28 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2009 Last revised: 15 Dec 2009
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: Soviet growth, principles textbooks, Samuelson, Tarshis
JEL Classification: A20, P17, P27
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation