A Perilous Progress: Economists and Public Purpose in Twentieth-Century America
Michael A. BernsteinISBN: 0691119678; 9780691119670;
The economics profession in twentieth-century America began as a humble quest to understand the "wealth of nations." It grew into a profession of immense public prestige--and now suffers a strangely withered public purpose. Michael Bernstein portrays a profession that has ended up repudiating the state that nurtured it, ignoring distributive justice, and disproportionately privileging private desires in the study of economic life. Intellectual introversion has robbed it, he contends, of the very public influence it coveted and cultivated for so long. With wit and irony he examines how a community of experts now identified with uncritical celebration of ''free market'' virtues was itself shaped, dramatically so, by government and collective action. In arresting and provocative detail Bernstein describes economists' fitful efforts to sway a state apparatus where values and goals could seldom remain separate from means and technique, and how their vocation was ultimately humbled by...