History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th Century

Course No. 529
Professor Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
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Course No. 529
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Course Overview

When Professor Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the prestigious Journal of Economic Perspectives, tells you that the stock market crash of 1929 was not a substantial cause of the Great Depression and that F.D.R.'s New Deal may have actually slowed economic recovery, he speaks with authority and credibility.

Those are only two insights that run counter to common understanding of U.S. economic history. That history is far too interesting—and far too important to our future—to be dismissed with a few stock explanations.

Vital Economic Lessons of the Last Century

This fast-paced course introduces you to vital economic lessons learned in the last century to provide invaluable guidance for understanding the current economy.

Each of 10 lectures focuses exclusively on one decade to achieve a clear understanding of economic developments and outside influences on the U.S. economy.

In some cases, you examine well-defined events like the creation of the Federal Reserve or the war in Vietnam. In other lectures, you explore larger societal shifts, such as the evolving role of women in the economy and changing consumption patterns.

"Of course, knowing what happened in economic history does not offer easy answers to today's problems," states Professor Taylor. "Times change; the past rarely offers a perfect template for the present.

"But knowing the history does help discussions about the present to get off on the right foot, free of at least some of the myths and ignorance that can so easily lead us astray. As always in the study of history, knowing where you came from helps us to learn who you are and where you are."

Professor Taylor takes care to ensure that you can follow this course clearly regardless of your knowledge of economics.

He uses historical examples and quotes from economists and other notables, and his use of economic reasoning often brings surprising insight.

He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. At Stanford University he won the award for excellent teaching in a large class given by the Associated Students of Stanford University.

At the University of Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics.

Explore the U.S. Economy Decade by Decade

"An economy operates on many levels, and so must these lectures," states Professor Taylor. "The discussion must touch on the lives of ordinary people: their patterns of consumption, work, and education. It must describe the rise and fall of industrial conditions and unions.

"At the national level, the discussion moves to government budget and monetary policies and the conditions of growth, employment, and inflation. Finally, at the international level, there are issues of how people, capital, and goods flow across borders."

A decade-by-decade course structure includes memorable milestones.

For example:

  • In adjusted numbers, the per capita GDP of 1900 would equal $5,000. This GDP per capita of $5,000 was a fifth of what it was in 2000. This was still a high standard of living.
  • During World War I, the U.S. ran a trade surplus due to an increase in exports, using the earnings to pay off debts and make loans to European countries.
  • In the 1920s automobiles became the country's largest industry and led the way to other inventions.
  • Mismanagement of monetary policy was the main cause of the Great Depression.
  • The Employment Act of 1946 gave the federal government the responsibility to maintain high employment, growth, and stable prices.
  • The broader public policy agenda of the 1950s was quiet. Other than the Korean War, the government enacted few major policies. It is unknown if this economic stability was healthy or stagnant.
  • Productivity slowed down dramatically during the late 1960s and early 1970s and had terrible effects on the U.S. economy.
  • The strangling inflation of the 1970s spilled over into the early 1980s. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker used a recession to break the inflation.
  • In the 1990s perception of job insecurity differed from reality. Job insecurity led to economic insecurity.

Lecture 1, the 1900s. You discuss the status of both the country and the economy at the turn of the century as well as the role of the federal government regarding mergers, social legislation, and inflation. "Overall," notes Professor Taylor, "this decade is marked by financial chaos."

Lecture 2, the 1910s. You discuss the government's creation of various federal institutions and the consequences that World War I had on both the government and the economy as a whole. You also examine Frederick Taylor's concept of scientific management and conclude with a discussion of the gentle changes in living standards.

Lecture 3, the 1920s. Although titled "The Roaring 1920s," you begin with a discussion of the Recession of 1920-1921. This recession was followed by the consumption boom marked by the transforming technologies of electricity and the automobile as well as developments in macroeconomic policy. It is this boom which then gave the decade its nickname.

Lecture 4, the 1930s. The fourth lecture highlights the Great Depression, which you learn was most likely caused by a mismanaged monetary policy. You also examine the merits of the New Deal and its role in U.S. economic recovery.

Lecture 5, the 1940s. World War II and its aftermath dominated the 1940s. You survey the economic effects of the war and examine how they actually contributed to the country's economic recovery. More specifically, you look at the war's effects on the federal budget and the reshaping of the U.S. economy. You conclude with an examination of the global institutions built by the U.S. to restore trust in the world.

