Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dec 30 1948

The American Economic Association hosted their yearly conference in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio in 1948. December 30th was the final day of the conference (a friday) that featured the organizer of that years agenda, Joseph Schumpeter, giving his closing speech on the state of, and overall role played by economics within the society at large. By all accounts this was a wonderful speech that left no economist--no matter the personal persuasion be they an adherent of Keynes or some other school--untouched, and all that witnessed this event firsthand attest that the lively Schumpeter was in top form.

Being from Cleveland and knowing of the diligence that is so typically characteristic of the Plain Dealer, I set out to dig up their coverage of this speech in our library's stash of microfilm. In the paper published on Dec 30th they do have a few paragraphs featuring comments from Schumpeter's colleague at Harvard Seymour Harris on inflation, and they also highlight Fritz Machlup's warning to economists not to grow disheartened at the slow transmission of intellectual ideas to the voting public at large that is so characteristic of the democratic political system. Machlup was speaking from experience as he witnessed firsthand the experiences of Europe in the early 20th century. But this days paper covered the events of the previous day. So I scoured the December 31st and January 1st editions of the paper while finding nothing on Schumpeter or his rousing speech. How can this be? How can there be not even a tiny article detailing the events when one of the most eminent economists of the day happen to be in your town? And at this time his eminence was surely recognized, many contemporary accounts indicate Schumpeter was regarded as perhaps the most famous economist in the world at the time. Though I may have missed a snippet on Dr. Schumpeter, he may have been mentioned inconspicuously, it remains a disappointment that a larger article could not have been devoted to a subject as pertinent and influential as that which Schumpeter spoke about.

It is disappointing that in a paper that dedicated large amounts of space to the business and politics of the day (perhaps more so than today even) there was no space provided for commentary on Schumpeter the man, what he meant to the study of society and economics, and the overall lessons of his speech.

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