McCarthyism and the Mathematization of Economics

41 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2016 Last revised: 4 Mar 2016

See all articles by E. Roy Weintraub

E. Roy Weintraub

Duke University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 18, 2016


Historians of the social sciences and historians of economics have come to agree that, in the United States, the 1940s transformation of economics from political economy to economic science was associated with economists’ engagements with other disciplines – e.g. mathematics, statistics, operations research, physics, engineering, cybernetics – during and immediately after World War II. More controversially, some historians have also argued that the transformation was accelerated by economists’ desires to be safe, to seek the protective coloration of mathematics and statistics, during the McCarthy period. This paper argues that that particular claim 1) is generally accepted, but 2) is unsupported by good evidence, and 3) what evidence there is suggests that this claim is false.

Keywords: Cold War, McCarthyism, mathematical economics, mathematization of economics, history of philosophy, RAND, Cowles Commission, Paul Lazarsfeld

JEL Classification: B2, B4, B5, C02, C10, C60

Suggested Citation

Weintraub, E. Roy, McCarthyism and the Mathematization of Economics (February 18, 2016). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 209, Available at SSRN: or

E. Roy Weintraub (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

Durham, NC 27708-0097
United States
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