We are rereading and republishing original writing from the mid-20th Century, a period of economic growth dominated by an ideology we call “Growth Keynesianism,” which held that stable economic growth required an equitable income distribution, so that workers could afford to buy the products they made. Here are the pieces we’ve revisited so far:
Robert R. Nathan, Mobilizing for Abundance (1944). In this book, published at the height of the Second World War, former Chair of the Planning Committee on the War Production Board Robert R. Nathan details a plan to maintain economic prosperity in the postwar years. Writing for everyday Americans, Nathan argues that, with government intervention to promote consumer spending and absorb excess savings, wartime economic prosperity and job security can be maintained in peacetime. His optimism shines bright in an era of gloom, and the validity of his arguments endure to the modern day. Read more in our introductory blog post.
Richard Gilbert, George Hildebrand, Arthur Stuart, Maxine Sweezy, Paul Sweezy, Lois Tarshis & John Wilson, An Economic Program for American Democracy (1938). This short book was a surprise bestseller when it came out in the midst of the Depression, and FDR called it “the Bible of the New Dealers.” It argued that 19th Century liberal capitalism had reached its limits during the Great Depression, but that with the proper state intervention the economy could keep growing for decades. Read more in our introductory blog post.
Chester Bowles, Tomorrow Without Fear (1946). This pamphlet, written during the demobilization after World War II, laid out the case for full employment based on shared prosperity in clear, everyday language. The book’s web page describeswhy both the book’s ideas and its rhetorical approach remain relevant today, seven decades after it was written. Read Robert’s essay on Growth Keynesian rhetoric in the Boston Review, plus an interview with Chester Bowles’s son, economist Sam Bowles.
More to Come
We’ll be revisiting other Growth Keynesian writing in the months to come. If you’d like to get a head start, here are some of the pieces we hope to discuss:
- Douglas Brown (editor) with contributions from Edward Chamberlin, Seymour Harris, Wassily Leontief, Edward Mason, Joseph Schumpeter and Overton Taylor, The Economics of the Recovery Program (1934)
- J. M. Clark, Strategic Factors in Business Cycles (1934) and Economics of Planning Public Works (1935)
- Laughlin Currie, “Causes of the Recession,” (Federal Reserve Memo, April 1938, available online) and “The Failure of Monetary Policy to Prevent the Depression of 1929-32” (1934, available online) and “Money, Gold, and Income in the United States,” (1933, available online)
- D. H. Robertson, “Review of Currie’s Supply and Control of Money“
- A. D. Gayer, Public Works in Prosperity and Depression (1935, full text online)
- John Maynard Keynes – The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936, full text online) and an untitled 1937 summary (in QJE).
- Alvin Hansen 1 2 – secular stagnation
- Michal Kalecki – “Political Aspects of Full Employment” (1943, full text online)
- Albert Hirschman – The strategy of economic development (1958)
- Gunnar Myrdal, Rich Lands and Poor
Midcentury Keynesians were experts at translating their economic principles into the popular vocabulary. Here are some examples of their work:
- Blair Moody, Boom or Bust
- Henry Wallace, Sixty Million Jobs
- Robert Nathan, Mobilizing for Abundance
- Marriner Eccles, Beckoning Frontiers
- Steve Muffatti, Opportunities Unlimited
- Leon Keyserling – Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Truman and head of the Conference on Economic Progress – Consumption: Key to Full Prosperity
- Alvin Hansen and Paul Samuelson – Economic analysis of guaranteed wages (full text online)
- Alvin Hansen – After the War – Full Employment (full text online); The Potential of the American Economy (full text online)
- L. Currie and G. Johnson, Federal Public Works Expenditure (1940)
- S. E. Harris, Postwar Economic Problems (1943)
- Lawrence Klein, The Keynesian Revolution (1947, available online)
- R. S. Sayers, Financial Policy 1939-45 (1956)