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Amity Shlaes (born September 10, 1960) is an American author and columnist who writes about politics and economics. She is currently a senior fellow and director of the Four Percent Project at the George W. Bush Institute and a Bloomberg View columnist.
Education and career
Since 2007, she has been writing a syndicated column for Bloomberg News. The column appears weekly both on Bloomberg terminals and websites, and in papers such as the Orange County Register, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, San Francisco Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Shlaes also writes a print column for Forbes magazine, rotating with Lee Kwan Yew, David Malpass, and Paul Johnson. Shlaes is also a regular contributor to Marketplace, the public radio show. She has appeared on numerous other radio and television shows over the course of her career. She is a strong proponent of the Austrian School of economics.
Before writing her column for Bloomberg, Shlaes was a columnist for the Financial Times for five years, until September 2005. Before that she was a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, specializing in economics. She followed the collapse of communism for The Wall Street Journal Europe and in the early 1990s she served as the Journal's op-ed editor.
Over the years, she has written for The New Yorker, The American Spectator, Commentary, The Spectator (UK), Foreign Affairs, Forbes, National Review, The New Republic, the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit, among others. Her obituary of Milton Friedman appeared in The New York Sun.
In 2011, she was named director of the 4% Growth Project at the George W. Bush Institute. This initiative is aimed at illuminating ideas and reforms that can yield faster, higher quality economic growth. Before joining the Bush Institute she served a decade as a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher. As a Senior fellow in Economic History at CFR David Rockefeller Studies Program, Shlaes worked within the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geo-economic Studies (CGS), dedicated to promoting better understanding among policymakers and academic specialists of how economic and political forces interact to influence world affairs.
Since Fall 2008, Shlaes has served as an adjunct associate professor of economics at New York University Stern School of Business, teaching a course titled "The Economics of the Great Depression".
She has served at various times as Chairman of the Board of the International Policy Network, home to the world's leading prize for free-market journalism, the Bastiat Prize. She serves on the jury for the Friedrich von Hayek Prize. She is a trustee of the American Institute in Contemporary German Studies and the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. In the past, she was a trustee of the German Marshall Fund.
Books and other writings
Germany: The Empire Within
Shlaes's first book was Germany: The Empire Within, about Germany national identity at the time of reunification. She has also written articles about this time period, including a piece in The New Yorker on the Deutsche mark and the euro.
The Greedy Hand
She followed that book with The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It. It was a national bestseller. Fred Goldberg, a former IRS Commissioner, called it "a terrific book on the history of politics and taxing in America ... a must read—whether you come from the left, right, or mushy middle." Steve Forbes described The Greedy Hand as "the economic bible for those who believe in growth".
The Forgotten Man
Her 2007 national bestseller is The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression is a study of the Great Depression in the United States and the New Deal. This book argues that both Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt promoted economic policies that were counterproductive, prolonged the Great Depression, and established the modern entitlement trap. The Forgotten Man was a New York Times bestseller for 19 weeks, with over 250,000 copies in print. It has also been published in German, Italian, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese.
Novelist Mark Helprin said of The Forgotten Man: "Were John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman to spend a century or two reconciling their positions so as to arrive at a clear view of the Great Depression, this would be it." Steven F. Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute wrote that The Forgotten Man was "the finest history of the Great Depression ever written".
Economist Paul Krugman has criticized The Forgotten Man, taking issue with its central tenet that New Deal policies exacerbated the Great Depression. Krugman wrote of "a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that FDR actually made the Depression worse.... But the definitive study of fiscal policy in the 1930s, by the MIT economist E. Cary Brown, reached a very different conclusion: Fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful 'not because it does not work, but because it was not tried'." Krugman specifically accused Shlaes of disseminating "misleading statistics." Shlaes responded to Krugman in The Wall Street Journal, specifically saying that for her estimates of employment and unemployment during the period she used the Lebergott/Bureau of Labor Statistics series. She wrote that statistician Stanley Lebergott "intentionally did not include temporary jobs in emergency programs—because to count a short-term, make-work project as a real job was to mask the anxiety of one who really didn't have regular work with long-term prospects."
Shlaes went on to say that if the Obama administration "proposes F.D.R.-style recovery programs, then it is useful to establish whether those original programs actually brought recovery. The answer is, they didn't."
