round of scandals that laid bare some of the shoddiest business practices in history, is dismissed as a "normal, if considerable, stock market correction." He lauds the computer and the Internet as the "most potent weapon against tyranny since the concept of liberty itself." In fact, this technology has been used for profound evil even as it has also promoted the freedoms we cherish. Gordon has a tendency to exempt technological progress from searching scrutiny.

That laissez-faire confidence is worrisome. He closes his book with the al Qaeda attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001, blithely reassuring his readers that wars are won by money and that no one has ever had more than the United States. Would that it were all so simple.

Reviewed by Thomas Kessner
Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

John Steele Gordon
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
BWB
(Valley Stream, NY, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97800605051270000000

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 10.10
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

John Steele Gordon
Published by Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Collins Publishers. Book Condition: New. Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 0060505125

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.37
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

John Steele Gordon
Published by Harper Perennial
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 14
Seller
Movie Mars
(Indian Trail, NC, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Perennial. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0060505125 Brand New Book. Ships from the United States. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee!. Bookseller Inventory # 4167618

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.35
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

John Steele Gordon
Published by PERENNIAL (2005)
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
PBShop
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description PERENNIAL, 2005. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # IB-9780060505127

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.36
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

John Steele Gordon
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Print on Demand
Seller
BargainBookStores
(Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. This item is printed on demand. Item doesn't include CD/DVD. Bookseller Inventory # 808561

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.66
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

John Steele Gordon
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States (2005)
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 203 x 135 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Throughout time, from ancient Rome to modern Britain, the great empires built and maintained their domination through force of arms and political power. But not the United States. America has dominated the world in a new, peaceful, and pervasive way -- through the continued creation of staggering wealth. In this authoritative, engrossing history, John Steele Gordon captures as never before the true source of our nation s global influence: wealth and the capacity to create more of it. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780060505127

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 13.66
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

John Steele Gordon
Published by Harper Perennial (2005)
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Paperback Quantity Available: 20
Seller
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Perennial, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 0060505125

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 11.02
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 2.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

John Steele Gordon
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States (2005)
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Inc, United States, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 203 x 135 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Throughout time, from ancient Rome to modern Britain, the great empires built and maintained their domination through force of arms and political power. But not the United States. America has dominated the world in a new, peaceful, and pervasive way -- through the continued creation of staggering wealth. In this authoritative, engrossing history, John Steele Gordon captures as never before the true source of our nation s global influence: wealth and the capacity to create more of it. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780060505127

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 14.05
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

John Steele Gordon
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New Softcover Quantity Available: 3
Seller
VNHM SHOP
(Pompano Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Softcover. Book Condition: New. New. This item is new unopened, never used and still in its original manufacturer condition. Tracking number will be provided to you so that you may track your order (for all USA orders). Bookseller Inventory # 9013275

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 14.05
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

John Steele Gordon
Published by Harper Perennial
ISBN 10: 0060505125 ISBN 13: 9780060505127
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Perennial. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0060505125 OVER 80 IN STOCK 12/12/16 WE HAVE NUMEROUS COPIES. PAPERBACK. Light storage wear and handling marks on cover, corners, and edges. School barcode sticker on back cover. Bookseller Inventory # Z0060505125ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.11
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book