When businessman/philanthropist Richard Vague went searching for a non-academic book that linked the threads of America’s business history together he discovered what, to him, was missing: There existed no coffee table, illustrated history of U.S. business.
So Vague, Philadelphia’s foremost renaissance man, wrote one himself. His An Illustrated Business History of the United States covers some 200 years of economic ups and downs in America, from inequities to glories to more inequities and more glories. It is, perhaps surprisingly, a rousing collection of anecdotes and images.
Last week, Vague talked about his new book with MSNBC anchor and Citizen board member Ali Velshi, at a Citizen Speaks event powered by Fitler Club, where the breakfast conversation was held. The two compared notes on America’s stunning patterns of growth and reinvention. How was it that, within little more than a decade after the nation’s founding, America’s economy dwarfed those of European countries? What does our history of ingenuity and economic diversity portend for our future? How can we recapture the American dream for millions of Americans who feel left behind? And what role does government play in our capitalist system?
“Average Americans have a legitimate claim that nobody is reaching out to help them. They say the Republican Party helps the wealthy; the Democratic Party helps the disadvantaged. That’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s also kind of true,” Vague said, adding later that despite claims to the contrary, “Government has always been deeply involved in economic and business matters…since the American Revolution.”
Find out how, and what else we can learn from the vagaries of the American economy, in the video below—and pick up a copy of Vague’s book from our event partner Head House Books.