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The Great Persuasion

The Great Persuasion: reinventing free markets since the Depression

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Great Persuasion
    Book Description:

    Just as economists struggle today to justify the free market after the global economic crisis, an earlier generation revisited their worldview after the Great Depression. In this intellectual history of that project, Burgin traces the evolution of postwar economic thought in order to reconsider the most basic assumptions of a market-centered world.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06743-1
    Subjects: History, Economics, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. INTRODUCTION: The End of Laissez-Faire
    (pp. 1-11)

    In the late fall of 1924, John Maynard Keynes strode into the Examination Schools in Oxford and announced that the political economy of the civilized world was approaching, as his lecture title boldly proclaimed, the end of laissez-faire. Although he was only forty-one years old, Keynes had already accumulated a range of experiences that uniquely traversed the cloistered world of Oxbridge economists and practical affairs. After a childhood passed in a house hold at the center of Cambridge academic life, he had been elected to a prize fellowship at King’s College at the age of twenty-five and had been appointed...

    (pp. 12-54)

    In the spring of 1933, nearly a decade after Keynes had proclaimed the end of laissez-faire, Friedrich Hayek ascended to the podium for his inaugural lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE). His subject, like Keynes’s, was the shift away from classical economics, but in all other respects the circumstances of his presentation markedly differed. In the intervening years the world had descended into a state of severe depression, casting the established paradigms of the economics profession’s leading figures into doubt even as they assumed increasing prominence in the public sphere. In contrast to Keynes’s genteel Oxford environs, Hayek’s...

    (pp. 55-86)

    The publication of Walter Lippmann’s Inquiry into the Principles of the Good Society in 1937 sent seismic waves through the Depression era’s nascent network of academic supporters of free markets. Through his column “Today and Tomorrow,” syndicated in more than 100 newspapers and read by more than ten million Americans, Lippmann had become, in one reviewer’s terms, the nation’s “genial companion of the breakfast table,” a role that garnered his opinions an extraordinary breadth of influence.¹ For economists and political theorists who remained acutely aware of the unpopularity of their views and their inability to gain a foothold in the...

    (pp. 87-122)

    In the early spring of 1945 Friedrich Hayek boarded a convoy ship to make the slow wartime journey across the Atlantic.¹ It would be his first visit to the United States in two decades, and he had reason to feel gratified by the conditions under which he would return. His new book, The Road to Serfdom, had achieved some notoriety after its publication in England, and demand for it was outpacing the limited rations of paper allotted to its printer.² After struggling to find a publisher for an American version, he had signed a contract with the University of Chicago...

    (pp. 123-151)

    The Mont Pèlerin Society was established amid an atmosphere of crisis, in an attempt to address a set of problems that had long troubled its founding members and seemed especially pressing to them as a period of global conflict drew to an uncertain close. As the society approached the conclusion of its first decade, Hayek began to wonder whether changing circumstances had brought its value as an organization to an end. The American social environment—marked by an increasingly stable international political order, extraordinary economic growth, and a return to comparative moderation in governmental affairs—had lost the sense of...

    (pp. 152-185)

    On a warm evening in the late spring of 1962, Milton Friedman rose to address a group of dinner companions at the University of Chicago’s Quadrangle Club. They had been summoned by the student members of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists in order to honor Friedrich Hayek before his impending departure from the university.¹ With superior financial prospects available at the University of Freiburg, Hayek had recently and reluctantly decided to bring his time at Chicago to a close.² Friedman, who was in the midst of the final manuscript preparations for his first mass-market book, Capitalism and Freedom, took the...

    (pp. 186-213)

    Shortly before Hayek’s departure from the University of Chicago, Milton Friedman was scheduled to give a presentation on his political ideas to a weekly convocation at Haverford College. The Haverford News recounted that “most students, upon hearing that Mr. Friedman was an economist, calmly settled back for the usual espousal of big government and the welfare state that all intelligent people—especially intelligent economists—are known to support.” Friedman, however, was intent on defying their expectations. He had already informed the college president of his dissatisfactions about expounding his concept of freedom to a compulsory audience. As he rose to...

  10. CONCLUSION: The Spirit of an Age
    (pp. 214-226)

    As a global financial crisis approached its apex in the fall of 2008, commentators on both sides of the political aisle declared that a long era in American political history was drawing to a close. According to their narrative, the rise of deregulation in the 1970s and the subsequent election of Ronald Reagan had ushered in nearly thirty years during which the primacy of free markets was largely assumed. Advocates of government intervention had adopted a defensive rhetoric and approached economic legislation in a spirit of accession and compromise, while the invocation of free-market doctrines among those in positions of...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 229-290)
    (pp. 291-292)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 293-303)