A Waning of Controversy among Economists

Yves Smith’s terrific ECONned, pointed to an ancient 1961 article from Time.  The article suggests “a waning of controversy among economists,” which meant that the article reflected the milquetoast economics of the leading democratic economists and the less rabid attitude of the Republicans.  Galbraith merited a brief mention in which the author noted that most economists reject his view.

Anon. 1961. “The Economy: The Pragmatic Professor.” Time (3 March).


“Walter Heller is usually tagged as a “liberal,” but he departs so often from what used to be liberal cliches that the identity tag is a bit blurred.  A more descriptive label, one that he applies to himself, is “pragmatist.” That is the vogue word among economists today, the term that most of them use to label themselves and one another. When economists call themselves pragmatists, they mean that they are the opposite of dogmatists, that they are wary of broad theories, that they lean to the cut-and-try approach to public problems, and that they believe it is possible to improve the functioning of the economy by tinkering with it.”

Heller said, “My awareness of the seriousness of the situation is balanced by a conviction that we can do something about it — and without interference in the basic freedom of our capitalist system.”

“By broadening the areas of fact, the professionalization has narrowed the areas of theory, of disagreement, and blurred the old boundaries between liberals and conservatives.”

The article emphasizes:

“One result has been a waning of controversy among economists. Today, says Kenneth Arrow, “you have to find a real crackpot to get an economist who doesn’t accept the principle of Government intervention in the business cycle”.”

“A decade ago economists identifiable as liberals were automatically prolabor, rejected the idea that wage increases could be economically harmful. Today Heller, like most other economists, holds that “excessively generous wage bargains” between unions and management can lead to “cost-push” price upcreep.”


2 comments so far

  1. James K. Barrett on

    There is something about to change in global economics. It cannont continue like this. And I think for some reason that the golden age for America is over.

  2. mperelman on

    The Golden Age ended decades ago. The rot has set in, but changing the metaphor, a wounded animal is most dangerous.

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