Economic Contractions in the United States: A Failure of Government



An expert analysis of higher education policy

Economic Theory

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Housing and Planning

Obama is repeating the mistakes of the Great Depression
Note: only the first part of the book is currently available to download (Contents, Foreword, Preface and Introduction).

Seeking ‘not to let a crisis go to waste’, left-leaning politicians and old-style Keynesian economists want to remedy the alleged failure of capitalism with a rising tide of big government. Let the budget deficits rip, empower the unions, socialise healthcare, increase trade protection, go green, and socialise the financial and industrial base.

The irony, as Charles Rowley and Nathanael Smith show in this timely monograph, is that the Keynesian policy prescriptions that are serving as the pretext for this programme have already been tried. Expansionary fiscal and monetary policies by the Bush administration and the Greenspan Fed were implemented to deal with the recession of 2001, and are precisely what caused the current crisis.

Applying sound economic reasoning and cutting-edge public choice theory, Rowley and Smith show that both the Great Depression and the current economic contraction were caused by failures not of capitalism, but of government. While monetary policy was the primary culprit in the 1930s, the interventionist policies of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations exacerbated the downturn and stifled recovery. Fortunately, the monetary policy of the independent Fed is much better now (thought the Fed has unduly widened its role), but elected politicians are pursuing problems of intervention and re-regulation similar to those pursued in the 1930s. If these adverse trends are not reversed, the dynamic laissez-faire capitalism of the United States will be assimilated to the state capitalism and economic stagnation of Western Europe.

The authors outline a radical free-market approach to policy reform, designed to restore the United States economy to its stellar performance during the final fifteen years of the 20th century.

2009, Published by the Locke Institute and the IEA, ISBN 978 0 255 36642 7, 124pp, PB

See also:

“Obama’s road to hell” by Charles Rowley, on the IEA blog
Verdict on the Crash: Causes and Policy Implications by Philip Booth et al
A Credit Crunch Reader by Robert Rosenbleeth
The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
The Vote Motive by Gordon Tullock

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