The $7.9 million bet that made America.

Commentary about business and finance.
March 31 2005 3:05 PM

A Man, a Plan, a Canal: Erie!

The $7.9 million bet that made America.

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Today, what's left of the Erie Canal meanders—largely unused—through an upstate New York that has been bypassed by the last several economic booms. Its economic utility seems so minute that the development rights to the canal's shore were sold to a politically connected developer for a mere $30,000. A sad fate for the creation that French economist Michael Chevalier in 1835 described as: "simple as a work of art, prodigious as an economic artery."

Daniel Gross is a longtime Slate contributor. His most recent book is Better, Stronger, Faster . Follow him on Twitter.