Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Presidential Economics: The Making of Economic Policy From Roosevelt to Clinton (Applications; 87) Paperback – January 1, 1994
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
Herbert Stein is the A. Willis Robertson Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Virginia and and a senior fellow at AEI.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book is excellent background for those interested in economic history written by an insider. I also recommend his other book re the Revolution in Fiscal Policy, written earlier with more details of the days of Herbert Hoover and FDR.
Stein's books were necessarily his opinions and his opinions were not universally accepted by historians and economists.
One opinion with which I disagree is that Stein said tax rate increases are universally unpopular among politicians and the electorate.
Actually there is normally quite a strpng constituency in favor of tax rate increases at all times and sometimes perversely when unemployment is very high, many people are in favor of raising tax rates.
The reason for this is that many people are eager that their neighbors who may be more financially successful pay more in taxes, and also because many people believe in balanced budgets and even in a surplus in the government's balance of revenues.
When we do not have full employment, when there is considerable unemployment, an increase in tax rates reduces purchasing power, reduces the demand for labor, and has a negative effect on employment and on wages and salaries.
Unemployment is a great source of economic hardship especially for very low income people, so when the government raises tax rates when there is considerable unemployment the result is likely to be an aggravation in the unemployment rate, slower growth of wages, an increase in poverty and economic inequality.
While many people think an increase in tax rates would reduce economic inequality and poverty, when an increase in tax rates takes place when there is high unemployment already, it is likely to make matters worse, increase economic and social inequality.
Stein underestimated the political drive for higher tax rates, especially when unemployment and economic hardship is already very high.
Stein worked for Nixon and was not particularly sympathetic with supply side economics, and reducing income tax rates, which occurred under JFK, Reagan, and the 2nd George Bush.
It is still a controversial question as to the actual affects of income tax rate reductions on the deficit, the rate of inflation, real growth, employment, unemployment, government spending, and overall income inequality.
During the prosperous 1920s, there were reductions in rates of income taxation, during the depressed 1930s both Hoover and FDR increased income tax rates, strongly suggesting the income tax rate increases contributed to the misery of very low income people during the Depression even though they paid no income tax themselves.
It is almost universally agreed today that the increases in income tax rates in the 1930s was a big mistake.
The fear of government deficits in the 1930s had tragic consequences. Had we instead reduced income tax rates and sharply increased military spending during the Depression, unemployment would have been reduced faster and our military preparedness may have prevented WWII.
In actual fact the poor performance of our economy in the 1930s and our military unpreparedness tempted Germany and Japan into starting WWII and attacking the United States. In addition, monetary policy was much too tight during the Depression.
After the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on us the budgetary deficit during the war years was far higher than ever would have been necessary during the 1930s to restore full employment and deter Japan and Germany.
Also contrary to widely held expectations at the time the significant income tax rate cuts during the Reagan Administration seems to have resulted over many years in lower rates of inflation, lower interest rates, increased employment opportunities and growth in the American economy. There is now little political support for raising income tax rates back up to the level that existed prior to the Reagan Presidency, although there is always populist pressure for marginal increases in the income tax rates in the face of a depressed labor market at the moment (late 2013).
Increasing marginal tax rates may or may not be a sensible option if we were in the fortunate circumstance of having full employment. We are very far from full employment right now and raising income tax rates in the face of our desperate chronic long term unemployment, has to be extremely problematic to anyone with historical prospective and any understanding of how our economy works.
One thing that most people, most economists, would greatly applaud is Nixon's total freeing of the dollar from a fixed price of gold, which occurred when Stein worked for Nixon.
It was the gold exchange standard at a fixed price that made the 1929 Depression so severe because it motivated tight monetary policy and the Hoover income tax rate increases they he implemented when the economy was its nadir in 1931-32.
The reader can make his or her own decisions about these matters.
People often say that the national debt is a burden on our grandchildren,
but after WWII for example our grandchildren were far better off with a huge national debt compared to the 1930s with Hitler defeated, and a strong economy, rather than the highly depressed economy of the 1930s with a very low national debt.
correct policy would have been much greater deficits in the 1930s.
In retrospect, mostly we are all Keynesians now and Herbert Stein was a pioneer in this area.
Stein's books are a fascinating and detailed look at economic history, and they are worthwhile reading for serious students of economic history.
Stein gives us a history of fiscal and monetary policy from the Depression to the first Reagan term. The third edition claims to be updated to the start of the Clinton administration, but this simply means that Stein has added a few articles he'd written for the AEI or for the Wall Street Journal. Essentially, though, the book's story ends in about 1983, with most emphasis being given to the period from 1968. (Stein was at one point chairman of Nixon's Council of Economic Advisors.)
It sounds, then, as though "Presidential Economics" has two strikes against it. First, Stein refers to the Reagan administration in the present tense, whereas today's students are impatient with any material more than a couple of years old. It's actually one of my hidden agendas, though, to help students understand that the world hasn't always been as it is today, and that it may well change again tomorrow. Stein's book--indeed, almost any historical treatment--can be used to make this point.
The second apparent drawback (at least, to those who share my leftish tendencies) is that Stein is a firm believer in what he calls the "old-time [conservative] religion". Yet, perhaps because he is so frankly of the right--and, of course, because he writes so well--today's typically conservative student may well find compelling Stein's arguments against Reagan's "economics of joy". The argument against (certain forms of) supply-side, or perhaps monetarist, positions might be regarded with suspicion coming from someone with progressive pretensions (like me), whereas Stein is more likely to get away with it.
Stein's historical treatment allows the instructor to parachute in more technical material at will--the Phillips Curve, perhaps, or ye olde Keynesian Cross--either from a standard text or from the instructor's own notes. In this way the various macro models are given social, even institutional, life, and don't just follow one another as a series of abstractions (as in "if this is Chapter 17 it must be a New Classical position").
The data series used in the text generally end in 1983, but learning how to update them would, in any case, be a useful exercise for the class. I also plan on requiring students to dig up media commentary from, say, the fifties, to compare and contrast it with Stein's narrative. Students must learn that not everything can be found on the web.
I've been unable to find any more recent books that cover the last two, post-Stein, decades. I'd even settle for something less fluent and articulate than Stein, if only it wasn't polemic in a narrowly partisan kind of way. So far, though, I've been unable to find anything. (Does anyone have any ideas?) Thus, in putting some flesh on the bones of economic theory--even if, in doing so accessibly, it remains demanding, since economics is never, in that sense, an "easy read"--Stein's book continues to be relevant and useful, even vital.