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The beginnings of America’s market-based economy


Nov 22, 2023

The holiday shopping season kicks off this week with Black Friday, and American shoppers are expected to spend a record amount, particularly in online sales. Consumer spending keeps the U.S. economy humming, making up 70% of the country’s gross domestic product. But it wasn’t always this way.

“Over the course of the 18th century, by the time of the Revolution, you go from a world where nearly all Americans made their own cloth and something called homespun to them buying it in shops,” said Louis Hyman, an economic historian at Cornell University.

On the show today, Hyman gives us a history lesson on how the American economy became dependent on the consumer, why that change has created serious environmental consequences, and whether there are alternatives to the consumer-driven economy we know today. Plus, what it all has to do with the Salem witch trials.

Then, a federal appeals court decision could significantly weaken the Voting Rights Act. We’ll get into the economic implications of the ruling and how it could play out in the Supreme Court. Plus: Oh, how the mighty crypto kings fall.

Later, we’ll hear listener suggestions for signature state cocktails. And food journalist Francis Lam was wrong about what was on the menu at the first Thanksgiving.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We want to hear your answer to the Make Me Smart question. You can reach us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

By Editor

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