In the last days of 2017 I finished reading John Gordon Steele’s An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power.
Regarding the writing project before him, the author said, “I decided to write what I hoped would be an economic history of the United States that was without charts, graphs and political purposes but rich in human drama…”
He absolutely succeeded.
After re-reading 3 histories of specific market debacles – Great Depression, The market crash that ended the Go-Go years of the 60s, and the blowing and bursting of the dot.com bubble in the late 90s – it was absolutely fascinating to string the histories together and add to the lengthy narrative that is U.S. economic history.
For me, the financial history/calamity books provided the in-depth experience of the short termism involved in every moment and John Gordon Steele’s book put all those short-term thoughts into a beautiful big picture of the long-term inexorable outcomes derived from our particular democratic capitalism and the uniquely human battles along the way that made the outcomes possible. The whole story is one of unintended consequences.
If you have been disturbed by the times, as many of us are, this book will serve as a reminder that we have never known what was just around the bend. The things that look huge and scary usually aren’t important in the bigger picture. Collectively, with the occasional entrance though inconsistent presence of incredible leaders, we meet our challenges and – putting one foot in front of the other – we capitalize on them.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite book of the last 10 years and I highly recommend it to all investors and anyone interested in the economic history of the U.S.