Lecture 6, the 1950s. "Our task in Lecture 6 is to determine whether or not the quiet boom of the 1950s was beneficial for the U.S. economy," says Professor Taylor. You learn that while this decade revealed many healthy signs of prosperity, it remained plagued by controversies and, thus, future economic uncertainty.

Lecture 7, the 1960s. You pick up with the uncertainty as you investigate the 1960s. You look at the various ways that macroeconomic issues influence the way our country is run. You also discuss the building of the Great Society and antitrust and immigration issues.

Lecture 8, the 1970s. This uncertainty takes you to the confusion of stagflation which lingered throughout the 1970s: two recessions and the creation of price controls, floating exchange rates, and expanding global trade. You also closely examine the productivity slowdown of the 1970s.

Lecture 9, the 1980s. You examine the effects of 1970s inflation on 1980s economic stability. This leads into a discussion of the causes and consequences of the budget and trade deficits. You also look at changing market structure and its effects on deregulation.

Lecture 10, the 1990s. To conclude, you focus on misperceptions of the inequality and insecurities of the 1990s and discuss an economic and social agenda for the 21st century.

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10 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    The Curtain Opens on the 20th Century
    This introductory lecture previews the course. Beginning with the 1900s, we look at the demographics and economics of the time and make comparisons to the present day. This leads into a discussion of the popular issues of the decade. We look at the federal government and how it began its role in economic policy. We examine how inflation, the gold standard, and the Panic of 1907 led to financial chaos. x
  • 2
    Big Government Is Conceived—Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, World War I
    During the second decade of the 20th century, the government created and developed institutions that shored up the country's economy, including the federal income tax, the Federal Reserve, and antitrust legislation. World War I transformed the United States into an international creditor and increased both government spending and revenue. The government created a federal debt ceiling, regulated labor, and nationalized certain industries. Finally, the war boom led to a recession. Meanwhile, both business and government adapted Frederick Taylor's ideas of scientific management. x
  • 3
    The Roaring 1920s
    Before discussing the decade's boom, we examine the causes and consequences of the recession of 1920–21. Electrification and the automobile fed a consumption boom and greatly affected the U.S. economy. Also, the government and the Federal Reserve used macroeconomic policy to spur growth that led to virtuous circles which in turn led to increased inequality. Limits on immigration, expansion of the education system, and the electrification of industry affected labor conditions. Finally we learn about the connection between economic growth and rising wages, and the importance of putting economic transformations into perspective. x
  • 4
    The Depression Decade of the 1930s
    This lecture describes both the notoriety and the causes of the Great Depression. Causes included the stock market crash, a decline in aggregate demand, and most importantly, mismanagement of monetary policy. We discuss the major elements of the New Deal and assess their merits and economic viability. While many of the regulations created during the 1930s benefited society, they did little to produce an economic recovery. x
  • 5
    The 1940s—World War II and its Aftermath
    This lecture discusses how World War II led to tremendous growth but was not the sole factor in ending the Great Depression. The war did expand the income tax, raise the government debt, and increase the size of the federal government. It also reshaped the economy as a whole; the government intervened in markets, unions grew, jobs shifted in nature, wages compressed, labor markets for minorities changed, health care spending rose, and the baby boom began. Finally the U.S. government contributed to rebuilding global institutions by developing the Marshall Plan, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. x
  • 6
    The Quiet Boom of the 1950s
    The lecture starts with a summary of the first half of the century and then a discussion of the economy of the 1950s. This decade, realized healthy growth but also produced a feeling of stagnation as unemployment, inflation, and public policy slowed as the 1950s neared a close. The decade had both health as well as difficulties that would persist throughout the rest of the century. Healthy signs included gains in wealth, science, technology, and education, and a decline in the poverty rate. But concerns rose about the military industrial complex, urban decline, exposure to foreign trade, unionization, and the growth of service sector jobs. x
  • 7
    The 1960s and the End of Certainty
    In this lecture we discuss how macroeconomic uncertainty affected the economy. Tax cuts, as well as increased military and social spending, marked this decade. Similarly the Great Society was established, based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Medicare and Medicaid, the War on Poverty, the expansion of the regulatory state, and scientific research and exploration. Finally, sentiment toward antitrust and immigration changed. x
  • 8
    Stagflation and the 1970s
    Snarling inflation and roaring stagflation marked the 1970s as wage and price controls combined with oil shortages led to two recessions. The decade also faced a return to the global economy as the country instituted both floating exchange rates and increased global trade. Most importantly, a major slowdown in productivity affected the 1970s. Finally the government enacted new welfare entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. x
  • 9
    A Decade of Debt—The 1980s
    The early 1980s still felt the effects of 1970s inflation. Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker used recessions to finally end the devastating inflation. We discuss how a combination of increased defense spending, the income tax cut, the expansion of Social Security, and the higher government interest payments caused the trade and budget deficits. The consequences of these deficits included the crowding-out of domestic investment, the growing trade deficit, the returning of the United States to debtor nation status, and the slowing of long-term growth. Finally markets changed as deregulation hit the airline, savings and loan, and oil industries. Also, IBM and AT&T faced antitrust concerns, and the popularity of mergers and leveraged buyouts increased. x
  • 10
    Inequality and Insecurity in the 1990s
    This final lecture compares the current standard of living with the one at the turn of the century. We discuss the largely misunderstood insecurities of the 1990s workplace. The decade began with low job growth and a minor recession, and a boom in mergers and increased inequality also contributed to a feeling of insecurity. We discuss a possible economic agenda for the 21st century. We discuss the prudent use of monetary policy to prevent inflation and recessions, the benefits of opening global trade, and the importance of reducing the federal budget deficit. Also we discuss the power of markets and the importance of planning for the aging of the baby boomers, getting the most out of all people in the workforce, and nurturing the various seeds of growth. x

