Speculators are often portrayed in popular culture as predatory businesspeople. Sometimes they are seen as fools. But, the portraits are often ill-informed. This article studies speculation found in Tulip Mania and the South Sea Bubble. The article then focuses on speculation in debt from the American Revolution. The Gilded Age and railroad building are surveyed. The article concludes with the Decade of Greed, the 1980s, as envisioned in film. While popular portraits are entertaining, the historic and economic reality is much different. Speculators play an important role providing capital and liquidity, risk taking, and rationing of resources critical for market economies.



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