Essay: We Gave at the Office

In 1947 the U.S. gross national product was $235 billion. That's about $1.4 trillion in today's money. Over the next four years America spent $13.6 billion -- almost $80 billion in today's money -- reviving capitalism and securing democracy in Western Europe under the Marshall Plan.

If anyone had told the Americans of 1947 that in 1990 their nation would be more than four times as rich, they would not have been surprised. America, after all, was the greatest country in the history of the world. It could do anything. If anyone had told them, though, that the America of 1990...

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