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Business-Cycle Theory in the United States, 1860–1900

Business-Cycle Theory in the United States, 1860–1900 by Paul Barnett

Tags Business Cycles

05/01/1941Paul Barnett


Business-cycle theory in the United States before 1860 (and after 1900 has been carefully analyzed, but little is known of its development in the period from 1860 to 1900. This essay aims to fill in this gap by a detailed examination of the theories of booms, crises, depressions, and business cycles stated by writers in the United States in this forty-year period. The purpose is simply to present the more important theories found in the literature of the period.

These separate theories are examined in some detail not because of any belief that some particular theory or even all the theories as a whole are likely at this stage of knowledge to add much, if anything, to the present body of business-cycle theory or because of any intent to direct attention to the neglected work of some really important writer. The reasons for such detailed presentation are, first, to show that the cycle problem was not neglected but that there were a number of rather careful and significant attempts to explain cyclical changes in business activity, and, second, to enable students who lack the time to examine hundreds of obscure and fragmentary references to speak more definitely about the development of business-cycle theory in the United States before 1900.

It should be pointed out that because of the above-stated purposes of the study and because most of the material is probably unfamiliar to most readers the author has considered it more important to state as clearly and precisely as possible the theories of the individual writers than to write a critical review of the theories. The point is that exposition receives first place and criticism second.

The writer is under heavy obligation to Professor Garfield V. Cox, whose teaching first suggested the subject and provided the background for this essay and whose friendly encouragement and able criticism have been invaluable in its preparation. The writer is also indebted for suggestions and criticism to Professors Lloyd W. Mints, S. H. Nerlove, Neil H. Jacoby, C. P. White, and Louis Lohr. Grateful appreciation is also due Dean W. H. Spencer and the University of Chicago for a generous grant of fellowships which made this study possible. To all these the author wishes to express his sincere thanks.

The author wishes to thank, also, the several authors and publishing firms, too numerous to list, for permission to use material from their publications.

Great as is his debt to others, full responsibility for the material in the study rests with the author.

Paul Barnett
University of Tennessee
April, 1941

Note: The views expressed on are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Paul Barnett

Paul Barnett is the author of Business-Cyle Theory in the United States, 1860–1900 (1941). He taught at the University of Tennessee.

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