Chapter 3: Industrial policy in America’s economic history: a bird’s-eye view
In this third chapter we focus on America’s industrial development history and in particular on the role that government policies have had in this process. We begin with the independence period – the earliest decades of the country when America started on its path toward economic growth. Then we will look at the years when international economic leadership was finally achieved. We will discuss some of the main moments of economic crisis and we will end offering a more detailed analysis of what happened during the most recent decades. Our intention is to understand whether or not it is possible to find evidence of industrial policy (IP) interventions in American history. The choice of this topic could be considered surprising to some and even provocative to others. This is because there is quite a common argument – widely diffused both in academic and in policymaking circles, in the US and abroad – that IP has never occurred in the US! Is this true? Is IP an idea that has merely been “imported” from abroad? Is it a concept that is totally alien to the US economic culture? And is it a practice in which the American Government has never engaged? Or, to the contrary, is it true that during many crucial periods of US industrial history government interventions have been promoted, even if it might have been called by different names?