AMERG017: US Economic Policy from the New Deal to Obama

(!) Not running in 2015-16

Course convenor: Prof Iwan Morgan


Prosperity and abundance have been shaping influences on the American national character and the development of Americans’ self-identity as ‘the people of plenty.’ As originally conceived, the American Dream envisaged individual enterprise as the mainspring of material wellbeing, but in modern times the federal government has become increasingly involved in promoting the growth and stability of the US economy in order to enhance prosperity. This course examines the role of the national government in macroeconomic management from the 1930s to the present.

This one-term course reviews the changing role of the federal government in response to changing economic conditions both at home and abroad and explains why US economic policy in both its domestic and – more recently – international dimensions has been such a contestable political issue. It links the influence of particular economic doctrines – Keynesianism, monetarism, supply-side ideas – to the shifting ideological dimensions of American politics and the political battles between modern liberals and conservatives. It also explores the central importance of economic growth in modern America’s efforts to reconcile individualism with egalitarianism and how economic growth has served a variety of political causes, such as domestic liberal reform (the New Deal of the 1930s, the Great Society of the 1960s), conservative restoration (Nixon, George W Bush) national rehabilitation (Reagan, Clinton), and world leadership (all presidents since 1945). It ends with a consideration of the policy response to the financial crisis of 2007-08, the ensuing Great Recession, and public debt expansion.

Teaching is through a combination of weekly lectures and seminars. Assessment is based on a 4,000 word essay.

A list of introductory readings is given below. A full course reading list is normally issued at the beginning of the session. When you are offered a place, you will be sent a password which will enable you to access the Student Intranet with detailed reading lists.

Introductory Reading

  • Brenner, Robert, The Boom and the Bubble: The US and the World Economy (London: Verso, 2002)
  • Brinkley, Alan, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Depression and War (New York: Knopf, 1995)
  • Robert Collins, More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Domitrovic, Brian, Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity (San Francisco: ISI Press, 2009)
  • Krippner, Greta, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2011)
  • Paul Krugman, Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations (Norton, 1994);
  • Iwan Morgan, The Age of Deficits: Presidents and Unbalanced Budgets from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009)
  • Herbert Stein, Presidential Economics: From Roosevelt to Clinton, 3d ed (Washington DC: AEI Press, 1995);
  • Herbert Stein, The Fiscal Revolution in America: Policy in Pursuit of Reality (Washington DC: AEI Press, 1996)
  • Wyatt Wells, American Capitalism, 1945-2000: Continuity and Change from Mass Production to the Information Society (Chicago: Ivan Dee, 2003).