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History of the US Economy in the 20th Century

This fast-paced course introduces you to vital economic lessons learned in the last century and provides you with invaluable guidance for understanding the current economy.
History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th Century is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 56.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from History of US Economy in the Twentieth Century Professor Timothy Taylor, though qualified, and competent on the subject, overall is, his lectures is way too fast as if he were in a hurry to catch his flight within the hour. It's a good use very informative, and good for brushing up if you're familiar with the topics.
Date published: 2024-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "To Know the Future Study the Past." In this 1996 course, Professor Taylor has compressed 100 years of the economics into 10 easy lessons. One can use this knowledge as a Congressional "scorecard" that would be predictive of the U.S. economic future. Some relevant quotes: QUOTE #1 "The government took buying power out of the economy with its tax and spending decisions.” (Lecture 4 = L4) Taylor spends a lot of time discussing the causes of depressions. He concludes that mismanagement of the money supply is the primary cause. Prior to the Great Depression came unwarranted tightening due to bank failures, the gold standard, and Federal Reserve indecision. QUOTE #2 "Encouraging growth with rapid monetary expansion might actually cause inflation." (L7): Unfortunately, mismanagement works both ways. Recently Taylor's quote #2 has led to inflation and now a risk of recession after 10 years of "loose money" with extremely low borrowing rates. Interactions include higher imposed housing taxes secondary to extremely high house pricing (itself possible because of stupendously low borrowing costs) and the inability to recoup that investment under more realistic loan conditions. QUOTE #3: The 1930's Stock Market crash was partly due to unsophisticated investment from "…pulling the general public into the market" (L4). Taylor notes that an unfortunately timed August 1929 Ladies Home Journal article on the stock market was entitled: "Everybody Ought to Be Rich". Another "then and now similarity" was a tech bubble (then based on automobiles and appliances). QUOTE #4 "Budget deficits served as an automatic stabilizer for the economy" (L6) since the 1950s. When things go bad, public safety programs continue market functioning temporarily. Though Taylor lambastes FDR's unconstitutional, party-line government spending, we are seeing today a resurgence of it. This is worrisome because both Japan and China have stopped buying US debt. US success (in a time of our declining percentage of global GDP and large trade deficits) depends on avoiding an alternative global reserve currency. QUOTE #5 "…good intentions and activism…were not always reality-based" (L7). EXAMPLE: In my area of Ohio, physicians knew their patients as neighbors with medical problems. We had full practices and two excellent competing hospitals. The middle manager gangs from the Insurance Empire sent in toadies to whisper in each physician's ear that if a doc would sign up with them, he could get another doc's patients and be big stuff. Of course, their real goal was to get a cut of medical money and build more huge insurance buildings in Columbus. Not being economists, too many jumped. Independent practice vanished. Doctors no longer worked for neighbors but to satisfy “procedure codes” provided by their new middle manager rulers with the imprimatur of egotistical “expert committees”. Then the hospitals merged, and the hospital hired our community docs for slashed salaries. The promised "lower costs" of "code-based care" disappeared and medical charges rose astronomically to become Insurance Company CEO/Federal bureaucrat/Hospital CEO salary. Docs quit and were replaced by others with lesser education. Recently a family member of mine had a very small sebaceous cyst removed. Unlike the four times larger one I removed on a bed in my home, this one "required" an outpatient "Surgery Center" bed for $1300 (to change sheets and sterilize 4 instruments) plus surgeon fees of $500 plus another bill we can't figure out. My total in-office charge in 2008 would have been $80. Quote 6 best summarizes Taylor's viewpoint: "There is a short distance from macroeconomic certainty to uncertainty" (L7). The course considers the absolute need for (vs. the pitfalls of) expanding of the money supply. It contains many other themes that will become important as the (non-replacement birth rate) millennial generation matures. The course is clearly not outdated, despite its date of production.
Date published: 2023-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative Ida Tarbell was a woman not a man. She was a muckraker who wrote The History of Standard Oil
Date published: 2022-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great continuity This course ties a lot of loose ends and highlights some long forgotten episodes of feast and famine. The descriptions of the political atmosphere surrounding many of these events provides further insight into the cause and affect of certain actions.
Date published: 2022-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent - made Economics understandable I learned so much and found the ‘class’ fascinating.
Date published: 2022-08-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lots of interesting facts, but.......... Lots of interesting facts but the lecturer speaks way too fast and spits and slurs his words out. I finally gave up after 5 lectures. I did not find the lectures very thought provoking.
Date published: 2021-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information Excellent pace, great detail and interesting presentation
Date published: 2021-11-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great info, speaker too fast The professor was certainly knowledgeable but hard to listen to. Too fast and mono toned
Date published: 2021-03-31
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Speaking with authority and credibility, economist and award-winning Professor Timothy Taylor delivers a wealth of insights into the economic history of the last 100 years of our nation in A History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th Century. This fast-paced course introduces you to vital economic lessons learned in the last century and provides you with invaluable guidance for understanding the current economy. In some cases, you examine well-defined events like the creation of the Federal Reserve. In others, you explore larger societal shifts, such as the evolving role of women in the economy or changing consumption patterns. As Professor Taylor remarks, knowing economic history "helps discussions about the present get off on the right foot, free of at least some of the myths and ignorance that can so easily lead us astray."


Timothy Taylor

My wife says that I am an evangelist, with economics as my religion. I'm not sure this is altogether a good thing! But maybe it explains my enthusiasm for prepping and giving these lectures.


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 Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the Master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

In 2007, Professor Taylor published the first Principles of Economics textbook, available as a free download from Freeload Press. He has also edited a wide range of books and reports and published articles on globalization, the new economy, and outsourcing. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News.

By This Professor

Unexpected Economics
The Curtain Opens on the 20th Century

01: 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.

45 min
Big Government Is Conceived—Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, World War I

02: 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.

44 min
The Roaring 1920s

03: 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.

45 min
The Depression Decade of the 1930s

04: 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.

45 min
The 1940s—World War II and its Aftermath

05: 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.

45 min
The Quiet Boom of the 1950s

06: 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.

45 min
The 1960s and the End of Certainty

07: 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.

45 min
Stagflation and the 1970s

08: 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.

45 min
A Decade of Debt—The 1980s

09: 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.

46 min
Inequality and Insecurity in the 1990s

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.

46 min