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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Economics After Neoliberalism (Summer 2019) > EVERYDAY ECONOMISTS

EVERYDAY ECONOMISTS

HOW DO WE TALK about economics? Robert Manduca’s essay “Selling Keynesianism” notes a striking connection between the concerns about public education that led Chester Bowles to write Tomorrow Without Fear in 1946 and those that led his son Samuel Bowles to develop the Curriculum Open-Access Resources in Economics (CORE) Project, an innovative economics curriculum for undergraduates. Bowles is a distinguished economist and longtime Boston Review contributor. In this discussion with Boston Review editor Joshua Cohen, Bowles reflects on his father’s work, the connections with his own efforts, and the need for new ways to communicate economics today.

JOSHUA COHEN: I want to talk with you today about economics— both the discipline and efforts to communicate and educate about the discipline. And I want to start with your father, Chester Bowles. He was born in 1901, graduated from Yale in 1924, and started the advertising firm of Benton and Bowles, which was incredibly successful even during the Great Depression. Then during World War II, he ran the Office of Price Administration, working on price and rent controls. After the war, he was governor of Connecticut, ambassador to India (on two different occasions), and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1958.

But of his many accomplishments, the one I want to talk about today is a book he wrote in 1946 called Tomorrow Without Fear. The book is an amazing effort to communicate economic principles to the public.

By way of introduction, I want to share a quote from economist John Kenneth Galbraith. In the New York Times in 1971, Galbraith wrote that your father, who was his friend, possessed “an almost unlimited faith in the possibilities of public persuasion. No one, in his view, is so benighted that he is beyond reach of a convincing memorandum or a good long, persuasive talk…Few men in public life have had greater ability to get a problem into comprehensible form.” That’s an extraordinary statement, and it is absolutely true that Tomorrow Without Fear is an effort at public communication that reads like a good, persuasive talk. The book is now available online due to the good work of issue contributor Robert Manduca. But as an economist yourself, I want to get your view of Tomorrow Without Fear.

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Economics After Neoliberalism offers a powerful case for a new brand of economics—one focused on power and inequality and aimed at a more inclusive society. Three prominent economists—Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman—lead off with a vision “for economic policy that stands as a genuine alternative to market fundamentalism.” Expanding on “the state of creative ferment” they describe, Boston Review has commissioned responses to their essay from economists, philosophers, political scientists, and policymakers across the political spectrum as well as new essays that challenge the current shape of markets and suggest more democratic alternatives. Lenore Palladino explores the misguided logic of shareholder primacy and points to more equitable approaches to corporate governance—such as employee ownership funds. Amy Kapczynski examines how the courts have developed a new, anti-democratic First Amendment that protects corporate speech at the expense of regulation designed to protect public health and safety. And Robert Manduca explores the importance of public discussion about economics by revisiting Chester Bowles's remarkable book, Tomorrow Without Fear, which explained Keynesian ideas to the public after World War II.