Markets, Planning and the Moral Economy

Markets, Planning and the Moral Economy

Business Cycles in the Progressive Era and New Deal

Donald R. Stabile and Andrew F. Kozak

Markets, Planning and the Moral Economy examines the rise of the Progressive movement in the United States during the early decades of the 20th century, particularly the trend toward increased government intervention in the market system that culminated in the establishment of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes. The authors consult writings from politicians, business leaders, and economists of the time, using a variety of historical perspectives to illuminate the conflicting viewpoints that arose as the country struggled to recover from the worst economic downturn in its history.

Chapter 5: The Progressive push for planning:1900 to 1920

Donald R. Stabile and Andrew F. Kozak

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


The Progressive Era from 1900 to 1920 saw a revised role of the federal government in the US with regard to economic affairs, as it became more active and interventionist. The Progressives were not quite followers of Edward Bellamy in terms of government ownership of the means of production. Instead, they tried to find a way to blend markets with morals through planning. The advocates for planning were intellectuals, who thought long and wrote deeply about social issues. The Progressive Era had more than its share of these pundits, who sought to become influential in higher political circles. One area where Progressive political leaders needed ideas was with the problem of business cycles. We saw in Chapter 3 that business cycle theorists with a moral economy perspective hinted at planning as a solution to economic downturns, but they were not sure who would do the planning. We describe in this chapter how Progressive pundits hit upon an answer to the problem of who would plan the economy through the growth of scientific expertise as an instrument of planning. Early in the twentieth century Frederick W. Taylor developed his principles of scientific management to show that there was a science of management that could be experimented with, studied and learned and then applied to business management and public administration as a planning tool. Eventually, pundits would argue in favour of the extension of planning to the total economy of the US.

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