American Progressivism and the Rise of the Economist as Expert

35 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2006

See all articles by Thomas C. (Tim) Leonard

Thomas C. (Tim) Leonard

Princeton University - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 2006


The original progressives were not that progressive: they proposed eugenic remedies for the immigrants, women, blacks and mental defectives they blamed for low wages, promoted an illiberal vision of women's economics interests, endorsed survival of the fittest doctrine (so long as the state chose the fittest), advocated imperial adventures, and embraced the scientifically managed corporation. A more complete portrait of the progressives recognizes this illiberal strain in progressive economic reform and its origins in anti-individualism, statism, social efficiency, and planning by scientific experts. The progressive vision of economic reform - what I call expertocracy - is contrasted with John Bates Clark's neoclassical alternative, market failure remedy.

Keywords: Economic reform, expertise, efficiency, planning, progressivism

JEL Classification: B10, B13, B15

Suggested Citation

Leonard, Thomas C. (Tim), American Progressivism and the Rise of the Economist as Expert (July 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas C. (Tim) Leonard (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States


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