The Rise of American Economic Thought

The Rise of American Economic Thought

The Rise of American Economic Thought

The Rise of American Economic Thought

Excerpt

The documentary story of the rise of American economic thought which is told here begins with the Puritans of the seventeenth century and ends with the founding of the American Economic Association in 1885. It illustrates an important aspect of our intellectual history, and it brings light to bear on significant phases of our economic history.

If the story of the rise of American economic thought has a theme, it may be said to provide a running commentary on the rise of the "American system" which came to full bloom in the nineteenth century. Gradually the elements of this system emerge, beginning with the Puritans, who made so much of the stewardship of wealth and of the related idea of business as a service-seminal ideas that reflect attitudes which have become a permanent part of our American culture. Toward the turn of the eighteenth century, when the Puritan divines show increasing concern with business affairs, the institution of credit emerges as an important topic for consideration in sermons and elsewhere. As the eighteenth century unfolds, monetary expansion and population growth, the mainsprings of the American system, are underlined in their significance in the writings of Benjamin Franklin.

These preliminaries set the stage for the great debate between the founding fathers. In the conflict about the promotion, by the government, of manufacture, financial institutions, and economic development, Jefferson is the victor in all the battles, but Hamilton wins the war. Subsequently, such writers as Raymond, List, Rae, and the Careys usher in the triumph of the American system, while others -- Everett, Cardozo, and Tucker -- give forceful expression to the American reaction to the classical theories of population and rent. There is strong attachment to the laisser-faire doctrine, which is stated in a utilitarian . . .

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