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Land of Promise

An Economic History of the United States
Published:   April 2012
ISBN: 0061834807 | 592 pages
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From one of America’s leading intellectuals comes a sweeping and original work of economic history, recounting the epic story of America’s rise to become the world’s dominant economy.

Bestselling author Michael Lind provides a groundbreaking account of how a weak collection of former British colonies became an industrial, financial, and military colossus. From the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, the American economy has been transformed by wave after wave of emerging technology: the steam engine, electricity, the internal combustion engine, computer technology. Yet technology-driven change leads to growing misalignment between an innovative economy and anachronistic legal and political structures until the gap is closed by the modernization of America's institutions—often amid upheavals such as the Civil War and Reconstruction and the Great Depression and World War II.

Lind discusses the patterns of misalignment between the economy and politics throughout the history of the United States.

Against the dramatic backdrop of shattering tides of change, Land of Promise portrays the struggles and achievements of inventors like Thomas Edison and Samuel Morse; entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs; financiers like J. P. Morgan; visionary political leaders like Henry Clay and Franklin Roosevelt; and dynamic policy makers like Alexander Hamilton and Vannevar Bush. Larger-than-life figures such as these share the stage with the ordinary Americans who built a superpower, from midwestern farmers, southern slaves, and the immigrants who created canals and railroads to the sisters of Rosie the Riveter, whose labor in factories during World War II helped to end Hitler's dream of world domination.

When the U.S. economy has flourished, Lind argues, government and business, labor and universities, have worked together as partners in a never-ending project of economic nation building. As the United States struggles to emerge from the Great Recession, Land of Promise demonstrates that Americans, since the earliest days of the republic, have reinvented the American economy—and have the power to do so again.