After A Short History of American Capitalism was completed, Meyer Weinberg was asked what he would like prospective readers to know about the book. The following notes were made from his verbal reply.
The capitalist system is exploitative. Its rewards are distributed extremely unequally, and are mainly limited to those in charge of the system. Concessions may be made to the general population to ensure that the system and the one-directional flow of economic benefit is maintained; for the others, benefits usually take the form of distracting and largely unnecessary 'consumer products.' Authors who analyze capitalism and stress its profitability tend to overlook the reality that the system is profitable only for those who own all or part of it, and that the inequality of this ownership is steadily increasing, a fact that surprises many who have used their earnings-or savings-to 'invest in America.'
The goal of the book is to enable ordinary readers to understand that the economy we live in operates primarily to the advantage of those with a specific interest in profit. This has been true since the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the book is not intended to be an extended attack on capitalism. The benefit of the system for large numbers of Americans is recognized, but it is also noted that such benefit is uncommon and secondary.
The major difference between this book and others that analyze American capitalism is the large body of evidence provided in this book, especially in the form of copious footnote references. While others have argued for or against capitalism in abstract or theoretical terms, this book is about the facts of its history. Chapter 10 provides a good example. In it, the period from 1945 to the present is examined, a period regarded by most people as one of great prosperity. The evidence, however, well documented in this chapter, illustrates the lopsided nature of the U.S. economy with respect to real wages, housing and employment.
The book is unique in examining the entire American experience, from a land dominated by the Indians, through early industrial development, through the growth of organized labor, to the present.