Bertil Ohlin was a most active commentator on current economic events in the interwar period, combining his academic work with a journalistic output of an impressive scale. He published more than a thousand newspaper articles in the 1920s and 1930s, more than any other professor in economics in Sweden.
Here we have collected 10 articles by Ohlin, translated from Swedish and originally published in Stockholms-Tidningen, to trace the evolution of his thinking during the Great Depression of the 1930s. These articles, spanning roughly half a decade, bring out his response to the stock market crisis in New York in 1929, his views on monetary policy in 1931, on fiscal policy and public works in 1932, his reaction to Keynes’ ideas in 1932 and 1933 and to Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1933, and, finally, his stand against state socialism in 1935.
At the beginning of the depression, Ohlin was quite optimistic in his outlook. But as the downturn in the world economy deepened, his optimism waned. He dealt with proposals for bringing the Swedish economy out of the depression, and reported positively on the policy views of Keynes. At an early stage, he recommended expansionary fiscal and monetary policies including public works. This approach permeated the contributions of the young generation of Swedish economists arising in the 1930s, eventually forming the Stockholm School of Economics. He was critical of passive Manchester liberalism, ‘folded-arms evangelism’ as well of socialism while promoting his own brand of ‘active social liberalism’.
We have received generous support from the Tore Browaldh Foundation for compiling the newspaper articles by Ohlin and for translating this sample of articles. The late Geoffrey French skillfully translated the articles from Swedish into English.
Carlson, B. and Jonung, L. (2015), "Ohlin on the Great Depression: Ten Newspaper Articles 1929–1935", A Research Annual (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 32), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 299-348. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0743-415420140000032008
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