The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

By Michael P. Malone; Richard W. Etulain | Go to book overview

Chapter Six The Modern Western Economy

In terms that economists sometimes use, the hectic years of the New Deal and World War II might be described as the period of "takeoff" in the evolution of the western regional economy. The sudden infusion of federal spending during these years did not end in 1945 but instead continued in other forms, leading to the gradual demise throughout most of the region of the West's old "colonial" subservience to the East and its rise to a position of national economic equality. The West's older extractive industries, based on the harvesting of its natural resources, crested during the prosperous 1950s and 1960s; then, generally speaking, they began to decline, some of them seemingly never to rise again. Meanwhile, new electronic, aerospace, "high-technology," and "service" industries--attracted and nurtured by federal expenditures--sprang up in profusion, particularly in the Sunbelt of the Southwest and California. Thus contrary trends, of extractive industries in climax and decline and high-tech and service industries on the rise, sharply define the development of the modern western economy.

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