What is the difference between a gambler and a speculator? Is there a readily identifiable line separating the two? If so, is it possible for us to discourage the former while encouraging the latter? These difficult questions cut across the entirety of American economic history, and theperiodic failures by regulators to differentiate between irresponsible gambling and clear-headed investing have often been the proximate causes of catastrophic economic downturns. Most recently, the blurring of speculation and gambling in U.S. real estate markets fueled the 2008 global financialcrisis, but it is one in a long line of similar economic disasters going back to the nation's founding. In Speculation, author Stuart Banner provides a sweeping and story-rich history of how the murky lines separating investment, speculation, and outright gambling have shaped America from the 1790s to the present. Regulators and courts always struggled to draw a line between investment and gambling,and it is no easier now than it was two centuries ago. Advocates for risky investments have long argued that risk-taking is what defines America. Critics counter that unregulated speculation results in bubbles that always draw in the least informed investors-gamblers, essentially. Financial chaos isthe result. The debate has been a perennial feature of American history, with the pattern repeating before and after every financial downturn since the 1790s. The Panic of 1837, the speculative boom of the roaring twenties, and the real estate bubble of the early 2000s are all emblematic of thedifficulty in differentiating sober from reckless speculation. Even after the recent financial crisis, the debate continues. Some, chastened by the crash, argue that we need to prohibit certain risky transactions, but others respond by citing the benefits of loosely governed markets and the dangersof over-regulation. These episodes have generated deep ambivalence, yet Americans' faith in investment and - by extension - the stock market has always rebounded quickly after even the most savage downturns. Indeed, the speculator on the make is a central figure in the folklore of Americancapitalism. Engaging and accessible, Speculation synthesizes a suite of themes that sit at the heart of American history - the ability of courts and regulators to protect ordinary Americans from the ravages of capitalism; the periodic fallibility of the American economy; and - not least - the moral conundruminherent in valuing those who produce goods over those who speculate, and yet enjoying the fruits of speculation. Banner's history is not only invaluable for understanding the fault lines beneath the American economy today, but American identity itself.