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How many economics departments actually teach a class on the Great Depression? The Depression is perhaps the greatest, most difficult to understand economic episode in modern U.S. history. How many economics departments offer a class on political economy, and in particular one that pays attention to the Public Choice school of economics?

I suppose those are rhetorical questions. I’d love to see a systematic study of the above, and then compare it to where one, at a university, might actually learn about these topics. I’d bet that if one wanted to learn about the Great Depression, one could go to a History Department and have much more success finding it.  And if one wanted to learn about Political Economy you could go to a Political Science department with much more certainty. It’s “funny” that “we’ve” outsourced those topics. 

2 Responses to “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”

  1. Harry says:

    There was one I can think of, but he died in 1938: George F. Warren. Wintercow no doubt remembers wandering through Warren Hall at Cornell. Warren may not have taught classes on the causes of the Great Depression, but he had to have discussed money and commodity prices with his students and colleagues as Professor of Agricultural Economics.

    He was an advisor to FDR, and some say he was instrumental in FDR’s decision to go off the gold standard, but it is more complicated than that. Warren thought that pegging the dollar to any single commodity, even gold, subjected the dollar’s value to unreasonable fluctuations, and he demonstrated in his book Prices how discoveries of gold (as in ’49!) could depress the price of gold. Warren preferred that the dollar be pegged to a market basket of commodities.

    However, Warren was looking for a better standard than gold, not a license to print fiat money, which FDR and Harry Hopkins wanted, to stimulate demand for the same reason Jack Lew wants to stimulate demand. Since the Depression was still going strong when he died, I give him the benefit of the doubt on whether ditching gold was a good idea or not.

    Maybe the reason why these subjects are not taught any more is that teachers, thinking they should have the answer to everything, feel uncomfortable covering uncertain ground.

  2. Harry says:

    Thanks for the instant access to Vox, Mike, but you should get your webmaster to put it under your smart money graphs, which deliver hard facts.

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