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Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy

, 328 pages

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November 2011


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Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy

Throughout his two-term presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower faced the challenge of managing a period of peacetime prosperity after more than two decades of depression, war, and postwar inflation. The essential issue he addressed was how the country would pay for the deepening Cold War and the extent to which such unprecedented peacetime commitments would affect the United States economy and its institutions.

William M. McClenahan, Jr., and William H. Becker explain how Eisenhower’s beliefs and his experiences as a military bureaucrat and wartime and postwar commander shaped his economic policies. They explore the macro- and microeconomic policies his administration employed to finance the Cold War while adapting Republican ideas and Eisenhower's economic principles to new domestic and foreign policy environments. They also detail how Eisenhower worked with new instruments of government policy making, such as the Council of Economic Advisers and a strengthened Federal Reserve Board. In assessing his administration's policies, the authors demonstrate that, rather than focusing overwhelmingly on international political affairs at the expense of economic issues, Eisenhower’s policies aimed to preserve and enhance the performance of the American free market system, which he believed was inextricably linked to the successful prosecution of the Cold War. While some of the decisions Eisenhower made did not follow conservative doctrine as closely as many in the Republican Party wanted, this book asserts that his approach to and distrust of partisan politics led to success on many fronts and indeed maintained and buttressed the nation's domestic and international economic health.

An important and original contribution, this examination of the Eisenhower administration's economic policy enriches our understanding of the history of the modern American economy, the presidency, and conservatism in the United States.

William M. McClenahan, Jr., is a lecturer in business law and public policy at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. William H. Becker is a professor in the Department of History and the Department of Strategic Management and Public Policy at the George Washington University. McClenahan and Becker are coauthors of The Market, the State and the Export-Import Bank of the United States, 1934–2000 and The Voice of the Market: A History of the National Petroleum Council.

"This clearly written, accessible, and well-researched study is a welcome addition to the surprisingly small literature on the economic policies of the Eisenhower administration."

"Although it is hardly the first academic study of Eisenhower's economic policies, this book is distinguished by its clear writing, original research, and its attention to the interdependence of the domestic and international economies."

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