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Your professor

Timothy Taylor

About Your Professor

Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
Professor Timothy Taylor is Managing Editor of the prominent Journal of Economic Perspectives, published by the American Economic Association. He earned his Master's degree in Economics from Stanford University. Professor Taylor has won student-voted teaching awards for his Introductory Economics classes at Stanford University. At the University of Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of...
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Reviews

History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th Century is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 48.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 80% Great! In this series of ten lectures, Professor Timothy Taylor dynamically presents the history of the US economy in the 20th century. The course is simply and efficiently organized by decade, 45 minutes being devoted to each. Professor Taylor is very lively and succeeds in communicating vast quantities of information and analysis. He links phenomena that many non-specialists would see as distinct, such as the creation of the Federal Reserve and the existence of the gold standard. He insists on a broad view of the economy, encompassing for instance genral life conditions of the American population. The course dates back to the 1990’s, indeed to Bill Clinton’s presidency. It is amusing to hear references to « courses on tape » and to hear Professor Taylor refer to 2010 as the distant future! The negative impact for the current listener is that the last two decades of the century are treated with inadequate perspective so that Professor Taylor’s assertions come out more like opinion than analysis. Overall, the first eight lectures make this a very worthwhile series. It is unfortunate the final two lectures have not been updated.
Date published: 2015-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A brilliant insight into 20th century economics Where this course succeeds is it's clear and interesting lecturer. Mr. Taylor is an engaging lecturer whom regularly hints at what will come in the future. Whenever a new concept is introduced, Mr. Taylor regularly gives a brief context as to what that institution will end up doing. The lectures are incredibly unbiased. At no point did i feel like i was getting preached to. Mr. Taylor goes out of his way to explain the failures and hypocrisy of both sides of an issue. Another great thing is that he understands that history isn't a set of facts. For some concepts such as stagflation, Mr. Taylor gives a plethora of reasons as to why it occurred, he then proceeds to give his views on the most likely causes while also noting that there is no definitive answer. As many other reviewers note, the one problem is that this course is painfully dated. I'd like to see an update that linked some of what is talked about back to the 21st century.
Date published: 2015-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Outdated Window into the Past Twenty years ago, this would have been a masterful course. It would have been praised for its in depth, approach, and possible solutions for the future. It still represents the optimism and hopefulness of the economists in the late twentieth century. Even now, it is still a valuable source of information and remains a genuinely good look at the development of the US economy in the twentieth century. However, this course rather desperately needs to be updated. Not only can it provide a complete look at the 90s, which immediately predated a brief recession in 2001, but can offer a perspective on the early twenty-first century. One of Timothy Taylor's suggestions such as the removal of glass steagall and the likelihood that we would never fall into another great depression have now become the most irritatingly outdated parts of his lectures. Though whether or not glass-steagall allowed 2008 to happen is still hotly debated, that there is such debate amongst economists and politicians suggests its importance. I do not mean to place any blame on the professor, Taylor's economic courses are the best I have ever had. However, the economic discipline as a whole made several misjudgements about the nature of the economy, and this course needs to be updated to reflect that. Until then, I have to give 4 stars. I still recommend it as a highly useful tool for instruction, but out of all the courses I have taken thus far, this one is beginning to truly show its age.
Date published: 2015-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many key economic lessons from the last century This course reminds us of many lessons we can learn from the economic history of the last century. Tim Taylor prepared this course in 1998 so don't expect it to be up-to-date in the sense of predicting anything about the "Great Recession" of 2008-2012, the rise of the BRICs, the increase in derivatives as a form of investing/speculation, or even the dot-com bust of 2000-01. But the course does provide a very good synopsis of what the impact of various economic policies were during the 20th century and, necessarily, gives a perspective on the 20th century's economic history from near the end of that century. This removes some of the nostalgic attribution that certain policies (and U.S. presidents) of the last century are given today. Some key things the student will learn include: 1.The motivation for the Federal Reserve, 2. What really caused the Roaring Twenties and the Crash of 29, 3.What Hoover did right and what he did wrong, 4.How FDR changed his tune from what