Garet Garrett's fiction deals with the social impact of economic transformations. In The Driver, he deals with railroads, while Satan's Bushel examines agricultural. The Cinder Buggy, his second in the trilogy, is the longest of the three and his true epoch novel and unforgettable masterpiece. With a great story, and tremendous literary passion, it chronicles the transformation of America from the age of iron to the age of steel.
It covers the period between 1820 and 1870 and its dramatic technology march. The plot concerns an ongoing war between two industrialists, one the hero who is beaten in the first generation and the other who is malevolent but initially wins a first round in the competitive drive. The struggle continues through the second generation, which leads to a titanic battle over whether steel or iron would triumph and why.
Whereas this genre of fiction usually deals with real war, Garrett employs every literary device to make commerce itself the setting for great acts of courage, heroism, sacrifice, and tragedy. And as with his other books, the central mover of events here is the price system. It is the signal for and cause of the most notable changes in the plot. The reader discovers economics in a way that might otherwise not be possible, and it is hard to imagine that anyone would come away with anything but love of the whole subject of enterprise.
Garrett does not portray the market as some idealized utopia. We have here the full range of human emotion and motivation at work: arrogance, pride, malice, love, compassion, jealousy, rage, and everything else. What is striking is that all these emotions play themselves out in a setting that is ultimately peaceful. No one can fully control price movements, and it is these that act to reward virtues and punish vices.
We also have here a realistic portrayal of the truth about innovation. It is not enough to come up with a good idea. That idea must be embodied in real production that takes place in a cost-reducing way, and then marketed in the service of society. The unity of technology, accounting, and marketing must all come together to make possible such things as technological revolutions.
There has never been, before or since, economic fiction that can compare with the super-high quality standards set by Garrett in these smashing novels. The Cinder Buggy could easily be considered the best of his work in this area. It is a wonderful novel for anyone who loves, or wants to more deeply understand, American history, economic theory, and the place of technology in the molding of society.
"No ore has been mined or smelted at New Damascus for many years. Yet the place Is still famous for its fine wrought iron. The ore now comes from the top of the Great Lakes, stops at Pittsburgh to be smelted, and arrives at New, Damascus in the form of pigs to be melted again,
puddled and rolled into malleable bars. That may be done anywhere. It is done at many places. But it is so much better done at New Damascus than anywhere else that the product will bear the cost of all that transportation. The reasons why this is so belong to tradition, to the native pride of craftmanship, to that mysterious touch of the hand that is learned only in one place and cannot be taught. The Iron workers here, descended from English, Scotch and Welsh smiths imported to this valley, are the best puddlers and rollers in the world. Therefore as people they are dogmatic, stubborn and brittle.”
Garet Garrett (1878–1954), born Edward Peter Garrett, was an American journalist and author who was noted for his criticisms of the New Deal and U.S. involvement in the Second World War.
In 1911, he wrote a fairly successful book, Where the Money Grows and Anatomy of the Bubble. In 1916, at the age of 38, Garrett became the executive editor of the New York Tribune, after having worked as a financial writer for The New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post, and The Wall Street Journal. From 1920 to 1933, his primary focus was on writing books.
Between 1920 and 1932 Garrett wrote eight books, including The American Omen in 1928 and A Bubble That Broke the World in 1932.
In 1953, Garrett published The People's Pottage (later republished as The Burden of Empire and more recently as Ex America: the 50th Anniversary of the People's Pottage), which consisted of 3 essays: "The Revolution Was", "Ex America" and "The Rise of Empire"). Through these works, he questioned the aftermath of the Roosevelt administration and its impact on American society. In these works, he coined a phrase for a revolutionary methodology used by conservative thinking to understand the transformation of the old culture/regime: "revolution within the form."