WALTER S. SALANT was an economist who helped bring the message of the British economist John Maynard Keynes's The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money to the United States, before its publication in 1936. In it Keynes theorised that increased government spending and tax cuts could pull industrialised economies out of the Depression.
A graduate of Harvard University in 1933, he spent two years at Cambridge University, 1933-34, where he was a research student in the Keynes seminar, along with Robert Bryce, who later became deputy minister of finance in Canada, Lorie Tarshis, another Canadian, who became a professor at Stanford University, V.K.R.V. Rao, later of the Delhi School of Economics, Henry H. Villard, later of City College in New York, and Alec Cairncross, who went on to a long and illustrious career in British government. In his recent, posthumously published, autobiography, Cairncross writes that Salant was among his closest friends, at Cambridge and for the rest of their lives.
On returning to Harvard for further study, Salant communicated the Keynesian analysis to a host of brilliant graduate students in economics - Paul A. Samuelson and James Tobin, who were later awarded the Nobel Prize in economic science, Richard Musgrave, Paul Sweezy, Emile Despres, whom he had known in New York as a boy, Robert Bryce and others in the seminar in money and banking run by Alvin H. Hansen and John H. Williams, the latter a half-time Harvard appointment who was also vice-president for economic research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Seven of the group wrote a book in 1938 entitled An Economic Program for American Democracy, described as a "Keynesian manifesto", which urged policies of government spending to carry the United States out of the Depression. Two of the group, on leave at Harvard from official positions, contributed to the effort but did not sign. Salant left Harvard in 1936, and worked in a series of government offices in Washington: the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commerce Department and the Office of Price Administration, transferring after the passage of the Full Employment Act of 1946 - a Keynesian product - to the Council of Economic Advisers, set up to provide advice to the US President. When President Harry S. Truman established three committees to judge whether the United States had the resources, the productive capacity to carry through the Economic Recovery Program, popularly known as the Marshall Plan, without inflation, Edwin Nourse, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was called on to undertake the macro-economic aspects of the program, with Salant contributing much of the Nourse report. …