Great Boom, 1950-2000: How a Generation of Americans Created the World's Most Prosperous Society

Overview

In The Great Boom, historian Robert Sobel tells the fascinating story of the last 50 years when American entrepreneurs, visionaries, and ordinary citizens transformed our depression and war-exhausted society into today's economic powerhouse.

As America's G.I.s returned home from World War II, many of the nation's best minds predicted a new depression - yet exactly the opposite occurred. Jobs were plentiful in retooled factories swamped with orders from pent-up demand. Tens of ...

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Overview

In The Great Boom, historian Robert Sobel tells the fascinating story of the last 50 years when American entrepreneurs, visionaries, and ordinary citizens transformed our depression and war-exhausted society into today's economic powerhouse.

As America's G.I.s returned home from World War II, many of the nation's best minds predicted a new depression - yet exactly the opposite occurred. Jobs were plentiful in retooled factories swamped with orders from pent-up demand. Tens of thousands of families moved out of cities into affordable suburban homes built by William Levitt and his imitators. They bought cars, televisions, and air conditioners by the millions. And they took to the nation's roads and new interstate highways - the largest public works project in world history - where Kemmons Wilson of Holiday Inns, Ray Kroc of McDonalds, and other start-up entrepreneurs soon catered to a mobile populace with food and lodgings for leisure time vacationers.

Americans and their families began to channel savings into new opportunities. Credit cards democratized purchasing power, while early mutual funds found growing numbers of investors to fuel the first postwar bull market in the go-go '60s. At the same time the continuing boom enriched the fabric of social and cultural life. A college education became a must on the highway to upward mobility; high-tech industries arose with astonishing new ways of conducting business electronically; and an unprecedented 49 million families had become investors when the 1981 - 2000 stock market boom reached 10,000 on the Dow.

The Great Boom is the first major book to portray the great wave of home-grown entrepreneurs as post-war heroes in the complete remaking and revitalizing of America. All that, plus the creation of unprecedented wealth - for themselves, for the nation, for tens of millions of citizens - all in five short drama-filled decades.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This survey of the American economy during the second half of the 20th century looks at how the "GI generation," which grew up during the Depression and fought World War II, took advantage of new opportunities in education, home ownership, business, and investing to amass more personal wealth than it could ever have imagined. Sobel (When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How To Avoid Them) traces its members' efforts and attitudes as well as those of their children and grandchildren. The author, who died last year, concludes that the GI generation prevented a slide into another depression and built a prosperous society very different from the one predicted by experts in the 1940s. This book covers a lot of ground and, consequently, lacks depth in many areas, but anyone over 40 will probably have personal familiarity with much of what Sobel describes. His book is recommended to most academic libraries and is sufficiently well written to find a home in public libraries, too.--Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Business historian Sobel died in June 1999, a month after completing the preface to his celebration of US businessmen from Levitt of Levittown to Gates of Silicon Valley. Their acumen and courage, he says, created immense wealth for the nation, for millions of its citizens, and for themselves. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A rigorous, engaging assessment of the impressive post-WWII economic growth in the US by the late business historian Sobel (Coolidge, 1998, etc.). Like the teacher he was for more than 40 years, Sobel begins with a question: "How did Americans who in 1945 imagined their futures might not be particularly bright come to accomplish so much during the ensuing fifty-plus years?" Throughout the remainder of this comprehensive work he provides a variety of answers, most of which flatter—deservedly so—his coevals, Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation" (Sobel alludes to Brokaw's book more than once). Sobel establishes that the GI's returning from WWII felt "a generalized lack of confidence"—after all, they had lived through both the Great Depression and a devastating war. But they possessed, he writes, the values of "hard work and dedication" and the determination to improve not only their own lives but the lives of their descendants. Sobel argues that the most important factors fueling the unprecedented accumulation of wealth were home ownership (he has an enlightening account of the development of Levittown and the ensuing suburbia), education (he credits the GI Bill), and entrepreneurship (he discusses many ventures (from McDonald's to Yahoo!). President Reagan emerges as a sort of cultural hero in this account: Sobel assails critics of Reagan's economic policies (stockholders profited during the corporate-raiding 1980s, he observes) and identifies as "Reagan's defining moment" the breaking of the PATCO strike. Sobel also leans right in his social criticism, sniping at 1960s campus radicals and at universities' declining academic standards. Hisreply tothe question of why so many people remain in poverty is the cold comment that "there will always be some who cannot handle capitalism and freedom." The book ends with a sanguine view of a future with "boundless" possibilities. Conservative in bent, expansive in scope, sedulous in scholarship, often wise and wonderful. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312208905
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Introduction 8
1 Coming Home: A Time of Despair and Hope 22
2 A Home and Car of One's Own, and What They Implied 70
3 The Family: Its Work, Play, and Investments 109
4 The Creation of Wealth on Wall Street 154
5 The Electronic Country 194
6 The End of the Postwar Period 240
7 Alternate Means to Wealth 282
8 The New Rules of the Game on Wall Street and on the Campuses 325
9 The New View of Retirement and Education 357
10 The Third Generation 381
Acknowledgments 419
Selected Bibliography 421
Index 439
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