I remember George Stigler in class making some reference to a book by Berle and Means, and asking if any of us had ever heard of them. None of us had. My memory is that he looked sort of sadly amused.
At least one of Stigler’s important papers had taken on, and refuted, some of the important claims of the Berle and Means book.
Now, decades later, I recently read a wonderful book on the Great Depression called The Forgotten Man. It turns out that Berle was very important in the growth of government in FDR’s New Deal.
I now realize what I did not realize when I took Stigler’s class—that Stigler had done something significant in refuting errors that supported misguided policies that hurt the economy.
It is a sad fact of life that future generations will not remember, or appreciate, the triumphs of the ‘good guys’ because they do not appreciate the impact of the good guys’ adversaries.
Stigler had beaten Berle so fully that the younger generation did not even recognize Berle’s name. And in not recognizing Berle’s name, or his significance, they could not appreciate the value of what Stigler had accomplished.
Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.