Friday, March 2, 2007

Economics of John Adams

I am currently reading John Adams: Party of One, by James Grant. People who know me well know I have long been interested in the second President, and I have read a number of biographies of him and other members of his family. I will probably review this book thoroughly when I finish, but I have found something worth noting.

Grant examines the economic John Adams in a way that few authors have. I'm only about half-way through the book, and I've been struck by several things: Adams' view on national wealth, which strongly paralleled Adam Smith's (he saw the true wealth of the North American state lying in its people and institutions, not its resources); his concern with monetary policy, specifically the over-issuance of money by the Continental Congress; the tendency of the same body to write too many checks against loans secured in Europe; and Adam's personal view on borrowing. He personally found it loathsome to borrow, and would sell his assets (at one point, even considering selling parts of his personal library) before borrowing. Yet he managed to convince the risk-averse Dutch financial community to extend a loan to a fledgling entity that, at that point, had only been recognized by the French court.

For teachers looking to integrate some economic topics into an early American History course, or make some connections to other learning in an economics course. This book offers some interesting insights.

As I said, I'll review more thoroughly when I finish. But in the interim, this book can make you think beyond the normal biography of the person and the period. Your thoughts are welcome.

Posted by TSchilling at March 2, 2007 9:59 AM

Posted by: Mark Thoma at March 2, 2007 12:35 PM


Marika said...

So would you say this book could tell me a lot about John Adams view on all economical things back then, and allow me to compare them to everyday issues?

Tim Schilling said...

I wouldn't say "a lot". It does offer insights that other biographies didn't. I suspect this is due to the fact that Grant is a financial writer.