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 8: James Tobin

Randall E. Parker


When drawing up the list of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, James Tobin would be at the top. His many contributions on the economics of financial markets, the behavior of money demand, portfolio choice theory, and the transmission mechanism of monetary policy among many others, led to his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 198 1. Moreover, Tobin came of age as a graduate student just at the time of the arrival of The General Theory and remains a staunch defender of Keynesian policies. He was also involved in a very long-standing debate with Milton Friedman regarding the relative efficacy of monetary versus fiscal policy. Tobin has spent most of his career at Yale University, but did serve for 20 months on President Kennedy 's Council of Economic Advisors together with Arthur Okun, Robert Solow, and Kenneth Arrow. Having written my dissertation on tax-adjusted Tobin's q, I was familiar with a great deal of the work Professor Tobin had published. I anxiously anticipated our meeting. We spoke at his home in New Haven, Connecticut on December 30, 1997. Will you give us some brief biographical information about when and where you were born, and what you were doing during the Great Depression? I was born in Champaign, Illinois in 1918. My father was a journalist and he was working as the publicity director for the University of Illinois athletic association. So I was a fan of the Fighting Illini and in those days with Bob...

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