America Innovates, and Prospers


The consumer era exhibit at the Smithsonian
Courtesy the National Museum of American History, American Enterprise exhibition

The newest addition to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History is an exhibit called "America Innovates." The Mars Hall of American Business (namesake: the sponsoring candy company) now houses an ode to capitalism through the ages.

Beginning with the "merchant era" of the late 18th century and moving on to the "corporate era," then the "consumer era," and finally the "global era" starting in the 1980s, the exhibit highlights such libertarian-friendly values as entrepreneurship, invention, competition, and mass production. There's even a station celebrating the "everyday things that changed everything"—including the refrigerator, the television, the washing machine, and ready-to-wear clothing.

Concerns about rising consumer debt and stagnating wages in recent decades also feature prominently. One sign plays up the wonders of unionization, which it credits with finally allowing workers "to pursue 'the good life.'"