Financial history, in addition to embracing the history of fiscal policies-- Federal, state, and local--covers the development of governmental monetary, banking, and foreign-trade-control policies, their mutual interrelationships, and their institutional setting. It is concerned not only with changes in financial legislation, but also with changes in financial administrative policy, practice, and organization. As conceived by the authors, it goes beyond financial practice and tries to trace the development of the theories which underly it and to test their correctness in the light of the produced results.
If one feature distinguishes this book in financial history from others which preceded it, it is the authors' belief that we not only can but do learn from past experience. Consistent with this belief, the authors have attempted throughout the work to indicate the forces which shaped events and, above all, to point out the advances as well as the mistakes made by each generation in handling its basic financial problems--state and local as well as national. In making such appraisals, the authors have endeavored to be as objective as possible, but they do not regard historical objectivity as an injunction against interpretation. History is an illumination of events. It begins with the discovery of a theme, but lest it deteriorate to mere antiquarianism, it must generalize. It must go beyond the historical events themselves to discover their broader meaning and causal relationships.
Financial history is permeated with the materials of both political and economic history. It lies on the border line between the two and is neither completely independent nor a branch of the one or of the other. The dynamics of financial history are interwoven with economic development and changing social institutions; the ebb and flow of financial development cannot be separated from the great political controversies which shook the country from time to time. Moreover, the action is reciprocal, for while economic and political developments influence financial policy, financial policy also influences political and economic developments. The substance of financial history is rich, for in finance are mirrored and through it are effected most of the political and economic actions of men.
The Changing Goals of Public Finance . The goals of American public finance-local, state, and especially national--have changed as the economy has advanced and new economic groups have attained political power and impressed their economic philosophies upon the government.