Modern Economic Thought: The American Contribution

By Allan G. Gruchy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
6
The Experimental Economics of Rexford G. Tugwell

Among the many economists which the New Deal at various times, drafted into its service none received wider public attention than Rexford G. Tugwell. When he went to serve the federal government in 1933, Tugwell had many novel ideas about economics and its applications to the serious economic problems which at that time confronted the national administration. For fifteen years prior to his going to the nation's capital Tugwell had been conducting university courses on American economic culture and had been writing about proposals for its reorganization. The programs for national economic reform and reconstruction which he advocated in the early years of the Great Depression can be understood only in the light of his views as developed in the years prior to 1933. On close inspection it will be found that Tugwell's heterodox economic thought is in striking contrast to the traditional economics which dominated the business world up to the eventful year of 1929.

Like Gardiner C. Means, Tugwell belongs to the second generation of exponents of economic heterodoxy. He was born on July 10, 1891, in Sinclairville, New York. Graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania in 1915, Tugwell went out into a world which was being rudely shaken from its nineteenth-century complacency. He witnessed the great economic adjustments of the first World-War period, the succeeding era of international disorganization and false prosperity, and then, after 1929, the agonizing efforts of many nations to preserve their free enterprise economies and their democratic ways of living.1 One should not be surprised to find little of the orthodox

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1
Tugwell explains that to him "The war was an experience of the massing of effort in common enterprise--though the enterprise was a destructive one--which

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