he promised during the campaign to what he had to implement (e.g. the Bank Holiday) from his first days in office, 5.How much of the New Deal policies failed, and what really caused the "double dip" in the depression, 6.How unlike conventional wisdom, WWII may not have been necessary to drive the US out of the depression, 7.How high taxes on wealthy during Ike's terms fed recessions, 8.How Johnson's Great Society programs, while seemingly good ideas, had long lasting negative unintended consequences, 9.How inflation got out of hand during the Nixon-Ford-Carter years and how Volcker policies might have fundamentally trumped inflation for decades (but not without a recession or two or more thrown in).,, 10.How Reagan's policies really drove deficit spending to new plateaus which set the stage for future repeat behaviors,11.How deregulation of airlines and telecom lead to more innovations, 12.How rampant consumerism drove trade deficits and jobs overseas, 13. How government debt impinges on private debt and reduces capital spending on manufacturing equipment and other drivers of economic growth while debt service reduces government spending on infrastructure and social programs, and most importantly , 13.How monetary policy has more impact on economic cycles than government fiscal policies. Mr. Taylor repeats an important message several times; well intended policy decisions need to be rationalized against hard nosed economic criteria. Mr. Taylor acknowledges that economics is not an exact science both in the context of how decisions were made during each decade and in the debate in hindsight among economic historians about the consequences of those decisions. Nevertheless he presents lots of facts about what economic results were the by product of various global events and policy implementations. While the age of this course won't completely satisfy those who are looking for an explanation of how economic history impacted what is going on in today's (2015) economy, it certainly provides a framework of the cause and effect relationship between fiscal, trade, war, and monetary policy on the economy. The accompanying course guide is in outline form and adequate. References to sources of various economic statistics are helpful as is the bibliography. The tables of economic data are particularly useful. Mr. Taylor is a dynamic and enthusiastic lecturer. He speaks with inflection and at a good rapid pace. As a result, this is one TGC course where audio only is sufficient. Without hesitation I recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Things fall into place Another great course from Professor Taylor. I was struck by the way economic events in the history of the previous century influence our current economy in such a direct way. The course provides a thorough and interesting survey of the topic.
Date published: 2013-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course that needs to be updated I first listened to this course about 10 years ago, on cassette, when the length of standard lecture was 45mins in length. I recently re-purchased the audio download to re-visit the course. It was excellent then, and it still is. I suspect I will once again listen to these lectures in the future. Yes, it is that good. What this course is not: Economics 101. It is not a history of economic thought or debate in the 20th century. It is not American History. What it is: A history of the US economy, looking back from either late 20th century or early 21st century thinking. Each lecture takes on a decade. I'm not sure if this is the best demarcation of economic events, but it works very well here. This course is standalone, but it will dovetail nicely into any other US History course. You will learn, for instance, how it is that employers pay for health insurance in the USA (Lecture 5 on the 1940s). Prof. Taylor stays away from moralizing about big events -- such as the Vietnam War -- but reflects on them in terms of the economic impact. Prof. Taylor presents and explains the material well. He is first rate. I am, like some of the other reviewers, a repeat buyer of Prof Taylor courses because of this. I am also a repeat listener to his courses in particular. This course if first-rate. ONE BIG DRAWBACK: This course needs to be updated to account for the last 15 years of the century. I suspect it was recorded in the late 1990s or very early 2000s. For instance, in lecture 9, it was still too early to tell about some of the economic policies of the 1980s until we had 20 years of history in which to judge. We have those years now. Lecture 10, on the 1990s, focused more on what was to come in the 21st century rather than on the 1990s. Prof. Taylor seemed to be in the 1990s as so could not really comment on their economic effects. Because this course is now limited to a digital download and there is no "media item" on which to fit lectures, I would suggest updating this course -- especially lectures 9 and 10 -- and then possibly including a lecture 11 on something like "From the 20th Century into the 21st Century: How the economy fared in the 2000s." This would allow Prof. Taylor to clean up the last two lectures and also give him the platform to speculate as he did at the end of lecture 10.
