The early financial history of the United States reads like a playbook of things to avoid: an experimental central bank with almost no accountability, regional banks with even less oversight of their own back-room currency printing presses, and an easy credit mentality driven by the new national pastime of Western expansionism. This heady mix of credit and confidence exacerbated a boom and bust cycle that would last until well after the American Civil War.
Many of these booms and busts in early U.S. history can be attributed to the emergence of the agricultural futures markets in Chicago, the use of leverage in those markets, and the ability of banks to use local harvests as a source of credit in the form of new loans without centralized control. This newly created credit exacerbated price volatility around harvest times, which was made even worse by leveraged commodity speculation. The frequent outcome was widespread bank failure.— Christian H. Cooper, “Saving Afghanistan’s Economy: The 1818 Model,” The Diplomat.
Isaiah Berlin pointed out that “because” is used differently in science and history. In science, it means reliably causal. In history, it means a looser, narrative kind of causation, a useful explanation of the complex web of factors affecting a particular situation. Since Plato many have privileged universal timeless truths. But history’s truths are typically particular and time bound, describing changes through time.
Pinker’s science needs types and theories. It assumes that phenomena “may be explained by principles that are more general than the phenomena themselves.” But Berlin noted that knowledge can be nomothetic or idiographic. “Nomothetic” means fit for law-like generalizations, having reliably repeatable regularities. “Idiographic” means much the same as the Hebrew word “da’at”: knowledge gained through direct relationship with the particular (not via theories or types).— Jag Bhalla, “Is Economics More Like History Than Physics?” Scientific American.
In a spirit of philosophical bipartisanship, it would be pleasant to conclude that each of these traditions of political economy has made its own valuable contribution to the success of the American economy and that the vector created by these opposing forces has been more beneficial than the complete victory of either would have been. But that would not be true.
What is good about the American economy is largely the result of the Hamiltonian developmental tradition, and what is bad about it is largely the result of the Jeffersonian producerist school.— Michael Lind, The Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
History, Race, and the Middle Class
"Historians have also examined the deleterious effects Of the New Deal on African Americans, particularly in compressing the skill level of black workers in relation to their white counterparts. White workers took over many jobs held by black workers during the Great Depression, and New Deal job training programs benefited white more than black labor. Paul E. Mertz, in New Deal Policy and Southern Rural Poverty (1978), examined the relief programs of the New Deal, which exacerbated rural poverty. African Americans are still trying to catch up to white Americans who gained economic, educational, and housing advantages through government programs of the New Deal and World War Il. In When Affirmative Action Was White (2005), Ira Katznelson traces the rise of the white middle class through New Deal job training and the benefits of the GI Bill after World War Il, which helped white men and women go to college and purchase homes. African Americans found themselves excluded from job training programs and relegated to domestic and service positions, and because of racial discrimination they had limited access to the benefits of the GI Bill.”
-Robert Harris, Jr., “The Changing Contours of African American History During the Twentieth Century,” A Century of American Historiography, Ed. James M. Banner, Jr.
In the movement that culminated in Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s men kidnapped free blacks by the hundreds—men, women, and children. Up to a thousand were captured and forced into labor with the Confederate Army. And during the eventual retreat from Pennsylvania, they were sent South. Once in Virginia, they were returned to their former owners, or if born free, sold into slavery.
What’s key is that this wasn’t the work of bad apples or isolated units. It won approval from field commanders and leaders at the top of the chain. It was so widespread, in fact, that you could legitimately describe these raids as an objective of the campaign, especially given the time and manpower required to carry them out.— Jamelle Bouie, “The Real Robert E. Lee,” The American Prospect.
The suburb has a claim to being one of the most successful and least loved inventions of the modern era. Many intellectuals, being city people at heart, find the suburb a hard place to love. Even its friends are seldom more than half-hearted while its enemies are more inclined to sneer than to analyze. The suburb, to be sure, was a modest idea, a pragmatic accommodation with the great forces of the age rather than a heroic attempt to transcend them, yet it has proved far more resilient than many purer or nobler ideals. […]
Something more than the sheer pressure of population fostered this distinctively Anglo-Saxon propensity to sprawl. Climate, economics, and new technologies of transport and production all played a part, but the early nineteenth-century English suburb was also a response to four great contemporary ideologies: Evangelicalism, Sanitarianism, Romanticism and Class Segregation. Each, at its core, was an ideology defined by the logic of avoidance—the determination to escape the vice, disease, ugliness, and violence of the city—as much as by the forces of attraction: the desire to embrace the virtue, health, beauty, and seclusion of the countryside. To understand its inner character and development, we need to ponder the cultural logic by which the suburban idea was shaped and reproduced.— Graeme Davison, “The Suburban Idea and Its Enemies,” The Journal of Urban History.