The period leading up to the Great Depression witnessed the rise
of the economic forecasters, pioneers who sought to use the tools
of science to predict the future, with the aim of profiting from
their forecasts. This book chronicles the lives and careers of the
men who defined this first wave of economic fortune tellers, men
such as Roger Babson, Irving Fisher, John Moody, C. J. Bullock, and
Warren Persons. They competed to sell their distinctive methods of
prediction to investors and businesses, and thrived in the boom
years that followed World War I. Yet, almost to a man, they failed
to predict the devastating crash of 1929.
Walter Friedman paints vivid portraits of entrepreneurs who
shared a belief that the rational world of numbers and reason could
tame--or at least foresee--the irrational gyrations of the market.
Despite their failures, this first generation of economic
forecasters helped to make the prediction of economic trends a
central economic activity, and shed light on the mechanics of
financial markets by providing a range of statistics and
information about individual firms. They also raised questions that
are still relevant today. What is science and what is merely
guesswork in forecasting? What motivates people to buy forecasts?
Does the act of forecasting set in motion unforeseen events that
can counteract the forecast made?
Masterful and compelling, Fortune Tellers highlights
the risk and uncertainty that are inherent to capitalism
Subjects: Economics, Business
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