Reflections on the Great Depression
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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.
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Chapter 4: Moses Abramovitz

Randall E. Parker


When the discussion turns to the pioneers of the literature on post-war economic growth, three names come immediately to mind: Simon Kuznets, Robert Solow, and Moses Abramovitz. Professor Abramovitz’s contributions to this literature are substantive and include recent articles such as “Convergence and Deferred Catch Up” (1 996), “The Search for the Sources of Growth: Areas of Ignorance, Old and New” (1993), “Catching Up, Forging Ahead and Falling Behind” (1986), and the book Thinking About Growth and Other Essays in Economic Growth and Welfare (1 989). Abramovitz’s contributions to the literature on the Great Depression focused on the hypothesis that downturns and depressions were a natural consequence of long swings in economic activity. Moreover, given the international nature of the Depression and the commitment to the gold standard, the Federal Reserve was virtually powerless to prevent the slide in the money stock that took place during this time. His two papers on this topic “Determinants of Nominal-Income and Money-Stock Growth and the Level of the Balance of Payments: Two-Country Models under a Specie Standard” and “The Monetary Side of Long Swings in U.S. Economic Growth” were never published. I was aware of them and rather than let them fade away forever, I wanted Professor Abramovitz to talk about his ideas contained in these papers, among other topics. Professor Abramovitz received his A.B. from Harvard in 1932 and his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1939. He was a lecturer at Harvard in the mid-1 930s and worked at the National Bureau of...

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