Today’s economy may seem the bleakest in recent memory: plunging consumer confidence, slumping home prices, a stubbornly high unemployment rate. But as Sylvia Nasar reminds us in “Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius,” in 1933 a full 25% of the nation was out of work, suicides were rising sharply, and stocks were trading at one-fifth of their 1929 prices. Then, as now, public leaders struggled with solving the spiraling economic crisis. In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with John Maynard Keynes, a British economist known for his love of art, his taste in young men and his brilliant if controversial theories. He urged the president to spend more on stimulus programs to shake the country out of its stupor. At a New York dinner the next evening, Keynes told some of his colleagues that every dollar spent by the government — deficit or no — would have a great effect on the nation’s economy. “Were the seven wonders of the world built by thrift?” he once asked. “I doubt it.”
more from Alana Semuels at the LA Times here.