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Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity (Culture of Enterprise) 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1935191254
ISBN-10: 193519125X
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Editorial Reviews


“Should serve as a roadmap to revitalizing the private sector. This sharply written, thoroughly-researched narrative weaves together financial history, economic doctrine, and character study so skillfully that recent decades’ policy debates become not only comprehensible, but at times, downright exciting. . . . A vivid and deeply researched look at the forces that unleash prosperity, move history, and enhance great nations. In our time of loose money and rising taxes, supply-side’s second revolution may begin with this book.”

                   —Real Clear Markets

Couldn’t be more timely. Econoclasts reminds us of what’s wrong with current policy. Domitrovic adds significant value in his review of Carter- and Reagan-era economics.”

Amity Shlaes, bestselling author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

“A brilliant look at America’s last economic crisis and Ronald Reagan’s supply-side solutions that finally ended it. The same free-market incentive model would work today. This is the book Americans need to read now, as our leaders rush forward to deal with the present crisis without consulting the lessons of the past.”

Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report

“I’ve never read anything on the subject of economics that surpasses this extraordinary book for its lucidity, richness, depth, intelligibility, savvy, and sheer intellectual excitement. Its publication could hardly come at a better time, as the fatal attraction of statism seems to have reemerged, one more time, from the murky depths to which it had been consigned.”

Wilfred McClay, award-winning historian, SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Fascinating. Domitrovic has corrected a glaring intellectual deficiency with his new history of the supply-side movement. He is to be commended for his masterful gathering of evidence and his capturing of the feel of the era, of the passion of Arthur Laffer, Robert Mundell, Bob Bartley, and the other supply-side pioneers.”

Richard Vedder, distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, author of Going Broke by Degree

Book Description

Ever since America descended into economic crisis the comparisons to the Great Depression have come fast and furious. Incredibly, we have heard almost nothing about a much more recent economic calamity: the ruinous “stagflation” of the 1970s—the second-worst decade in American economic history. But now, in the riveting, groundbreaking book Econoclasts, historian Brian Domitrovic reminds us that the twentieth century’s greatest economic counterrevolution emerged in response to that crisis: supply-side economics.

In a pulsing narrative, Domitrovic tells the remarkable story of the economists, journalists, Washington staffers, and (ultimately) politicians who showed America how to get out of the 1970s funk and ushered in an unprecedented quarter-century run of growth and opportunity. Here we meet Robert Mundell, the brilliant economist who held court over martinis in a Manhattan steakhouse; his gregarious cohort Arthur Laffer, chief economist on the president’s budget staff at the tender age of thirty; Robert Bartley, the Wall Street Journal’s reticent editorial-page editor who became the first impresario of supply-side economics; Jack Kemp, the football-star-turned-congressman who led the fight to turn supply-side theory into practice; Jude Wanniski, the eccentric, hot rod–driving reporter whose best-selling book touched off the supply-side revolution; and a host of other fascinating figures who helped upend the economic establishment.

Based on the author’s years of archival research, Econoclasts explodes numerous myths about supply-side economics, including its “creation myth”—the famous incident in which Laffer sketched a simple curve on a napkin. Domitrovic conclusively demonstrates that supply-side advocates did not invent a doctrine out of whole cloth. Their central insight was that the two massive means of governmental intrusion in the economy—the income tax and the Federal Reserve—play the primary role in starting and perpetuating any economic crisis. What’s more, Domitrovic shows that the specific combination of tax cuts and stable money had an unbroken record of success long before it went by the name “supply-side economics”: in 1962, when JFK ended the economic sluggishness that had brought three recessions in Eisenhower’s eight-year presidency; in 1947, when the United States embarked on the postwar boom; and in 1922, when Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon inaugurated the Roaring ’20s by imploring the Fed to keep the price level stable and arranging for Congress to slash income-tax rates.

Econoclasts is a masterful narrative history in the tradition of Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man and John Steele Gordon’s An Empire of Wealth. It is also impeccably timely: this is a story we must know if we are to understand the foundations of America’s prosperity—foundations that are now under increasing attack.