Writing in Forbes, Hudson Institute fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth first lays out Shlaes's view: "She points out that federal spending during the New Deal did not restore economic health. Unemployment stayed high and the Dow Jones Industrial average stayed low." After then explaining Krugman's position that "the New Deal failed to spend enough money to achieve full employment," Furchtgott-Roth concludes, "the new president needs to listen to many voices."
Journalist Jonathan Chait has called the book self-contradictory, misleading, and inaccurate. Novelist and essayist John Updike criticized the book as "a revisionist history of the Depression".
The International Herald Tribune review by David Leonhardt comments: "With 75 years of hindsight, surely we can all agree that Roosevelt's vision was imperfect. Yes, he helped build many pillars of the modern economy — Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the modern Federal Reserve and more. He also understood the folly of Hoover's protectionism and pursued a more open trade policy. And his public works slowly, if unevenly, provided employment. (As the historian Eric Rauchway has noted in Slate, Shlaes exaggerates joblessness in the 1930s by counting many people who worked in relief programs as unemployed.) But other attempts to fine-tune the economy truly did fail. From today's vantage point, the worst of them may have been farm subsidies, which essentially live on, giving a handout to agribusiness while raising the cost of food for everyone else and hurting poor farmers around the world."
Brian Wesbury wrote of The Forgotten Man that "if you care about markets, the economy, politics or personal initiative, you will love this book."
On February 13, 2013, MSNBC published an excerpt of Coolidge onto its Morning Joe blog as part of a discussion on "books breaking new ground on the way we think about American presidents ... [including] Coolidge who has reemerged as a hero of small government Republicanism.".
During the show, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of The New York Times Book Review, praised Shlaes as "a brilliant journalist, who has a great feel for where the Republican party happens to be at any particular moment and instead of just echoing what's being said, she'll look ahead a bit ... she's saying there's an older style of Republican politics that the party may be able to recapture."
In an interview with the National Review Online, Shlaes said she was interested in profiling Coolidge because he is "the forgotten president.... But his economic performance and his statesmanship suggest [he] belongs in the top quarter of presidents."
In The Wall Street Journal, Shlaes explains how Coolidge was able to cut taxes, reduce the national debt, and balance the budget. Shlaes writes "those who are even now pondering presidential runs for 2016 would do well to heed Silent Cal's deeds."
The Economist gives Shlaes' and her latest book high praise for revisiting an overlooked presidency. "American readers who believe intervention to be a good thing are likely to blanch at a controversial new biography of Coolidge ... However, if they are brave enough to read on they will also discover a presidency of remarkable achievement that has received too little attention.... Ms. Shlaes's biography provides a window onto an unfairly tarnished period. It deserves to be widely read."
Robert Merry of The Wall Street Journal praised Coolidge, writing, "The Coolidge years represent the country's most distilled experiment in supply-side economics.... That success is the central Coolidge legacy, brought home with telling authority in Ms. Shlaes's work."
Jacob Heilbrunn of The New York Times commends Shlaes' thorough work, commenting, "(Shlaes) has assiduously researched Coolidge's life, drawing both on his private papers (going so far as to photograph his appointment books) and on contemporary newspaper reports."
Philip Seib, professor and director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, praises Shlaes for revealing Coolidge's fiscal discipline in the Dallas Morning News. He writes, "Calvin Coolidge was very much a man and a president of his times. Shlaes deserves thanks for helping us, nearly a century after his tenure, to consider his approach to economic policy and the presidency, as well as his place in history."
"Coolidge" debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list for nonfiction on March 3, 2013, at number three. This is Shlaes' third-best-selling work.
Shlaes also wrote the foreword to Seeds of Destruction, a book by Glenn Hubbard, Dean of Columbia Business School, and scholar Peter Navarro. She also wrote the introduction to Wall Street Journal editor George Melloan's The Great Money Binge: Spending Our Way to Socialism.
In 2003 she coauthored, with the late Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal, a piece on tax philosophy, published in the Manhattan Institute's Turning Intellect into Influence. She also contributed to, along with Harold James and Samuel Gregg, 2012 the book Natural Law, Economics and the Common Good, which examines the nature and scope of ethics in relation to global economics, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Shlaes also was a contributor to the special 30th anniversary edition of the scholarly journal Tax Notes. Her essay was titled "The Future of American Taxation".
