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HARVARD MEETS THE CRISIS: THE MONETARY THEORY AND POLICY OF LAUCHLIN B. CURRIE, JACOB VINER, JOHN H. WILLIAMS, AND HARRY D. WHITE

  • Michele Alacevich (a1), Pier Francesco Asso (a2) and Sebastiano Nerozzi (a3)

Abstract

The paper discusses the interpretation of the Great Depression and the policy decision making by four Harvard economists: Lauchlin B. Currie, Jacob Viner, John H. Williams, and Harry D. White. All were eminent scholars in the field of monetary and international economics, and were deeply involved in policy decisions during the New Deal. We will discuss how their Harvard training provided them with a common methodological and analytical perspective, and how this common perspective translated into specific policies when they moved from the academia to public service in the US administration. Their interpretation of the causes of the Great Depression and their policy proposals show the eclectic approach that these four economists had to monetary, fiscal, and economic analysis, and the points of contact with both the US monetarist tradition and the work of John Maynard Keynes. At the same time, this very eclecticism, far from making them part of the monetarist or the Keynesian schools, characterized them as a group of their own: a network of scholars who, by virtue of their studies and the evolution of their professional careers, developed a style of analysis and policy prescriptions that deeply influenced the nature of the New Deal.

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