Money & The EconomyOpinion

‘Nothing Is New — It Is Just Forgotten’: Historian Aims To Remind Americans What Happens When Government Suppresses Free Markets

Accomplished scholar and author Amity Shlaes sees history as an important tool to learn from the past and its mistakes and believes it is the job of historians like her to remind Americans of that history.

“Research suggests that government works less well than we imagine, and the private sector, better,” Shlaes told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“That was certainly true during and after the Great Society, the topic of my most recent book. Government also failed us in the 1930s, and so suppressed the private sector that markets could not provide their usual rescue. The main job of historians like me is to make sure Americans are familiar with this record. Nothing is new — it is just forgotten,” Shlaes said.

Shlaes is one of three winners of the 2021 Bradley Prize, an award from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which recognizes talent and dedication to the principles of American exceptionalism, according to a Thursday press release.

Each winner was chosen from a pool of over 100 nominations by a selection committee and given a $250,00 stipend, according to the press release.

“The award provides the kind of support that helps me concentrate on learning and writing. Economic history, especially, requires serious research.” Shlaes said. Winning the Bradley award “not only helps me to do my work, it gives me more time to help others through the Coolidge Foundation, whose main job is educating young people.”

The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation aims to inform and educate citizens and advance economic growth, something Shlaes is confident about.

“Amity’s exhaustive research and analysis of American economic history continues to inform influential decision makers,” said Rick Graber, president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation in the press release. “Her insight into how well-intentioned government programs have had the opposite effect of what they set out to achieve, provides valuable lessons for today. The Bradley Foundation is proud to honor Amity for her scholarship, which has contributed to important dialogue on economic policy.”

Shlaes chairs the board for the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, is the author of six books and was previously a syndicated columnist. She has been published in numerous periodicals and currently chairs the jury of the Hayek Prize of the Manhattan Institute.

“Scholarly work is a kind of marathon. The Bradley Prize plays a key role for the scholar in his personal race to produce,” Shlaes said. “Just when he thinks of giving up, say, at Mile 18, a friendly crowd on the corner gives him a round of applause — and suddenly he finds the second wind and can complete his race. The encouragement of the Bradley Prize, the affirmation, is a great stroke of luck for anyone with long projects.”

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