Awards and honors
- In 2001, Shlaes was included in Yale Alumni Magazine's list of "Who's Been Blue".
- She was the 2002 co-winner of the International Policy Network's Frederic Bastiat Prize, an international prize for writing on political economy.
- In 2003, she spent several months at the American Academy in Berlin as the JP Morgan Fellow for finance and economy.
- She gave the 2004 Bradley lecture at the American Enterprise Institute. Her speech, titled "The Chicken vs. the Eagle", looked at the effect of the National Recovery Administration on entrepreneurs.
- She was awarded the 2007 Deadline Club award for Opinion writing, and the Newswomen's Club of New York's Front Page Award for her Bloomberg columns.
- She is the 2009 winner of the Hayek Prize, awarded by the Manhattan Institute. It is largely considered the most prestigious prize for conservative books.
Amity Shlaes has lectured at numerous institutions, academic and otherwise. Her appearances include:
- Knox College (October 16, 2009)
- Purdue University (March 8, 2010)
- Brown University (March 15, 2010)
- St. George's School (November 1, 2010)
- Phillips Exeter Academy (Fall 2010)
- The Economic Club of Indiana (October 12, 2011)
- Ohio University (October 13, 2011)
- The Kansas City Library (February 29, 2012)
- North Park University (February 20, 2013)
- "Amity Shlaes Joins George W. Bush Institute". George W. Bush Institute. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Amity Shlaes". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- "Amity Shlaes". Ashbrook.org. 2008-04-28. Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
- Online Yale Alumni directory
- "Amity Shlaes". Amity Shlaes. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Our Leadership". George W. Bush Institute. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Friedman's Warmth". The New York Sun. 2006-11-17. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
- "About". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Mission". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Amity Shlaes". New York University. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Shlaes, Amity (28 April 1997). "Loving the Mark". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Books". Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Reviews". Amity Shlaes. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Glazov, Jamie (26 July 2007). "The Forgotten Man". FrontPageMagazine.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Krugman, Paul (10 November 2012). "Franklin Delano Obama?". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Krugman, Paul (19 November 2008). "Amity Shlaes strikes again". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Shlaes, Amity (29 November 2008). "The Krugman Recipe for Depression". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Schuessler, Jennifer (12 December 2012). "Inside the List". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Furchtgott-Roth, Diana (3 December 2008). "The Economic Fight Of The Year". Forbes. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Chait, Jonathan (18 March 2009). "Wasting Away In Hooverville". The New Republic. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Updike, John (2 July 2007). "Laissez-faire Is More". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Leonhardt, David (26 August 2007). "No Free Lunch". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "An except from Amity Shlaes' Coolidge". MSNBC. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Morning Joe: Lessons Learned from American Presidents". MSNBC. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
- Lopez, Kathryn Jean. "Coolest Cal". National Review Online. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Shlaes, Amity. "The Coolidge Lesson on Taxes and Spending". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Calvin Coolidge and the Great Depression: When less led to more". The Economist. 23 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
- Merry, Robert. "Calvin Coolidge for President". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Heilbrunn, Jacob. "The Great Refrainer". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- Seib, Philip. "Book review: 'Coolidge,' by Amity Shlaes". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Best Sellers". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Shlaes, Amity (14 August 2010). "Seeds of Destruction-Forward by Amity Shlaes". Glenn Hubbard. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "The Great Money Binge: Spending Our Way to Socialism". Amazon. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Natural Law, Economics and the Common Good". Amazon. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Paul Rivoche (January 29, 2011). "Forgotten Man Graphic Novel". Rocketfiction. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Famous Yalies". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Bio". Amity Shlaes. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "2007 Deadline Club Awards". Dealine Club. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Newswomen's Club of New York Announces 2007 Front Page Awards Winners". Newswomens Club of New York. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Official website
- The Forgotten Man: Shlaes's blog at the Council on Foreign Relations
- Shlaes columns for Bloomberg
- Shlaes bio at Politico.com
- Video of debate/discussion with Amity Shlaes and Jonathan Alter on Bloggingheads.tv
- Audio interview with Shlaes on Calvin Coolidge
- Roberts, Russ (June 4, 2007). "Shlaes on the Great Depression". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.