Alan Brinkley

Alan Brinkley is Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century.

Recent Articles

Liberals and Public Investment: Recovering a Lost Legacy

T he emerging debate over the efficacy of public investment-- a debate the Clinton administration seems certain to accelerate-- has a familiar ring to anyone acquainted with the history of the 1930s and 1940s. Among the staples of economic discourse then were warnings that the United States was suffering from what many called "economic maturity" (or, as the economist Alvin Hansen put it, "secular stagnation"): a fear that the American economy had lost much of its capacity for productive growth. The purpose of public policy, Hansen and others claimed, was to intervene in the private sector to promote an economic expansion that the private sector itself had proved incapable of creating. That intervention, many liberals argued, should take the form of federal investment in infrastructure and other public works--expanding the productive capacity of the nation's economy at strategic points so as to accelerate private-sector growth. Critics argued, as they do today, that such efforts were...