The Capitalist Foundations of America

George L. Priest of Yale Law School delivered the May Bradley Lecture.

Currently dominant histories of the founding of America—by Gordon Wood and Bernard Bailyn, for example—emphasize the religious and democratic origins of the United States, adjusted for the history of slavery. This lecture will attempt to shift that emphasis by focusing on the economic basis of the founding of the North American colonies; the nature of colonial rule, largely directed by economic ideas; the economic forces leading up to the American Revolution; the economic ideas informing the Constitution; and the establishment of the framework for a market economy in the United States.

George L. Priest is the John M. Olin Professor of Law and Economics at Yale Law School and the director of its Center for Study in Law, Economics, and Public Policy. Mr. Priest’s teachings focus on capitalism, insurance, product liability, antitrust, and economic development. During the Reagan administration, he was a member of the Commission on Privatization. Mr. Priest is the author of articles on tort law, deregulation, antitrust, and economic analysis, and is a member of AEI’s Council of Academic Advisers.

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