Walter Lippmann was the most distinguished American journalist and public philosopher of the twentieth century. But he was also something more: a public economist who helped millions of ordinary citizens make sense of the most devastating economic depression in history. Craufurd Goodwin offers a new perspective from which to view this celebrated but only partly understood icon of American letters.
From 1931 to 1946 Lippmann pursued a far-ranging correspondence with leading economic thinkers: John Maynard Keynes, Lionel Robbins, Friedrich Hayek, Henry Simons, Adolf Berle, Frank Taussig, and others. Sifting through their divergent views, Lippmann formed his own ideas about economic policy during the Great Depression and shared them with a vast readership in his syndicated column, Today and Tomorrow. Unemployment, monetary and fiscal policy, and the merits and drawbacks of free markets were just a few of the issues he helped explain to the public, at a time when professional economists who were also skilled at translating abstract concepts for a lay audience had yet to come on the scene.
After World War II Lippmann focused on foreign affairs but revisited economic policy when he saw threats to liberal democracy. In addition to pointing out the significance of the Marshall Plan and the World Bank, he addressed the emerging challenge of inflation and what he called “the riddle of the Sphinx”: whether price stability and full employment could be achieved in an economy with strong unions.
It is unusual for a historical narrative to feature a journalist. Yet…Goodwin employs the writings of the once-famous newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann to describe the fervid U.S. debates that began with the 1929 stock-market crash. The device works beautifully. Lippmann, who wrote from 1931 to 1967, was so prolific, and his correspondence with other thinkers and decision makers was so cogent and extensive, that his oeuvre provides excellent material for examining a crucial moment in American history and essential aspects of the American economy, as hotly debated today as in Lippmann’s time…[An] insightful chronicle.
An excellent study of the man who was probably the most influential economics columnist and commentator of his era, even though he is not usually remembered as such.
This is a timely biography. Lippmann’s concern to navigate through the real complexities and uncertainties of a transitional, even revolutionary, economic era while avoiding the appealing, easy answers was admirable… Lippmann is well worth re-discovering as we continue through our own period of economic and political upheaval, and this book sheds light on what made him an important figure who deserves to be better known.
From the early 1920s until the mid-1960s, Walter Lippmann was among the most prominent American public intellectuals, a sought-after adviser to politicians and the author of many books and more than a thousand articles and columns for The New Republic, the Herald Tribune, and The Washington Post. Goodwin’s worthy book serves to remind readers that Lippmann was more than a mere pundit.
A fascinating glimpse into the workings of a brilliant mind striving mightily to understand the changing world around him and explain it to his readers… In splendid detail, Goodwin traces the process by which Lippmann, influenced by so many different minds from so many different fields, assumed the role that became his mission, that of public economist… No brief summary can do justice to either the richness of Lippmann’s ideas and prose or the skill with which Goodwin has woven his account of them. Quoting Lippmann liberally, the author does a masterful job of meshing disparate elements of material into a coherent narrative with a clarity that matches Lippmann’s own style… Goodwin’s superb work offers readers a fascinating guided tour across the landscape of one of the most unique and fertile minds of our time.
Walter Lippmann set an unmatched standard for a journalist interpreting (and leavening) expert opinion to newspaper readers in the middle third of the twentieth century. He introduced Keynesian macroeconomics to the generation of the New Deal but never lost interest in markets themselves. He precipitated the founding of the Mont Pèlerin Society after World War II but declined to join. And he remained on top of the story well into the Sixties, when the New Economics actually became public policy. It was a golden age. Craufurd Goodwin, who in the forty years that followed became the dean of the history of economic thought in America, has reanimated Lippmann and his approach with an eye to its many lessons for the present day.
Anyone interested in the great economic and political events of the middle of the last century will have encountered Walter Lippmann. The prolific journalist and public intellectual wrote regular newspaper columns and numerous books wrestling with the challenges of economic depression, war, and reconstruction. In this volume, Goodwin provides a synthesis of the evolution of Lippmann’s views on economic issues… Goodwin concludes this fascinating volume with a brief chapter summing up Lippmann’s importance in creating the role of the public intellectual in economic policy.
An insightful biography of esteemed journalist and philosopher Walter Lippmann…Opening up new perspectives on past political debates, Goodwin delivers a finely limned portrait of a man whose career was based on standards and purposes that seem to have largely disappeared from public life.
We have many pundits and probably too many economists. But we have no Walter Lippmann, and Craufurd D. Goodwin’s wonderful biography of the great journalist shows us why this is a tragedy. Lippmann was the voice of the profound generalist fighting the damaging defenders of meaningless abstraction. This is a fascinating book that reminds us how much better public commentary on the economy can be than it is today.
- 424 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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