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Product Details

  • Series: Culture of Enterprise
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193519125X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935191254
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kent L. Kaiser on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One day in December 1974, while dining with some prominent officials from the Ford Administration, economist Arthur Laffer sketched his now-famous "Laffer Curve" on a napkin to illustrate the idea that, at some point, lowering taxes could actually increase tax revenues.

By retelling lore and providing lively anecdotes and insights like this one, Brian Domitrovic introduces the major characters, the "econoclasts," who were instrumental in the ascendency of supply-side economics in the modern era: economists, journalists, and politicians. In addition to Laffer, these include Robert Mundell, ultimately a Nobel economist; Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor; Jude Wanniski, a reporter whose book, The Way the World Works: How Economists Fail and Succeed, spurred the supply-side movement; U.S. Representative Jack Kemp, the former pro football player who championed supply-side theory and won passage of legislation putting the theory into practice; and more.

Domitrovic provides a well-researched and detailed account of the political struggle to assert supply-side policies in the late 1970s and early `80s. He tells about how, by the time Ronald Reagan became president, proponents of supply-side economics had succeeded in the marketplace of ideas to such an extent that even Congressional Democrats were largely in favor of providing tax cuts to spur economic activity. Domitrovic speculates on how, if the Carter Administration had not been so whetted to an objective of creating tax "fairness"--an objective that had no constituency--and had been more sympathetic to providing tax "relief"--which is what most Americans cared about--there might not have been a groundswell of support for Reagan's candidacy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, if you're like me you have never even heard of Robert Mundell. "Robert who??" And, by the time you finish reading this excellent book, you'll wonder why you have never even heard the name of this brilliant, Nobel-prize-winning economist, and his major contribution to economic theory and practice, generally called "supply-side economics."

But first, we need to go back in time, to 1913. It was in 1913 that the last goals of the "Progressives" made it into the Constitution and the law: specifically, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, and the income tax. Your first lesson in understanding "supply-side economics" is that it makes no sense without the Fed and the income tax.

In fact, it becomes clear that the "Progressives," although they had nothing but the best of intentions, created two gigantic "toys" they had no idea how to handle. Should the Fed raise interest rates to 25%, or lower them to zero? How about printing money? Could we just print as much as we liked?

And the income tax. Obviously, setting it at 100% would be a bad idea, but how about 90%? Or 15%?

Did anybody have a clue? Not very much. In fact, the Harding administration got lucky in making Andrew Mellon Secretary of the Treasury; he pressed the right levers and created the Roaring Twenties. But then came the stock market crash, and everybody started pressing the levers at random, leading to eleven years of misery.

Robert Mundell says that announcing a simple increase in the price of gold would have put a stop to all this, and there would have been no Depression, no Hitler, and no World War II.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the perfect antidote to economics as taught by John Stewart, the New York Times, and the evening news. The conventional view of the 1980s, the Reagan years, is one of economic and social disaster -- big deficits, forcing the mentally ill to live on the streets, coddling the rich at the expense of the poor. The truth, as you'll learn from this entertainingly written and meticulously documented history, is quite different, and fascinating.

For at least the last hundred years, the U.S. has experienced cycles of prosperity alternating with economic debacle -- usually about 25 years of the former and, fortunately, only ten years of the latter. Our (economically) worst presidents -- Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and now Barack Obama -- adhered to economic policies loosely described as Keynesian, which means deficit spending, ineffective stimulus packages, high taxes, crippling regulation, and currency manipulation that weakens the dollar. Our best presidents (again, economically) -- Calvin Coolige, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan -- chose the path of tax cuts, deregulation, and a strong dollar, either explicitly or effectively tied to gold.

In the 1970s the dollar lost 90% of its value and economists coined a new term, "stafglation," to describe the coincidence of high inflation and high unemployment, which until that time were thought to be mutually exclusive. Fortunately for those of us building careers and raising families in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan listened to a group of iconoclasts that included (now) Nobel laureates Robert Mundell and F.A. Hayek, plus economist Art Laffer (the Laffer curve) and Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal editorial page chief.
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