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  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    Stephen Mihm: The Woman Who Broke Into the Fed

    Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, is a contributor to the TickerThe jockeying to succeed Ben Bernanke as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board appears to pit Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen against a field that includes former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former Vice Chairman Donald Kohn. If Yellen becomes the first woman to hold the post -- despite a few sexist swipes from Summers' supporters -- she’ll owe a special debt to Nancy Teeters, who broke the glass ceiling at the Fed when she became the first female member of the board in 1978.

  • Originally published 07/11/2013

    Melissa S. Fisher: How Women Rose and Took the Fall on Wall Street

    Melissa S. Fisher, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, is the author of “Wall Street Women.”When Ina Drew resigned as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s chief investment officer last year after reports the bank lost more than $6 billion, the New York Times referred to her as “the woman who took the fall.”It is up for debate whether financial companies have scapegoated women such as Drew in the aftermath of the financial crisis. What is certain is that just half a century ago it was unimaginable that women might make it high enough in the ranks of Wall Street to take the fall for anything.

  • Originally published 06/27/2013

    Gavin Wright: Voting Rights Act Brought Major Economic Benefits

    Gavin Wright is the William Robertson Coe professor of American economic history at Stanford University. He is the author of “Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South.”The Supreme Court’s rejection yesterday of a central element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act took aim at a measure that not only broke down barriers to political participation in the South but also made significant contributions to the economic wellbeing of black southerners and to the region as a whole.Some of the economic benefits were apparent almost immediately after enactment. Surveys reported more paved roads and streetlights in black residential areas, better access to city and county services, and increased black hiring in public-sector jobs, including police and fire departments.

  • Originally published 06/14/2013

    Robert W. Fogel, an innovative and Nobel Prize-winning economic historian, dies at 86

    Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel Prize-winning economic historian who used empirical data in innovative and iconoclastic ways, most notably to dispute longheld assumptions about why slavery collapsed as an institution in the United States, died June 11 at a rehabilitation facility in Oak Lawn, Ill. He was 86.The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter-in-law Suzanne Fogel. Dr. Fogel, a Chicago resident, spent much of his career at the University of Chicago and directed its Center for Population Economics.Dr. Fogel shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences with Douglass North, then of Washington University in St. Louis. Both winners were on the 1960s vanguard of a field known as cliometrics, which merges economic theory with statistical analysis of hard numbers raked from the past; Clio is the muse of history in Greek mythology....

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Michael Lind: The World is Actually More Peaceful than Ever

    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, it is important to keep things in perspective, by emphasizing what the mass media tend to neglect — namely, the fact that the world has become much more peaceful in recent decades and is getting more peaceful all the time.It does not diminish the horror of mass casualty attacks on civilians, in this and other countries, to point out that today’s terrorist incidents provide a counterpoint to a declining arc of political violence worldwide. Both violence among states and violence within states have diminished dramatically in the last few generations.If we look at battle deaths in the last century, the spurts in the Cold War, associated with the Korean, Indochina and Soviet-Afghan wars, were dwarfed by the huge spikes of slaughter associated with the world wars. And with the end of the Cold War came a steep decline in political violence worldwide — mainly because the two sides no longer kept local conflicts going by arming and supplying opposing sides from Latin America to Africa to Asia and the Middle East.

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    POLL: Have You Engaged with the History of Capitalism?

    The New York Times' Jennifer Schuessler published a story in last Sunday's edition on the newfound popularity of the history of capitalism. "A specter is haunting university history departments," she wrote, "the specter of capitalism."This new history of capitalism integrates social and cultural approaches to economic history and adopts a strictly post-Cold War mentality. Gone are hoary Marxist bromides and questions about why socialism failed to develop as a political movement in the United States; instead, the new generation of history of capitalism scholars -- those profiled in the article include Julia Ott, Bethany Moreton, Louis Hyman, and Stephen Mihm -- focus on the practice of capitalism by the people in the middle and at the top, melding a sound knowledge of math and economics with race and gender analyses.

  • Originally published 03/04/2013

    Evan A. Schnidman: When Will the U.S. Hit The 1947 Wall?

    Evan A. Schnidman is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University studying how politics and finance play a role in central-bank decision making. He is also the founder and primary author of FedPlaybook.com, a central bank forecasting and analysis resource for investors.After a decade of financial struggle and a severe crisis in Europe that caused a massive ripple effect around the world, the United States found itself engaging in unprecedentedly loose monetary policy to finance public debt. You might have guessed I was describing the economy at the start of 2013, but despite financial prognostications that 2013 will be a good year for the U.S. economy, the parallels between the U.S. economy in 1947 and in 2013 are quite stark.The historyDuring and immediately after World War II, the Fed maintained extremely low interest rates in order to reduce war-financing costs for the government. As these policies became unnecessary and inflationary after the war, the Fed was compelled by the Treasury to maintain the low cost of debt. The result of this highly accommodating monetary policy was 14 percent inflation in 1947 and rising unemployment that persisted into the early 1950s....

  • Originally published 02/06/2013

    Why Philanthropy Matters

    Via Flickr.On Sunday, January 27, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his latest donation to Johns Hopkins University. His $350 million gift will be the largest in the university's history. Over the last four decades Bloomberg has given $1.1 billion dollars to his alma mater, a truly staggering amount of money. This makes him the most generous donor to any educational institution in the United Sates.Reading Bloomberg's giving pledge letter sheds light on what he hopes to accomplish by giving money away. "If you want to fully enjoy life -- give. And if you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the the single best thing -- by far -- is to support organizations that will create a better world for them and their children. Long term, they will benefit more from your philanthropy than your will. I believe the philanthropic contributions I am now making are as much gifts to my children as they are to the recipient organizations." Bloomberg has set up a foundation to give away the bulk of his $25 billion fortune before he dies.

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    Michael Lind: More Market Means More Welfare State

    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation. Few conservative misconceptions are more deeply rooted than the idea than the welfare state competes with the market for resources.  In fact, modern business and the modern welfare state have grown up together –and both have grown at the expense of the family.Before the industrial revolution, most production as well as most care-giving was performed within the farm household, by family members.  You churned your own butter and you cared for your children, your elderly parents and your sick spouse at home.Thanks to the development of machinery powered by mined or collected energy—be it coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear or renewable energy—most production has long since moved out of the household into mechanized factories.  You now buy your factory-produced butter in a store.

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    George Monbiot: If You Think We're Done with Neoliberalism, Think Again

    George Monbiot is the author of the bestselling books The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain, as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed and No Man's Land. His latests books are Heat: how to stop the planet burning and Bring on the Apocalypse?How they must bleed for us. In 2012, the world's 100 richest people became $241 billion richer. They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the entire output of the United Kingdom.This is not the result of chance. The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments' refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.

  • Originally published 01/10/2013

    We're All [Ancient] Greeks Now When It Comes to Debt

    The Parthenon from the south. Credit: Wiki Commons.Following the Peloponnesian War, Athens’ interim government borrowed 100 talents ($37 million) from the victorious Spartans. Shortly thereafter, when Athens’ democratic government returned to power, it assumed the debt incurred by the interim government and repaid the Spartans in full. This story is noteworthy as it marks one of the first discernable instances of sovereign debt. The Athenians’ timely repayment, however, is anomalous in the long history of public borrowing. Default and renegotiation of public debt is a practice nearly as old and constant as public debt itself. As the spotlight of sovereign debt returns to the Greek people -- pioneers of public debt -- it is important to recognize that throughout history governments have rarely been careful stewards of borrowed money.

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