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“The Fiscal Policy Seminar: Its Early Stages” by Richard A. Musgrave

Including a Symposium on Robert Heilbroner at 100

ISBN: 978-1-78769-870-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-869-7

Publication date: 15 October 2019


Alvin Hansen and John Williams’ Fiscal Policy Seminar at Harvard University is widely regarded as a key mechanism for the spread of Keynesianism in the United States. An original and regular participant, Richard A. Musgrave was invited to prepare remarks for the fiftieth anniversary of the seminar in 1988. These were never published, though a copy was filed with Musgrave’s papers at Princeton University. Their reproduction here is important for several reasons. First, it is one of the last reminiscences of the original participants. Second, the remarks make an important contribution to our understanding of the Harvard School of macro-fiscal policy. Third, the remarks provide interesting insights into Musgrave’s views on national economic policymaking as well as the intersection between theory and practice. The reminiscence demonstrates the importance of the seminar in shifting Musgrave’s research focus and moving him to a more pragmatic approach to public finance.




We would like to thank Roger Backhouse and two referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to Daniel J. Linke from Princeton University Library for authorizing the publication of Musgrave’s manuscript.


Desmarais-Tremblay, M. and Johnson, M. (2019), "“The Fiscal Policy Seminar: Its Early Stages” by Richard A. Musgrave", Including a Symposium on Robert Heilbroner at 100 (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 37C), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 147-179.



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