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Outline of the U.S. Economy

30 April 2012

“The panic itself was felt in every part of the globe,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “It was as if a volcano had burst forth in New York, causing a tidal wave that swept with disastrous power over every nation on the globe.” One of the after-effects: “an accumulation of idle money in the banking centres.” The date of this item? January 17, 1908.

Given the sobering news that of late has arrived with distressing frequency, preparing this edition of Outline of the U.S. Economy was a real challenge. We tried to approach the task with a sense of historical consciousness. In addition to the 1908 events depicted above, the United States has endured a Great Depression (began 1929), a Long Depression (began 1873), a Panic of 1837 — “an American financial crisis, built on a speculative real estate market,” says Wikipedia — and assorted other recessions, panics, bubbles and contractions, and emerged from each with its economic vigor restored and its republican institutions vibrant.

We hope that our readers will find this entry in our Outline series frank, informative, and above all useful. We offer it in the spirit of optimism embedded deeply in American life.

Staff of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs updated in mid-2011 the original 2009 edition written by former Washington Post business editor and writer Peter Behr.

—The Editors

Chapter 1: The Challenges of This Century

The Challenges of This Century
The U.S. economy currently faces its severest challenges in a generation.

An Economy Driven by Competition

The U.S. Economy Today

Chapter 2: The Evolution of the U.S. Economy

The Evolution of the U.S. Economy
The economy has expanded and changed, guided by some unchanging principles.

A Balancing of Interests

The South and Slavery

A Spirit of Invention

Convulsive Changes

Sidebar: The Richest Man in the World

A Modern Economy Emerges

The New Deal

Organized Labor: Prosperity and Conflict

The Political Pendulum Swings

Deregulating Business

Technology’s Upheaval

The New Economy

Sidebar: Unlocking the Internet

Opportunism and Credulity

Government in Action

Chapter 3: What the U.S. Economy Produces

What the U.S. Economy Produces
Large U.S. multinational firms altered their production strategies, roles.

Manufacturing Faces Competition

Sidebar: Retailing’s Competitive Battlefield

The Rise of Finance

Where Americans Work

Chapter 4: Competition and the American Culture

Competition and the American Culture
Competition has remained a defining characteristic of the U.S. economy.

Investing in Research and Education

Support for Farmers

Small Businesses at the Economy’s Core

The Chance to Start Again

Creative Destruction at the Top of the Economy

Corporations Push Back

Junk Bonds and Takeovers

Competition and the American Culture

Praising Work

Chapter 5: Geography and Infrastructure

Geography and Infrastructure
Education and transportation help hold together distinct regions.

A Nation of Regions

Unifying Forces

Unifying Forces and Infrastructure

Creating a National Audience

The Power of Education

Regional Centers

Chapter 6: Government and the Economy

Government and the Economy
Much of America’s history has focused on the debate over the government’s role in the economy.

The Reach of Economic Regulation

Sidebar: The Changing Union Movement

The Antitrust Laws

Protecting Competition, Not Competitors

The Birth of Environmental Regulation

The Tide Turns Against Regulation

The Regulation of Banking

Chapter 7: A U.S. Economy Linked to the World

A U.S. Economy Linked to the World
Despite political divisions, the United States shows no sign of retreat from global engagement in trade and investment.

Open Trade and Foreign Policy

Responses to Foreign Competition

Sidebar: A Lesson in Creative Destruction

A Boost for Trade Expansion

Patents, Copyright, Trademarks

Chapter 8: A New Chapter in America’s Economic Story

A New Chapter in America’s Economic Story
The United States, in its democratic way, faces up to immense economic challenges.

Soaring Deficit

Income Disparity

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Please reorder the chapters to repair