Monday, December 13, 2010

What I'm reading...

I need to write these short articles on populism soon, so my reading has shifted gears towards that material.

- I had a great anniversary weekend in Williamsburg with Kate. As usual, I woke up relatively early and enjoyed reading about three quarters of Norman Pollack's The Populist Response to Industrial America (1962) in front of a roaring fire. This is an excellent book - its stated goal is to provide an intellectual history of Populism, drawing mainly from Populist presses in the mid-west. His primary argument is that Populism was not, as many argue, a reactionary, conservative, or regressive movement. Rather, it was radical and embraced industrial development. I'm mainly reading this book for Pollack's treatment of technological unemployment (one of the longer entries I'm writing on is on technological unemployment). The story seems to be mixed here - Populism certainly had a sense of technological unemployment, but they primarily blamed social arrangements that they suggested didn't channel "labor-saving technology" into lower work hours and higher wages.

- I'm still reading Friedman and Schwartz's Monetary History. It's very good. Jonathan cautioned that it was essentially an encyclopedia and not worth reading on its own. I've found that there's a lot of very thoughtful, very clear analysis that accompanies the mountains of data. It's certainly not a gripping read, but there is a clear narrative to it. I'm actually starting to think about how monetary trends in the immediate post-Civil War period might relate to the post-WWI and 1920-21 depression period. I'm mostly reading this for the entries as well - so I'll probably put it down when I get to the Great Depression chapters (I've read the Depression chapters before - some other time I'll finish off the rest of the book).

- I've read a series of good articles, also mostly on Populism entry topics. Luca Einaudi's From the franc to the 'Europe': the attempted transformation of Latin Monetary Union into a European Monetary Union, 1865-1873, and Marc Flandreau's The French Crime of 1873: An Essay on the Emergence of the International Gold Standard, 1870-1880 have both provided invaluable information on the International Monetary Conferences.

- I've also recently read Giuseppe Fontana's The transmission mechanism of fiscal policy: a critical assessment of current theories and empirical methodologies (Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics), for an idea that's stewing in my head on empirical tests of fiscal stimulus. I think Fontana critiques the empirical approaches well, but I would have framed it all slightly differently.

It will probably be more Populism on my reading list until the end of the year - I want to read Hofstadter's essay on Coin's Financial School, and Coin's Financial School itself if I have time. I also want to read Friedman's The Quantity Theory of Money - A Restatement. And, as with Friedman and Schwartz, probably pick up the third volume of Dorfman's The Economic Mind in American Civilization to read relevant chapters that address Populist economic thought.

For the New Year, we shall see...


  1. Not that you have any specific interest, but I know Rothbard has written a good deal about money and banking throughout US history. You might check him out.

  2. Ya - I looked at his book for the 1920-21 article. I'll check out if he wrote anything on this period.

    Four of my five entries (the four short ones... 250-750 words, are on monetary topics).


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