The History of American Economics
Entry for A Companion to the History of American Science, edited by Mark A. Largent. John Wiley & Sons, expected 2015.
31 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2014
Date Written: October 15, 2014
Economics today is a model building and testing science. But scientific economics was not always understood in terms of models. Economics first emerged as a separate field of scientific study in post-bellum America. The laissez-faire orientation of early American moral philosophy gave way to social reforms informed by the historical/institutional examination of the sources of rapid change in the American economy. Early professionalization occurred within the context of the debate laissez-faire theorists and Progressives, leaving early twentieth century American economics a conflicted pluralism, with a nascent neoclassical theory tradition competing with institutionalism and the slow emergence of Keynesianism. The shift to model building occurred behind the scenes of the debates between vestiges of institutionalism, the Keynesian synthesis, and the Chicago School. By the end of the twentieth century, all economists, regardless of policy orientation, were modelers.
Keywords: clerical laissez-faire, institutionalism, Keynesian synthesis, Chicago School, neoclassical theory, model building
JEL Classification: B1, B15, B2, B20, B23, B25
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation