Reflections on the Great Depression

Reflections on the Great Depression

Randall E. Parker

This book explores the most prominent economic explanations of the Great Depression and how it affected the lives, experiences, and subsequent thinking of economists who lived through that era. Presented in interview format, this collection of conversations with Moses Abramovitz, Morris Adelman, Milton Friedman, Albert Hart, Charles Kindleberger, Wassily Leontief, Paul Samuelson, Anna Schwartz, James Tobin, Herbert Stein and Victor Zarnowitz provides a record of their reflections on the economics of the Great Depression and on the major events which occurred during those critical years. This volume is also another chapter in the legacy of the interwar generation of economists and is intended as a token of gratitude for the contributions they have made to the economics profession. Randall Parker has given us a window into the lives of these gifted scholars and an important glimpse into the world that shaped them.

Chapter 2: Paul Samuelson

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


Paul Samuelson appropriately holds the title of “Father of Modern Economics.” Having already published A Note on the Pure Theory o f Consumers’ Behavior and Interactions Between the Multiplier Analysis and the Principle of Acceleration at ages 23 and 24 respectively, Samuelson’s dissertation Foundations of Economic Analysis, more than any other single work, was responsible for incorporating the use of mathematics and the principles of optimization that characterize the modern paradigm of economic analysis. Indeed, his textbook Economics has been used to instruct more undergraduate students worldwide in the principles of economics than any other textbook you care to name. Professor Samuelson’s writings have had important influence in virtually every aspect of economic inquiry from production theory to macroeconomics. The reader is referred to the massive five volume set entitled The ColZected Scientrfc Papers o Paul A. Samuelson for a complete review of the scholarly f output of this remarkable individual. Samuelson received the very first John Bates Clark award from the American Economic Assocjation, in. 1947, was President of the American Economic Association in I96 I , and won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1970. Professor Samuelson has written essays on the impact the Depression had on his thinking as an economist and it is these tlloughts for which I had particular interest. Moreover, in May 1969 in a televised debate against Milton Friedman, Samuelson maintained that the origins of the Depression lie in a series of historical accidents, not in misplaced Federal Reserve policy. As we will see...

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