Date published: 2013-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great U.S. Econ Overview This was the third of Prof. Taylor's courses that I purchased and it was just as good as the others. Whereas his general Economics course was more a survey of current topics that need to be understood, the focus of this course was more limited but certainly more detailed yet not to the point of losing my interest. As I've mentioned in my other reviews, I have no econ background whatsoever however found this course fun (because of Prof. Taylor) and very instructive - I walked away from it with a good overall understanding of 20th century economics history (and to some extent how 20th century conflicts were based upon it). I plan to listen to this course again to pick up some of the finer details.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How could it be better? This was the second economics-related course I've taken from The Great Courses, and it was the best yet, as well as the best course of any kind, overall (see ratings). The course description provided as part of its advertising is pretty much on the mark. I found out that some of what I thought I knew was either wrong or misunderstood, and it was mostly in the areas of "common knowledge," mostly regarding the Great Depression. I especially enjoyed Prof. Taylor's enthusiasm as he presented the material. As a result, I'm looking forward to his next two courses. I found his perspective to be quite apolitical, so that it didn't get into the way of the learning at all. That's not a mean feat, given that modern history and economics are tightly entwined with politics, and government intervention in economic systems has become so common as to become accepted as appropriate, even when it isn't. So, how COULD it be better? I thought there were only two weak areas in the lectures (perhaps because they were the ones I'm most familiar with). First, Taylor didn't give enough attention to the paradigm shift in taxation/economic theory that was attempted by President Reagan, and the fact that although sweeping, it was far from complete, nor did it completely "take." He DID bring out some little understood nuances of the Volcker recovery and the transition period between the Carter and Reagan presidencies. Second, the final lecture on the nineties was the weakest of all, perhaps because it was delivered during the time period it covered or very soon thereafter. Without enough time to age in history, that decade's economic history is probably still being written. I don't see what Taylor could have done about that, though. I found his argument that we need to add more emphasis to K-6 education to improve our chances of success in the competitive world to be very interesting, and not one I've heard before. I liked the chronologically restricted format. My thought would be that the material was perhaps a bit rushed, all the way through the course. As opposed to some other Great Courses (which can be mind-bogglingly long), maybe this one is too short and should be expanded a bit, with a thirty-minute lecture covering each five year period. That would expand it to twenty half-hour lectures, twenty-two if he were to add the first decade of this century. I realize that it is probably impractical to re-do this course in the way I suggest; however, if it were to be revised and upgraded, it could be left "as is" through 1980, then perhaps redone as lectures organized by Presidential terms. Given that we often think of economic events in terms of the Presidents who were involved with them, and we assume that the Presidents have some effect on them, that might be an interesting way to bring us forward into the current decade. I acknowledge that there are drawbacks to such an approach as well, but I would buy that kind of upgrade.
Date published: 2011-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Quick Economic History This course is shorter than most but its suits the topic well. Covering each decade from multiple views and examining key events in those decades. Great for people who enjoy economics and modern history.
Date published: 2011-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great All Around! I really found this course to be interesting! The instructor is entertaining and very organized and actually talked about a lot of things associated with the History of the US Economy in the 20th Century that I had NEVER thought about! I would HIGHLY recommend this course! I have listened to it a few times now and I am still getting bits that I didnt get before!
Date published: 2010-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Lecturer Since I've been out of school, I've been looking for the intellectual stimulation of a good course, without the cost and associated assignments from a professor. I took a chance a couple of TTC courses. By and large the courses were good. Some did not hold my attention to the end. However, Professor Taylor's was by far my favorite. I went on to purchase the 'Legacies of Great Economists' and liked it even more. Professor Taylor has a quick speaking pace, but it's infused with excellent use of inflection. He gives life to a subject that can easily be killed by a monotonous speaking style. I should disclose that I love economics in the first place, so I'm biased to like the subject matter. With that said, I think his lecture style would be engaging whatever the subject. I think his treatment of the subject could be appreciated by anyone at level of understanding in economics, though having a background certainly would help. My only complaint is that I prefer the shorter, 30 minute lectures. At times I have to break up the 45 minute lectures.
