Wesley Mitchell’s Business Cycles After 100 Years
This paper revisits economist Wesley Mitchell’s classic text, Business Cycles (1913), and assess its impact on economic and political thought in the years prior to the Keynesian Revolution. It describes the key contributions of the book and outlines Mitchell’s career and progression as an economist. It emphasizes the book’s influence on three groups—empirical economists, economic forecasters, and policy makers. For all three, in different ways, Mitchell’s Business Cycles seemed to offer new and exciting possibilities for measuring, predicting, and even controlling economic fluctuations.
KeywordsBusiness cycles Economic thought Economic growth Economic indexes Forecasting NBER
I would like to thank David Moss, of Harvard Business School, for his comments on this paper and Felice Whittum for editing the text. Some of this material was previously published in my book Fortune Tellers: The Story of America’s First Economic Forecasters, copyright © 2014 by Princeton University Press, reprinted by permission.