Perspectives on Michael A. Bernstein's a perilous progress: Economists and public purpose in twentieth-century America

Esther Mirjam Sent*, Roger E. Backhouse, A. W.Bob Coats, John B. Davis, Harald Hagemann, Michael A. Bernstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-146
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of the History of Economic Thought
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005

Bibliographical note

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A Perilous Progress rightly stresses the significance of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the United States’s first secret service founded by President Roosevelt during World War II, and the Rand Corporation in California, founded by the US Air Force after World War II to retain several of the experts who had contributed to the war effort for the subsequent evolution of mathematical economics and econometrics. The book also mentions the recruitment policies of the OSS, directed by the Harvard economist Edward S. Mason, due to which many famous economists came to work for the OSS assessing the enemies’ economic and military capabilities (p. 80). Some of the names in Bernstein’s list, such as Leontief and, in particular, the Marxist economists Paul Baran22 and Paul Sweezy, suggest leftist leanings. What may seem odd to today’s critics of the CIA is ‘the connection during and after the war between so many former leftist intellectuals and institutions like the OSS and the Rand Corporation’ (Krohn 1993: 176). However, at the time it made sense for many emigrated economists with expert knowledge of the German war economy to work for institutions such as the OSS. Some of them made their long-time United States careers that way, such as Herbert Block.23

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