John M. Culbertson (1921 – 2001) was an American professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He was also an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, as well as a consultant to the Subcommittee on International Finance of the House Banking and Currency Committee.
The earlier part of his distinguished career he specialized in the fields of economic development, money and banking, and macroeconomic stabilization policy. In the process he also published a number of textbooks.
During the late 1970s and the 1980s he became preoccupied with trade theory and policy. During that time he published several books outlining his critical analysis of Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage to which he granted little relevance in a global economy characterized by low-wage exporting countries and high capital mobility. His work on international trade can be seen today to be of particular interest in a world increasingly dominated by aggressive low-wage economies such as China, India, and Vietnam. He is one of the few professional economists to ever be against free trade.
Culbertson's turn to heterodoxy led to his critical work being largely ignored rather than debunked by the orthodox mainstream. But he did have a few dedicated disciples, above all the renowned ecological economist Herman Daly, as well as the humanistic economist Mark A. Lutz.
- Economic Development: An Ecological Approach, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1971.
- Money and Banking, New York: McGraw Hill, 1972.
- Public Finance and Stabilization Policy: Essays in Honor of Richard A. Musgrave, (ed. with Warren L. Smith), New York: Elsevier Publishing Co., 1984.
- International Trade and the Future of the West, Madison, WI: 21st Century Press, 1984 (still available on Half.com).
- The Trade Threat and U.S. Trade Policy, Madison, WI: 21st Century Press (still available on Half.com).