The Big Ditch: How America Took, Built, Ran, and Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal

Princeton University Press
Free sample

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal officially opened for business, forever changing the face of global trade and military power, as well as the role of the United States on the world stage. The Canal's creation is often seen as an example of U.S. triumphalism, but Noel Maurer and Carlos Yu reveal a more complex story. Examining the Canal's influence on Panama, the United States, and the world, The Big Ditch deftly chronicles the economic and political history of the Canal, from Spain's earliest proposals in 1529 through the final handover of the Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999, to the present day.

The authors show that the Canal produced great economic dividends for the first quarter-century following its opening, despite massive cost overruns and delays. Relying on geographical advantage and military might, the United States captured most of these benefits. By the 1970s, however, when the Carter administration negotiated the eventual turnover of the Canal back to Panama, the strategic and economic value of the Canal had disappeared. And yet, contrary to skeptics who believed it was impossible for a fledgling nation plagued by corruption to manage the Canal, when the Panamanians finally had control, they switched the Canal from a public utility to a for-profit corporation, ultimately running it better than their northern patrons.

A remarkable tale, The Big Ditch offers vital lessons about the impact of large-scale infrastructure projects, American overseas interventions on institutional development, and the ability of governments to run companies effectively.

Read more

About the author

Noel Maurer is associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. His books include The Power and the Money, The Politics of Property Rights, and Mexico since 1980. Carlos Yu is an economic historian and private consultant based in New York City.
Read more
Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
Read more
Published on
Nov 8, 2010
Read more
Pages
440
Read more
ISBN
9781400836284
Read more
Language
English
Read more
Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / Americas (North, Central, South, West Indies)
History / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / United States / 20th Century
Technology & Engineering / Civil / Transportation
Read more
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more
Eligible for Family Library

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
Throughout the twentieth century, the U.S. government willingly deployed power, hard and soft, to protect American investments all around the globe. Why did the United States get into the business of defending its citizens' property rights abroad? The Empire Trap looks at how modern U.S. involvement in the empire business began, how American foreign policy became increasingly tied to the sway of private financial interests, and how postwar administrations finally extricated the United States from economic interventionism, even though the government had the will and power to continue.

Noel Maurer examines the ways that American investors initially influenced their government to intercede to protect investments in locations such as Central America and the Caribbean. Costs were small--at least at the outset--but with each incremental step, American policy became increasingly entangled with the goals of those they were backing, making disengagement more difficult. Maurer discusses how, all the way through the 1970s, the United States not only failed to resist pressure to defend American investments, but also remained unsuccessful at altering internal institutions of other countries in order to make property rights secure in the absence of active American involvement. Foreign nations expropriated American investments, but in almost every case the U.S. government's employment of economic sanctions or covert action obtained market value or more in compensation--despite the growing strategic risks. The advent of institutions focusing on international arbitration finally gave the executive branch a credible political excuse not to act. Maurer cautions that these institutions are now under strain and that a collapse might open the empire trap once more.

With shrewd and timely analysis, this book considers American patterns of foreign intervention and the nation's changing role as an imperial power.

Tenerife, the worst accident in aviation history; like all pilots, Captain Van Zanten's decision to go for the take-off was only one of the many thousands of decisions he had made in his career. Rain, snow or fog obscuring the view of the entire runway was not uncommon and something he had experienced many times.
He was thinking about many things; the delays, his inconvenienced passengers, the schedule, and the flight legs facing him after dropping his passengers just 25 minutes away.
Of course, he was 100% certain that the Pan Am aircraft was clear of the runway. As his aircraft was gaining speed, he was readying himself for the mental switch from visual to instruments as he would be climbing through the fog. The instant he saw the Pan Am aircraft looming into view directly ahead of him he knew, he knew right then and right there, he knew he was dead, he knew they were all dead......everything flashed through his mind... Instinctually, he pulled back on the yoke......but he knew...
No pilot would ever consider, for a moment, initiating a take-off unless he was absolutely certain the runway was clear. Van Zanten's decision to shove those power levers forward began a terrible inevitable chain of horrendous events sending a enormous shock wave of loss and sorrow down through the decades.
His two children never saw their dad again. Consider the hundreds dead, each with many close friends, wives and children, relatives and associates, all suffering from this captain's fateful decision. As the wrecked, tortured and doomed fuselage hurled itself toward its' fiery destruction, he, in those last seconds, understood everything....
The survivors and relatives of the dead have to live for the rest of their lives with their losses and, every hour of every day, they remember and are, in this sense, forever damaged.. the changes are profound and permanent, deep scars in the psyche. AFTERMATH, speaks to these things......
In a way, the accumulated grief and loss of the aftermath eventually eclipses the enormity of the horrendous event itself ...
Throughout the twentieth century, the U.S. government willingly deployed power, hard and soft, to protect American investments all around the globe. Why did the United States get into the business of defending its citizens' property rights abroad? The Empire Trap looks at how modern U.S. involvement in the empire business began, how American foreign policy became increasingly tied to the sway of private financial interests, and how postwar administrations finally extricated the United States from economic interventionism, even though the government had the will and power to continue.

Noel Maurer examines the ways that American investors initially influenced their government to intercede to protect investments in locations such as Central America and the Caribbean. Costs were small--at least at the outset--but with each incremental step, American policy became increasingly entangled with the goals of those they were backing, making disengagement more difficult. Maurer discusses how, all the way through the 1970s, the United States not only failed to resist pressure to defend American investments, but also remained unsuccessful at altering internal institutions of other countries in order to make property rights secure in the absence of active American involvement. Foreign nations expropriated American investments, but in almost every case the U.S. government's employment of economic sanctions or covert action obtained market value or more in compensation--despite the growing strategic risks. The advent of institutions focusing on international arbitration finally gave the executive branch a credible political excuse not to act. Maurer cautions that these institutions are now under strain and that a collapse might open the empire trap once more.

With shrewd and timely analysis, this book considers American patterns of foreign intervention and the nation's changing role as an imperial power.

©2018 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.