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 6: Charles Kindleberger

Randall E. Parker


Charles Kindleberger was one of the first economists to emphasize the international nature of the origins of the Great Depression. Moreover, his influential book The World in Depression 1929-1939 provided some of the most ardent resistance to the validity of the Friedman-Schwartz hypothesis. Focusing on the impact of the stock market crash in 1929, the international transmission of deflation through falling commodity prices and the subsequent debt deflation that these events precipitated, Kindleberger rejects the notion that the worldwide Depression was largely started in the US and propagated through failures of policy. Instead, what was bad was rendered far worse by the lack of international leadership in promoting any adequate remedy to the ravages of debt deflation. Professor Kindleberger had a rich career which focused on international economics in general and European economic history in particular. He was responsible for helping to train some of the best international economists of the last quarter of the twentieth century, such as Jagdish Bhagwati, Ronald Jones and the late Carlos F. Diaz-Alejandro. His many experiences during World War I1 put him at the forefront of the strategic decisions made during this time, as we shall see. I spoke with him at his home in Lexington, Massachusetts in August 1997. Professor, if you would, please state what you were doing during the Depression, and where you were born, where you got your Ph.D. and where you spent your career. I was born in New York City, as one of five children, four daughters and...

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