Rapid City author Eric John Abrahamson has a new book out. Building Home combines biography and economic history to tell the story of Howard Ahmanson's role in creating the savings and loan industry and promoting the post-World War 2 housing boom.
Abrahamson's tome gets ink in the Wall Street Journal, which says that business and government working together in a "managed economy" did a pretty good job of spreading wealth in the halcyon 1950s:
Although he carefully explores tensions of the era surrounding issues like racial discrimination and public housing, Mr. Abrahamson makes a strong case that, in the "consensus society" of the time, business interests and government regulators were able to collaborate in a "grand partnership" that appears to have benefited most of the citizenry. He explains, in sometimes bewildering detail, the complex negotiations required to maintain the balance of competing interests, like those of S&Ls, commercial banks, the business associations representing both, and the agencies of state and federal government that regulated the businesses.
...The implications that could be drawn from Mr. Abrahamson's narrative about the value of both private initiative and government regulation and of consensus and compromise are likely to be frustrating to ideologues on the right and left. But the book provides a compelling account of one era in which the "managed economy" seemed to work out pretty well for almost everyone. Perhaps the most persuasive lesson, however, is a powerful reminder of the evergreen values of honesty, hard work and a constant attention to new opportunities and risk [Robert Bruegmann, "King of the Thrifts," Wall Street Journal, 2013.03.05].
When we knock off the snark and work together, we can make the economy work for everyone.