Date of Award

1995

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Paul F. Paskoff

Abstract

This study traces the origins and evolution of Lyndon Johnson's approach to political economics and the history of related economic policy making during the Johnson presidential years. His populist roots, experience as a liberal legislator from a conservative state in a conservative era, and the maturation of his ideology and economic philosophy--alongside the Keynesian advisers of John Kennedy's New Frontier--form the nucleus of this study's early chapters. His presidential efforts on behalf of full employment, a demand side approach to economic policy, and the "Keynesian revolution" form the second half of the study. Ultimately, this study suggests that President Johnson's consensus politics and Keynesian economic policies were effective at producing continued and increasingly balanced economic growth (across the range of social and economic classes) with relatively stable prices that promised to be more, and not less, stable. It also suggests that Johnson's approach to economic policy, though partly dependent upon and reminiscent of several pseudo-Keynesian precursors, represented a unique and relatively untested attempt at macro and microeconomic policy configuration. More to the point, it suggests that neither the Great Society nor the New Economics (the preferred term for the Kennedy-Johnson economic policies) lay responsible for the inflation and economic instability of the 1970s and beyond. Bound to the political fortunes of President Johnson, the New Economics remained at once a successful and eminently practical attempt at finishing and securing the Keynesian revolution, but also a precarious and uncertain political experiment. Johnson's political decline, therefore, also augured the decline and dissolution of this revolution in political economics. In the end it was the misapprehension and the intentional, but not often explicit, rejection of the New Economics, rather than its own contradictions or lack of economic salience, that doomed this revolution to its premature demise. And it was largely this change, rather than the legacy of the New Economics, that set the stage for a renewed conservatism and renewed economic instability.

Pages

532

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