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 11: Herbert Stein

Randall E. Parker

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology


Herbert Stein was an economist who wore many hats in his career. He was an academic, an economist working for the government on several tours of duty, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from January 1, 1972 through August 3 1, 1974, and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and other publications. To me, his writing style and his presentation of economic ideas had an elegant simplicity that I found to be both interesting and enlightening. I wanted him to apply these talents to interpreting the events of the Great Depression as well. Given the high regard in which I held the way and manner in which he expressed his views on sociaVeconomic problems and their solutions, I wanted his take on the economics of the interwar era. We spoke in his office at The American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC in September 1997. He passed away in the fall of 1999. Would you state where you were born and when and what you were doing during the Great Depression? Well, I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1916. So if we start with the Great Depression, from 1929 to 193 1 I was in high school in Schenectady, New York. From 1931 to 1935 I was in college at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and from 1935 to 1938 I was at the University of Chicago mainly, with some time off. In 1938 I moved down to Washington. So that’s my life during the Depression....

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