What the “Supply Siders” Were On About

My old friend Reuven Brenner (eight books, including History: the Human Gamble, Betting on Ideas:  Wars, Invention Inflation, and, most recently, The Force of Finance: Triumph of the Capital Markets) writes from McGill University, where he holds the Repap Chair of Business on the Faculty of Management,

I believe you make a mistake when you misunderstand why the “supply side” so much used that word – though they were talking about innovations, and prosperity all the time. The reason was simple: it was still the heyday of Keynesian vocabulary, and the notion was that governments could manage the economy by manipulating “aggregate demand.”  Remember? So on one side it was “demand, demand, demand” and that’s why Bob Bartley and Wanniski thought they needed one simple slogan to counterattack.  I remember having discussions about this with Bob.  (Indeed, I have always been hesitant of such one-word simplifications.  Laury Minard pushed me hard to come up with one describing my work – and it was him who suggested “leapfrogging” – which actually captures both the micro and the country parts well).  Newspapers are in the real estate business, so they have to be very economical with words. This has obvious benefits, but disadvantages too.

Brenner has long taken a broad view of entrepreneurship, always to be understood as taking place within a commercial hierarchy. His own sensible ideas on growth are elaborated briefly here, and at satisfying length in Labyrinths of Prosperity: Economic Follies, Democratic Remedies.

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