This essay provides a brief survey of McCraw’s ideas about economic policy and capitalism. Other reviewers might have chosen different themes; possibilities include the relationship between the United States and the world, the advantages and disadvantages of biography as a literary form, and even the contrasting aesthetics of history and social science. Even so, I believe that the two I have chosen provide a revealing perspective on McCraw’s most abiding concerns. This essay has three parts. The first part provides a brief overview of McCraw’s intellectual milieu; the second part surveys his contributions to our understanding of economic policy and capitalism; and the third part shows how in The Founders and Finance McCraw combined his interests in economic policy and capitalism to reinterpret a pivotal event in the American past.
Richard R. John is a professor of history and communications at Columbia University. He is a long-time member and past president of the Business History Conference. His most notable books are Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (2010) and Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (1995). He is currently working on a history of anti-monopoly in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present.