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Knut Wicksell Centre for Financial Studies, Lund University Knut Wicksell Working Paper Series, Knut Wicksell Centre for Financial Studies, Lund University

No 2013/9:
Ohlin on the Great Depression

Benny Carlson () and Lars Jonung ()

Abstract: 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 ten 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”.

Keywords: Bertil Ohlin; Sweden; Great Depression; Keynes; Stockholm School of Economics; countercyclical polices; public works; liberalism; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: B22; B31; E12; N12; N14; (follow links to similar papers)

58 pages, June 19, 2013

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