Date published: 2010-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Conceived and Presented Although dated -- the course was prepared in the latter part of the 1990s -- Professor Taylor's course is an excellent survey of 20th century US economic history. The format is very appealing -- one 45 minute lecture for each decade of the century -- and Prof. Taylor does a good job of packing each lecture with lots of facts, statistics and insights. The course is both macro and micro in scope -- Prof. Taylor discusses GDP growth, tax policy and the like while at the same time conveying a real sense of what it was like to live in America in each of the covered decades. While some of Prof. Taylor's predictions appear off the mark in light of current events -- it would be interesting for him to provide an 11th "postscript" lecture -- his discussion of the past -- and particuarly the more distant past -- is very well done. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2009-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IMPERATIVE to teach/understand U. S. history Tim Taylor has an incredible grasp of economics as well as a magical ability to describe the most complex concepts in a manner that laymen can understand. Without his decade-by-decade economic assessments of 20th century U. S. history, I and other professors would lack the ability to meld economics into traditional political and social history. I listen to Tim's tapes before teaching each segment of 20th century U. S. history. His description of what led up to the Great Depression (and that economists are still debating why it happened) provides me the insights that permit me to teach the period in a knowledgeable manner. For each decade, Tim provides the economic background on which the poitical and social canvas is painted. LBJ's Great Ssociety/vietnam economic omlette, for example, is described in a manner that permits the listener to see why an economic downturn was inevitable. Tim also provides economic assessments that make non-economists stop and think. For those who believe that WW II was the major reason that the ending of the Great Depression and the economic growth in the 1940s depended principally on WW II, Tim provides a credible alternative. In modern history, economics is the straw that stirs the political and social drink. Sip from Tim and you'll appreciate this.
Date published: 2009-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IMPERATIVE to understand/teach U. S. history Tim Taylor has an incredible grasp of economics as well as a magical ability to describe the most complex concepts in a manner that laymen can understand. Without his decade-by-decade economic assessment of 20th century U. S. history, I and other professors would lack the ability to meld economics into traditional political and social history. I listen to Tim's tapes before teaching each segment of 20th century history. His description of what led up to the Great Depression (and that economists are still debating why it happened) provides me the insights that permit me to teach the period in a knowledgeable manner. For each decade, Tim provides the economic background on which the political and social canvas is painted. LBJ's Great Scoeity/Vietnam economic omelette, for example, is described in a manner that permits the listener to see why an economic downturn was inevitable. Tim also provides economic assessments that make non-economists stop and think. For those who believe that WW II was the major reason that the Great Depression ended and that economic growth in the 1940s depended principally on WW II, Tim provides a credible alternative. In modern history, economics is the straw that stirs the political and social drink. Sip from Tim and you'll appreciate this. Keith Wheelock
Date published: 2009-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I wish there was more of this This is a very engaging course. I love the humor and the way the course was organized. Each lecture covered a decade of the 20th century. I was sad to hear it end.
Date published: 2009-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of 20th Century US Economy This is a really insightful and fun survey of the US economy during the 1900s. Taylor's speaking style is quite fun and easy to listen to. He takes you decade by decade through economic history, and makes it come alive. He also makes a puzzle out of each decade: why did the 1930s slump go on so long? why did the 1970s stagnate? etc. He then puts the major competing explanations in contest with one another, and investigates whether the facts support the explanation. Very fun...I wish he'd do it for the 1800s!
Date published: 2009-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good course It's interesting and I enjoyed it, though this is not one I'd relisten to over and over...
Date published: 2009-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Definitely Fast-Paced Professor Taylor was my first exposure to the Teaching Company. While I had little problem with his rapid-fire delivery in this course, others may not be so fortunate. The problem is trying to explain a decade of economic change within 30 minutes. In spite of this, the course was well worth it and provided many new insights into why the 20th century shaped up the way that it did.
Date published: 2009-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Economic History Primer This is a must set for anyone who wants to understand the history of the US. Econ history is a much overlooked field that tends to have major consequences - both in inaction and over-reaction. It's format of decade by decade, instead of by topic, is an interesting one and makes things easer to follow as a starting point, especially for those who've never studied the subject. There will be a few who'll disagree with some of his positions (he agrees with Freedman more then Keynes) but, of course, you put a dozen economists in a room and you'll have 20 different opinions on one topic.
