*How U.S. Economists Won World War II*

That is the subtitle, the title is Keep from All Thoughtful Men and the author is Jim Lacey.  Excerpt:

Just fifty years before World War II there had been only one individual in the government with the title of economist, and that person was listed as an “economic ornithologist.”  World War I saw a few trained economists brought to Washington in policy positions, but their influence remained constrained to providing advice on price administration and shipping.  They had little impact on mobilization planning.  It was the Great Depression that brought economists into Washington policy circles, first by the hundreds and then by the thousands.  By the time World War II began, the federal government employed an estimated five thousand economists.

David Warsh reviews the book here.  I found some parts boring, some parts very valuable, overall worthwhile.  Contra Higgs, Lacey argues that wartime mobilization proceeded with a surprisingly low sacrifice from U.S. consumers, with most of the impact coming on postponed purchases of durables.

Here is an essay (pdf) on early pioneers of economic ornithology.  I’ve never heard of a field exam in that area.


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