The Economic Mind in America: Essays in the History of American Economics

By Malcolm Rutherford | Go to book overview

7

VISION ACCOMPLISHED

Harold Moulton and Leo Pasvolsky of the Brookings Institution as champions of a new world order

Craufurd D. Goodwin

INTRODUCTION

Economic policy advisers come in various sizes, shapes, and flavors. It may be useful to construct a simple taxonomy. One distinction suggested by Alvin Gouldner is between intellectuals in the vanguard of a popular movement and technical intelligentsia who simply serve those in power (Gouldner 1979). A more fine-grained categorization is possible within these two types. Within the technical intelligentsia there are economists who are prepared to hold a mirror for princes, or to serve presidents, so long as they may remain true to their principles in so doing. Martin Feldstein fits in this category, resigning from the Reagan administration when it acted on principles with which he had no sympathy. Also within the technical intelligentsia are economists like Arthur Okun who, as chair of Lyndon Johnson’s CEA, disagreed with the administration but remained to confront it in private. The most reprehensible variant of the technical intelligentsia, presumably, is the economist who is prepared to advise princes, no matter how distasteful their objectives or methods.

All of the pioneers of economic policy advice examined in this part seem to fall under the category of “vanguard intellectual” rather than technical intelligentsia. They bring their own ideas more than just their technical expertise to the policy table. The ideas are of three kinds, again reflective of distinctive types of adviser. The first, Irving Fisher, comes to macroeconomic policy problems with a single solution, more or less, which is to maintain stable prices. Others in this genre include Henry George with the single tax and more recently, Hall and Robushka, with the flat tax. The second example, Wesley Mitchell, comes to policy with an eye on systems. In particular, he looks for better economic policy to emerge from better systems of

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