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 5: Albert Hart

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


Albert Hart was one of the first people interviewed for this book that came of age as an economist in the midst of the Depression. After finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1936, Hart immediately went to work on the influential book Debts and Recovery 1929 to 1937, which painstakingly documented and analyzed changes in the structure of the internal debts of all the sub-sections of the US economy. Although trained at the University of Chicago, Hart’s career took a different path in that he was sympathetic to the Keynesian perspective and advocated active government involvement in economic affairs. Perhaps his best known book was Money, Debt and Economic Activity published in 1948. I spoke with Professor Hart in August 1997 at his home in Sherman, Connecticut. When I arrived, he was at his computer, analyzing the National Bureau of Economic Research business cycle turning points since 1945. His house was neatly kept, but every table had stacks of open books and piles of papers, all of which had clear evidence of being examined recently. Hart had a wit and an intellect that was sharp as a tack, he had many stories to tell, and he was ready to tell them. As revealed in the interview, Hart had both a serious and a playful side. He let both of them shine. It was a delightful afternoon that I spent with him. I’m sure it was the last time he had a substantive discussion with someone about economics...

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