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The Shaping of Public Economic Discourse in Postwar America: The 1947 Meat Shortage and Franco Modigliani’s Meat Plan

A Research Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78441-858-8, eISBN: 978-1-78441-857-1

Publication date: 8 April 2015


This paper discusses the American debate over price controls and economic stabilization after World War II, when the transition from a war economy to a peace economy was characterized by bottlenecks in the productive system and shortages of food and other basic consumer goods, directly affecting the living standard of the population, the public opinion, and political discourse. Specifically, we will focus on the economist Franco Modigliani and his proposal for a “Plan to meet the problem of rising meat and other food prices without bureaucratic controls.” The plan prepared by Modigliani in October 1947 was based on a system of taxes and subsidies to foster a proper distribution of disposable income and warrant a minimum meat consumption for each individual without encroaching market mechanisms and consumers’ freedom. We will discuss the contents of the plan and its further refinements, and the reactions it prompted from fellow economists, the public opinion, and the political world. Although the Plan was not eventually implemented, it was an important initiative for several reasons: first, it showed the increasing importance of fiscal policy among postwar government tools of intervention in the economic sphere; second, it showed a third way between direct government intervention and full-fledged laissez faire, in tune with the postwar political climate; third, it proposed a Keynesian macroeconomic approach to price and income stabilization, strongly based on econometric and microeconomic foundations. The Meat Plan was thus a fundamental step in Modigliani’s effort to build the “neoclassical synthesis” between Keynesian and Neoclassical economics, which would deeply influence his own career and the evolution of academic studies and government practices in the United States.




This article was part of a project on the “Archival Papers of Italian Economists” funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. We are grateful to the participants in the 2010 History of Economics Society who commented on an earlier version of this paper, and especially to Daniela Parisi and Luca Fiorito.


Alacevich, M., Asso, P.F. and Nerozzi, S. (2015), "The Shaping of Public Economic Discourse in Postwar America: The 1947 Meat Shortage and Franco Modigliani’s Meat Plan", A Research Annual (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 33), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-42.



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