Books to crave: *A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth*

From the ever-interesting Alexander Field:

This thoughtful re-examination of the history of U.S. economic growth is built around a novel claim, that potential output grew dramatically across the Depression years (1929-1941) and that this advance provided the foundation for the economic and military success of the United States during the Second World War as well as for the golden age (1948-1973) that followed.  Alexander J. Field takes a fresh look at growth data and concludes that, behind a backdrop of double-digit unemployment, the 1930s actually experienced very high rates of technological and organizational innovation, fueled by the maturing of a privately funded research and development system and the government-funded build-out of the country's surface road infrastructure. This substantive new volume in the Yale Series in Economic and Financial History invites renewed discussions on productivity growth over the last century and a half and on our current prospects.

Due out in April.


Just once, I'd like to see a new book come out and say, "I spent years studying this, and to my dismay, the conventional wisdom turned out to be pretty much correct across the board. But I don't want to have nothing to show for all the research I did, so I wrote this book anyway."

I have wondered for a while whether extended periods of deflation (years following 1873, depression and, perhaps, now) are associated with "subterranean" progress in technology and innovation that only shows up much later in standard measures of macro performance. Could this be due to the impact on firm behavior of extreme, long-term price pressures?

anonymous, I've heard that Robert Jan van Pelt (or some other such writer) started out inclined toward holocaust revisionism, decided the conventional wisdom was right and wrote a book about it.

That's exactly my impression of late Depression America from 1939-41 Heinlein sci-fi stories: of a country that had been making tremendous technical progress, with enormous latent capacity.

Of course, maybe I'm just projecting that into Golden Age sci-fi magazine stories because we know that's how the story turns out.

What is novel about this? Conventional wisdom if you ask me.

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