No, Capitalism Did Not Make America the Richest Country

America is the largest economy on the planet, but what made America so rich? Was it only capitalism and hard work?

Erik Engheim
16 min readFeb 22, 2022


America has built a mythology arounds its economic success as being built on hard work, rugged individualism and free wheeling capitalism.

This story is intended to challenge that myth. My goal is not to suggest that entrepreneurial spirit, free markets and hard work did not play a significant role. Rather I want to highlight all the other factors which are usually left out this self-promoting tale.

Let me try to clarify some of motivations for doing this. There has long been a debate about what kind of social and economic model leads to more prosperity for its citizens and the world. You have venerable old weekly magazines such as the Economist, published since 1843, which clearly state that they are champions of economic liberalism.

Their articles are well written and argued. I say this to clarify that it is possible to respect the journalistic integrity of writers you fundamentally disagree with. I disagree because I am a social democrat, who champion the Nordic social and economic model, yet I think the Economist represents quality journalism.

My hope is that as a reader of this story you can get a different perspective on social an economic history than what is usually pushed in the media. The kinds of views pushed by the Economist is quite dominant while the Nordic perspective is more or less absent. Or rather it is absent in the English-speaking online world.

The Myth About Oppressed Europeans Seeking Fortune and Freedom in America

A popular narrative within conservative circles in America goes something like this:

Europeans got oppressed and held back by the government. They were not free. The fled to America where they finally got freedom and got unshackled from government holding them back.

With freedom, small government, capitalism and hard work these immigrants build their fortune and success with little beside their own bare hands.



Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.