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 3: Milton Friedman

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


To the economics profession, and indeed the world over, Milton Friedman is probably the best known, and in some circles most objectionable, economist of the twentieth century. I asked his secretary for a complete bibliography of Professor Friedman’s research, hoping to present an extensive summation for this biographical sketch. It is 41 pages long. Perhaps some of the many highlights will be adequate. Markets and the efficiency of competitive capitalism have no more effective voice than Milton Friedman. His ,1962 book Capitalism and Freedom remains a tour de force and has been translated into 18 different languages. Friedman’s theoretical and methodological contributions, Income of Independent Professional Practice (with Simon Kuznets), Essays in Positive Economics, Studies in the Quantity Theory ofhfoney,A Theory of the Consumption Function, and his 1968 Presidential Address to the American Economic Association “The Role of Monetary Policy,’’ are but a few of his many great intellectual achievements. He was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association in 1951 and the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976. Readers are referred to the book The Essence ofFriedman for a masterful summary of his remarkable career. Beyond all doubt, his book with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1 960, is one of the most important and most enduring contributions to the literature on the Great Depression. No other work regarding the failures of Federal Reserve policy and the economic effects of the catastrophic decline in the money supply in propagating...

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