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Founding Choices

American Economic Policy in the 1790s

Founding Choices

American Economic Policy in the 1790s

The political decisions made by the founding fathers were crucial to the success of the early republic. But the economic decisions they made were just as pivotal, ensuring the general welfare and common defense of the United States for decades to come. Founding Choices explores these economic choices and their profound influence on American life, westward expansion, and influence abroad. Among the topics covered are finance, trade, and monetary and banking policy, with a focus on the factors guiding those policies and their end result. 

This book redresses the relative neglect of the economic achievements of the founders. It will be essential reading for historians and economists alike.

368 pages | 17 line drawings, 22 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning, Economics--History

History: American History


“In Founding Choices, Douglas Irwin and Richard Sylla have brought together an impressive and accomplished list of economic historians to examine the long-run importance of the economic decisions made in the Founding Era, decisions which helped foster sustained economic growth and development in the United States. There is a tremendous amount of useful and important information contained in these essays.”

Mark V. Siegler | Sacramento State University

Table of Contents


The Significance of the Founding Choices: Editors’ Introduction
Douglas A. Irwin and Richard Sylla

I. Politics

1. The Constitutional Choices of 1787 and Their Consequences
Sonia Mittal, Jack N. Rakove, and Barry R. Weingast

II. Policy

2. Financial Foundations: Public Credit, the National Bank, and Securities Markets
Richard Sylla

3. Revenue or Reciprocity? Founding Feuds over Early U.S. Trade Policy
Douglas A. Irwin

4. Monetary Policy and the Dollar
Peter L. Rousseau

5. Federal and State Commercial Banking Policy in the Federalist Era and Beyond
Howard Bodenhorn

6. The Other Foundings: Federalism and the Constitutional Structure of American Government
John Joseph Wallis

III. Business Organization and the Factors of Production

7. Rise of the Corporation Nation
Robert E. Wright

8. U.S. Land Policy: Founding Choices and Outcomes, 1781-1802
Farley Grubb

9. Free Labor and Slave Labor
Stanley L. Engerman and Robert A. Margo

10. Looking Backward: Founding Choices in Innovation and Intellectual Property Protection
B. Zorina Khan

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