Soviet Growth & American Textbooks
David M. Levy
George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice
Sandra J. Peart
University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies
December 3, 2009
We examine the treatment of Soviet growth in successive editions of American economics textbooks published between 1960 and 1980. What we find repeatedly is over-confidence in the potential for Soviet growth and an asymmetric response to past forecast errors. More than this, the textbooks report faster Soviet income growth combined with a constant ratio of Soviet–US income. Textbooks that abstracted from these institutional details (thin) offered a wider range of application than those which focused on one society (thick). A simple way to distinguish these two traditions is whether the book used a productivity possibility frontier [PPF] for cross-societal comparisons. Thick accounts did not while thin ones did. It was in the institutional dimension that the account by Tarshis differed from that of Samuelson.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: Soviet growth, principles textbooks, Samuelson, Tarshis
JEL Classification: A20, P17, P27
Date posted: December 8, 2009 ; Last revised: December 15, 2009
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