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 10: Morris Adelman

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


Morris Adelman was born in 1917. Although he did not contribute to the literature on the Great Depression, he was a student at the City University of New York during the 1930s. It is his experiences there, a hotbed of radical thought at the time, and his insights regarding the Depression’s impact on the post-war world that make him an invaluable addition to the list of economists interviewed. Professor Adelman focused his career on studying the economics of the world oil industry and authored the influential 1995 book The Genie out of the Bottle. Professor Adelman received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1948. He was an economist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1946 and is currently a Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We spoke at his office at The Center for Energy Policy Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October 1997. Would you tell me where you were born and what you were doing during the Depress ion? Well, I was born in New York. Both my parents were Jews from the Ukraine. I would have said Russia years ago, not any more. And my mother never had a day’s schooling in her life and my father got to about the fourth grade. But they both were voracious readers, as that generation was. I went to public school and I went to the City College of New York, which in those days was a damn good school. But it had a lousy economics department. I...

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