Success and Failure in American History


The pursuit of material prosperity is at the heart of the American experience, and from the colonial period onward, people have embraced what is now known as the American dream. This colloquium examined the linkage between success and failure in the context of general questions about liberty and responsibility. What types of values facilitate personal economic success? In what ways does the pursuit of economic success enhance individual liberty? How did notions of economic success and failure change in nineteenth-century America? Did the changes of the nineteenth century enhance, diminish, distort, or fulfill older, republican notions from the founding era?


From Liberty Fund

Planning for Freedom

by By Ludwig von Mises
Edited by Bettina Bien Greaves

In this anthology, Mises offers an articulate and accessible introduction to and critique of two topics he considers especially important: inflation and government interventionism. Mises believes inflation, that is monetary expansion, is destructive; it destroys savings and investment, which are the basis for production and prosperity. Government controls and economic…

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Additional Readings

Wall, Joseph Frazier, eds. The Andrew Carnegie Reader, Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 1992.

Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Balleisen, Edward. Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America. Raleigh: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Edited by Henry Steele Commager. Translated by Henry Reeve. New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Bedford Books, 1993.

Melville, Herman. Great Short Works of Herman Melville. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.

Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Sumner, William Graham. On Liberty, Society, and Politics: The Essential Essays of William Graham Sumner. Edited by Robert C. Bannister. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1992.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism and Other Writings. Edited by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.