Richard T. Ely’s Influence on Woodrow Wilson
| Peter Klein |
Researching and teaching sound economics during the Dark Era (i.e., the Keynesian Revival) can be frustrating and depressing. Keynesian doctrine has been refuted again and again; why won’t this zombie stay dead? What, more generally, is the role of economic education? Can we really transform hearts and minds through reason and dialogue? Or do students and scholars simply seek intellectual cover to justify what they already believe?
Hayek reports that he was originally a mild Fabian but was converted by laissez-faire by Mises’s 1922 book Socialism. Such conversion stories are rare, however, in either direction. With this in mind, I was intrigued by Gary Pecquet and Clifford Thies’s paper, “The Shaping of a Future President’s Economic Thought: Richard T. Ely and Woodrow Wilson at ‘The Hopkins'” (Independent Review, Fall 2010). Pecquet and Thies report that “Woodrow Wilson entered graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University as a classical liberal in his economic views but departed as a progressive. His fateful transformation had much to do with his apprenticeship with Richard T. Ely, who disparaged the laissez-faire policy prescriptions and deductive methodology of classical economics.” Worth a look for those interested in the impact of economic education on economic policy.