An extraordinary look at the best way out of economic crisis
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; Norman Ture, the relentless economic forecaster who faced down Alan Greenspan; 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.
|What They're Saying...||
“I’ve never read anything on the subject of economics that surpasses this extraor¬dinary 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.”
“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 Robert Mundell, Arthur Laffer, Robert Bartley, and the other supply-side pioneers.”
“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.”
"Until I read Econoclasts, I had never fully appreciated the heroism of the supply-side revolution's founders."
"Is the verdict on supply-side economics mixed? There is a new authoritative history of supply-side economics to help us answer that: Brian Domitrovic's magnificent Econoclasts. Domitrovic demonstrates conclusively that, the verdict on supply-side economics isn't really mixed at all. It was an enormous triumph, a policy and intellectual success without rival in contemporary history. . . . No book until now has offered an authoritative history of the supply-side movement. Domitrovic fills the void."
"Domitrovic fills a gaping hole in the historical literature."
"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."
"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."
|Eligible for Readers Club Discount||Yes|