Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tyranny or Monetary Policy

The NY Times reports on a forthcoming book attributing a central role to economic motives for the American revolution:
“I think there’s reason to doubt the Revolution would have happened as it did if it weren’t for these economic conditions,” said Ronald W. Michener, an economics professor at the University of Virginia, in a radical departure from today’s popular notion that the Revolution was a product primarily of grand ideas about self-government.

Gordon S. Wood, a professor at Brown University and perhaps the pre-eminent living historian on the subject, counters: “There was a great deal of instability, but that is hardly an explanation for the Revolution. I don’t think you can make a strong argument for an economic interpretation of the Revolution.”

Professor Michener and his collaborator, Robert W. Wright, a financial historian at New York University, plan to do just that. The tandem worked for several years on a manuscript arguing that the American Revolution was a direct result of the economic malaise that followed the French and Indian War.

Now they have a built-in marketing hook — the current financial crisis — and the publisher, Yale University Press, is hoping to bring the book out as early as next fall. “What I found was that the monetary difficulties faced by the colonies were not very different from modern macroeconomic problems,” Mr. Michener said.
As a former student of Ron Michener's, I know that he is a good storyteller - even when the subject is optimal control theory - so the book is something to look forward to (although when they say "hoping to bring the book out as early as next fall" it sounds like I shouldn't hold my breath...).


cool said...

First we see parallels to the Great Depression.. now to this?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong believer in learning from history. I'm just saddened because we're mostly reminded of the past when bad things happen, so that doesn't say much for the state of the current economy.

Bill C said...

Indeed. I find the historical comparisons very interesting, but we do tend to take them too far. We are a much, much, much richer country now than in the 30's, much less the 1780's.... the more relevant comparison there may be to some of the work on the relationship between civil conflict and the economy in developing countries.