PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMICS: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond by Herbert Stein
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PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMICS: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond

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U. of Virginia economist Stein, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers under Nixon, has always been known as a pragmatic practitioner of mainstream economic policy. This careful survey of what Stein calls the conservative reaction to the liberal policies of the Roosevelt administration is firmly in that tradition--and thus a reasonable summary of American economic policy for the titular span. Economic policy-makers, Stein points out, don't necessarily understand why a particular policy succeeds or fails. He himself is an advocate of what he calls ""demand-management,"" and a proponent of monetary rather than fiscal methods of effecting it. His adherence to the view that demand creates supply separates him from the ""supply-siders,"" while his monetarist bent separates him from the fiscally-oriented Keynesians. Keynes ignored monetarist considerations--the rate of growth of the money supply--in favor of stimulating demand through government deficit spending. That made Keynesianism a useful theory for FDR, who was already following such a policy out of domestic political conSiderations To Stein, the federal budget is indeed where allocations are made regarding the national wealth: a political arena, and not the proper focus of economic policy. The Keynesians' chief policy concern was unemployment--but since they never decided how much employment represented full employment, the budget-stimulating process eventually (under JFK and LB J) got out of hand. The right approach, says Stein, is to use the money supply to manage inflation and to limit fiscal policy to basic political decisions reached in public dialogue. (On the other hand, Stein continually argues that politicians can't be trusted: he says, for instance, that JFK had to manufacture an image of American economic difficulties to run against the effective policies of the Eisenhower administration.) Stein's is an unsurprising middle-class economics, concerned first and foremost with inflation; his reprise will nonetheless serve diverse purposes, in and out of school.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster