By Nancy Spannaus

Jan. 1, 2019—Two anniversaries coming up in 2019 reflect that spirit of revolutionary economic transformation which characterizes the American System of Economics. What lessons can we learn from them, and apply to today?

The first dramatic event the nation will celebrate is the 150th anniversary of the “Golden Spike,” the concluding act which created Abraham Lincoln’s Transcontinental Railroad. The linking-up of the western and eastern sections of the railroad occurred at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 with great fanfare. A new potential for creating “a more perfect Union” had been put in place, making the continental republic a physical reality.

The second major anniversary celebration will occur on July 20, fifty years after the landing of American astronauts on the Moon. That awesome event brought about a true Space Age for mankind, lifting man’s eyes to the heavens and giving him new powers to do good both on Earth and in the Universe. Our idea of mankind’s capabilities was forever changed.

Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, in 1869.

Both of these accomplishments were not only inspirational for our citizens, but resulted in qualitative advances in the productivity of the U.S. economy. Their success required creative breakthroughs in engineering and science which upgraded the standard of living, and capabilities for future progress, both for our nation and mankind as a whole.

The crucial role of Federal government financing in both these endeavors should be noted. Without Lincoln’s insistence that Federal land grants be provided for the railroad companies, and Kennedy’s demand for a huge Federal budget commitment to the space program, neither of these missions would have been accomplished.  It is a hallmark of the American System that the Federal government provide what Alexander Hamilton called the “energy” to advance the welfare of its people. That energy can be expressed by a gamut of activities, including setting national goals, providing credit, and outright funding.

It is a sad irony that the inspirational leaders of both of these momentous achievements had met death by assassination before their missions were accomplished. Fortunately, their leadership inspired those who followed to carry them through.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 20, 1969.

Over the course of this year, I hope to provide some in-depth studies of not only how the Transcontinental Railroad and Apollo Moon landing were accomplished, but also of what we can learn from those accomplishments. Today, the United State is no longer taking the lead in returning to the Moon, or in making breakthroughs in ground transportation. In both cases, it is China which is pursuing bold visions, including the first landing on the far side of the Moon scheduled for two days from now.

I refuse to believe that our nation is no longer capable of leading such world-shaking economic transformations. Nor should we have to wait another 50 years. Let’s revive the American System in 2019!


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