American Economic Policy from the Revolution to the New Deal
The documents in this volume reflect the great debates that have shaped this country's economic life. Covering a wide variety of problems, they show how each was treated at a moment when it was politically urgent. Since they were efforts at persuasion, usually addressed to a wide audience, they are coherent and self-contained and avoid technical jargon. They therefore present clear and vivid evidence of what men have desired and hoped to achieve, and explain not only much that is critical about how Americans lived in the past but much also about the inheritance of the present.
From the overwhelming mass of available documents, a representative group has been chosen here. Among the twenty-nine included are: Hamilton's Report on Manufactures, which helped set the American attitude on economic growth; Andrew Jackson's veto message on the bill to renew the charter of the Bank of the United States; the first annual report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, which put the railroads under federal regulation; William Jennings Bryan's famous Cross of Gold speech, which helped him win the Democratic nomination in 1896; the conclusions of the Pujo Committee's report on the money market, which were instrumental in setting up the Federal Reserve System; and key documents on the National Recovery Administration, one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's major moves in his fight against the depression.
In his introductory essay, the editor summarizes the forces and movements that helped to make American economic policy "exceedingly confused and therefore very annoying to historians and economists," But, he insists, this very confusion reduced "the extremism and disorder potentially so great in the United States . . . to remarkable moderation."
William Letwin is professor emeritus at the London School of Economics. He has published many articles and reviews in learned and popular journals. He took his undergraduate work at the University of Chicago and did graduate work there and at the London School of Economics. After receiving the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the Committee on Social Thought of the University of Chicago, he stayed on at the university as Research Associate in the Law School and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics.
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II The characteristic feature of economic policy changed, during the second
period, 1862-1912, from subsidy to regulation. The change, irregular, and at first
noticeable only as a change of emphasis, was closely connected with what may
Thus the urgent desire of Americans to build up their nation as quickly as
possible in the period before 1862 gave way in the period after to a slightly
panicked sense that too much had happened. The consequence was a set of
policies aimed ...
IV The economic policy of the United States today is an amalgam of the chief
tendencies that were emphasized during each of the three periods. Economic
development by hothouse methods still persists. American manufacturers are
... for any given period, amounted to a given sum, and the increased value of the
produce manufactured, in the same period, to a like sum, the total amount of the
consumption and production, during that period, would be equal to the two sums,
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B INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS
E REGULATION OF RAILROADS
F ANTITRUST POLICY
G MONETARY POLICY
J IMMIGRATION POLICY
K AGRICULTURAL PRICE SUPPORTS
THE NATIONAL RECOVERY ADMINISTRATION
REGULATION OF THE FINANCIAL MARKET