Date published: 2009-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Puts the Current Economic Situation in Perspective The historical perspective offered by this course is definitely helpful in understanding our current economic situation, although I found it scary to see many historical parallels and the repeated inability of economic leaders to grasp situations and make good decisions -- let's hope our current leaders know better and can do better. As a lecturer, I found Taylor to be generally well informed and certainly quite enthusiastic, though he's somewhat hyper and tends to talk fast, barely allowing himself or us time to catch our breath. His whirlwind delivery, combined with the 45-minute lecture length, demands sustained concentration. In the beginning, I didn't mind that so much and was willing to give Taylor that attention, but by the last lecture I have to say that I was ready for the course to end. Generally, I would have preferred that Taylor calmed down a bit, and emphasized themes more, rather than trying to cram as much detail into the lectures as possible. Perhaps a longer course would have helped to decompress the lectures, though I did find it intellectually convenient to have one lecture per decade. One reviewer noted that Taylor has conservative leanings -- and I don't disagree -- although I didn't find this to be too severe or problematic, and he does make it pretty clear when he's expressing his own interpretations and opinions. Overall though, I would say that this is a good course which I can recommend, especially considering the importance of economics and the value that a historical perspective brings to the subject; it seems to me that basic historical comparisons might be just as valuable as fancy theoretical analyses, maybe even more so. The main prerequisites for this course are a general interest in economics and a familiarity with basic economic principles. Familiarity with US history wouldn't hurt, but isn't mandatory.
Date published: 2009-01-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from HIstory of Economic Policy not the Economy I didn't care for this course because I was expecting a much more detailed history of the economy: sources of productivity growth, employment shifts by sector, changes in the terms of trade and patterns of trade, business history, history of entreprenuers, the increase in the non profit sector and government employment etc. Instead the course seemed more focused on economic policy and economic theory in relation to history. If you are interested in the history of economic policy you may like this course better than I did. I was happy to see that the notes to the course corrected an error that the professor had made in a lecture. That increased the reputation of the teaching company and the professor in my mind.
Date published: 2009-01-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting, But Somewhat Flawed Good course as a primer, but does appear to have a bit of a conservative tilt in places, especially when it comes to the Great Depression. There are a lot of respected economists (including the most recent Nobel winner) who I don't think would agree with Taylor's praise for Hoover and scorn for FDR.
Date published: 2009-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Puts the current economic crisis in perspective In addition to being a fun and interesting history course loaded with lots of anecdotal stories and facts, this course accomplishes two major goals: 1. It helps you understand where we are as a country economically and how we got here. 2. It puts current economic situations in perspective. All courses by Prof Taylor are excellent. I was sad when the last lecture ended. I've listened to this course twice and plan to listen to it again in a few months.
Date published: 2009-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clearly understands the theory and the history! Very interesting, and well put together. This program is useful for both the beginner as well as someone who has a lot of economic background (and not so much economic history). It really helps to pin down real points where the theory can come alive, and where the theory had yet to be fully developed. Will and have purchased additional Taylor courses.
Date published: 2009-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Taylor does a wonderful job of presenting what many would consider "a boring topic" into something very interesting by combining history and economics together to see how it has played out in the real world. This course has helped me understand the realities of our economy and has helped me to avoid falling into some of the "pitfalls" that bi-partisan Amercans fall into. I look forward to listening to some more of his classes.
Date published: 2008-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great economic history course I keep this on my iPod to listen to whenever I need to remember a point or put something into its proper place in American history. I like the fact Professor Taylor has neatly divided his lectures into the decades of the 20th century. That makes it easy to keep things in order. Terrific course.
Date published: 2008-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very enjoyable experience
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I thoroughly enjoy the information and insights given by a truly select group of outstanding teachers.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Your courses make complex material totally understandable!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Teaching Company presents a wonderful opportunity for those who enjoy the learning experience.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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