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The Progressive Economics Forum

W. A. Mackintosh: Great Canadian Economist of the 20th Century

There were two great Canadian economists of the last century: H.A. Innis and W.A. Mackintosh. Innis had been much written about but not Mackintosh. This is now corrected by a thoroughly researched biography by Hugh Grant of the University of Winnipeg with the straightforward title W.A. Mackintosh: The Life of a Canadian economist.

Mackintosh was both a distinguished scholar and a policy activist. He co-founded tne staples theory with Innis and wrote a brilliant book on wheat as a staple. He played a key role in bringing Keynes to Canada in the late 1930s. He was a member of the Canadian delegation to Bretton Woods and rubbed shoulders with Keynes. All the while the editor of the Canadian Banker. Unlike Innis, he resonded to circumstaners, like the Great Depression.

After our last election Paul Krugman wrote a column on how the Liberals had abandoned a commitment to balanced budgets and thereby brought Keynes to Canada. He was off by 75 years. Mackenzie King with the expertise of Mackintosh had made Canada one of the first countries in the world to implement Keynes.

Mackitosh was a progressive economist years ago and he should be honoured by us today. The mainstream profession won`t because it has slight interest in history. WhMackintosh did should be known and Grant has given us the opportunity to know.

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Comments

Comment from David Pringle
Time: January 30, 2016, 9:30 pm

Agreed, Mel, and on this theme of Canadians and Keynes, Krugman should be aware that the first American textbook to feature Keynesian thinking was not written by Paul Samuelson but by Torontonian Lorie Tarshis who headed the Stanford econ dept. Too bad its popularity was sharply diminished after getting caught in the net of the McCarthy red scare. Another Canadian connection was of course Bob Bryce, the former clerk of the Privy Council. After studying with Keynes in Cambridge, Bryce headed to Harvard in the fall of 1935, where, as a graduate student, he helped introduced Keynesian economics in the United States. Apparently, Joseph Schumpeter “called Keynes Allah and Bryce his Prophet”.

Comment from Tom Bergbusch
Time: January 31, 2016, 12:39 am

The Economic Background of Dominion-Provincial Relations (Appendix III of the Rowell Sirois Commission) is an extraordinarily useful work, and I will definitely read Hugh Grant’s book, but one cannot help thinking that the interwar period needs to be re-examined by a first rate heterodox economist.

Comment from circuit
Time: February 1, 2016, 6:52 pm

Thanks for letting us know about this new book on W.A.M.

A few years ago, a retired economist told me that Mackintosh actually wanted to name the “White Paper on Employment and Income” the “White Paper on Full Employment and income”. Wonder if that is true. Apparently, already back then (1945), an anti-Keynesian sentiment could be detected.

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