"An economy operates on many levels, and so must these lectures," states Professor Taylor. "The discussion must touch on the lives of ordinary people: their patterns of consumption, work, and education. It must describe the rise and fall of industrial conditions and unions.
"At the national level, the discussion moves to government budget and monetary policies and the conditions of growth, employment, and inflation. Finally, at the international level, there are issues of how people, capital, and goods flow across borders."
A decade-by-decade course structure includes memorable milestones.
In adjusted numbers, the per capita GDP of 1900 would equal $5,000. This GDP per capita of $5,000 was a fifth of what it was in 2000. This was still a high standard of living.
During World War I, the U.S. ran a trade surplus due to an increase in exports, using the earnings to pay off debts and make loans to European countries.
In the 1920s automobiles became the country's largest industry and led the way to other inventions.
Mismanagement of monetary policy was the main cause of the Great Depression.
The Employment Act of 1946 gave the federal government the responsibility to maintain high employment, growth, and stable prices.
The broader public policy agenda of the 1950s was quiet. Other than the Korean War, the government enacted few major policies. It is unknown if this economic stability was healthy or stagnant.
Productivity slowed down dramatically during the late 1960s and early 1970s and had terrible effects on the U.S. economy.
The strangling inflation of the 1970s spilled over into the early 1980s. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker used a recession to break the inflation.
In the 1990s perception of job insecurity differed from reality. Job insecurity led to economic insecurity.
Lecture 1, the 1900s. You discuss the status of both the country and the economy at the turn of the century as well as the role of the federal government regarding mergers, social legislation, and inflation. "Overall," notes Professor Taylor, "this decade is marked by financial chaos."
Lecture 2, the 1910s. You discuss the government's creation of various federal institutions and the consequences that World War I had on both the government and the economy as a whole. You also examine Frederick Taylor's concept of scientific management and conclude with a discussion of the gentle changes in living standards.
Lecture 3, the 1920s. Although titled "The Roaring 1920s," you begin with a discussion of the Recession of 1920-1921. This recession was followed by the consumption boom marked by the transforming technologies of electricity and the automobile as well as developments in macroeconomic policy. It is this boom which then gave the decade its nickname.
Lecture 4, the 1930s. The fourth lecture highlights the Great Depression, which you learn was most likely caused by a mismanaged monetary policy. You also examine the merits of the New Deal and its role in U.S. economic recovery.
Lecture 5, the 1940s. World War II and its aftermath dominated the 1940s. You survey the economic effects of the war and examine how they actually contributed to the country's economic recovery. More specifically, you look at the war's effects on the federal budget and the reshaping of the U.S. economy. You conclude with an examination of the global institutions built by the U.S. to restore trust in the world.
Lecture 6, the 1950s. "Our task in Lecture 6 is to determine whether or not the quiet boom of the 1950s was beneficial for the U.S. economy," says Professor Taylor. You learn that while this decade revealed many healthy signs of prosperity, it remained plagued by controversies and, thus, future economic uncertainty.
Lecture 7, the 1960s. You pick up with the uncertainty as you investigate the 1960s. You look at the various ways that macroeconomic issues influence the way our country is run. You also discuss the building of the Great Society and antitrust and immigration issues.
Lecture 8, the 1970s. This uncertainty takes you to the confusion of stagflation which lingered throughout the 1970s: two recessions and the creation of price controls, floating exchange rates, and expanding global trade. You also closely examine the productivity slowdown of the 1970s.
Lecture 9, the 1980s. You examine the effects of 1970s inflation on 1980s economic stability. This leads into a discussion of the causes and consequences of the budget and trade deficits. You also look at changing market structure and its effects on deregulation.
Lecture 10, the 1990s. To conclude, you focus on misperceptions of the inequality and insecurities of the 1990s and discuss an economic and social agenda for the 21st century.
The Curtain Opens on the 20th Century
Big Government Is Conceived—Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, World War I
The Roaring 1920s
The Depression Decade of the 1930s
The 1940s—World War II and its Aftermath
The Quiet Boom of the 1950s
The 1960s and the End of Certainty
Stagflation and the 1970s
A Decade of Debt—The 1980s
Inequality and Insecurity in the 1990s