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Wilson Fellow Explores History Of Political Economy, Fairness In America

December 01, 2010 American Studies | History

Scholar Spotlight on Wilson Center Fellow and Associate Professor of History David Freund in Centerpoint .Centerpoint

Scholar Spotlight on Wilson Center Fellow and Associate Professor of History David Freund in Centerpoint .

December 1, 2010

Many Americans reminisce about the 1950s and 1960s as a kinder, simpler time but this supposedly golden era was not always kinder or fair to all. While a growing infusion of federal resources and regulations was aimed at stabilizing and reviving the U.S. economy since the 1930s, many of the opportunities created by public initiatives were not extended to minorities and women.

Wilson Center Fellow David Freund is working on a new book that examines the role federal policy played in shaping the economy from the 1930s – 1970s. To be titled, Market Mythologies: Policy, Growth, and Inequality in Modern America, the book will delve into mythical narratives about wealth and inequality. At its core, he said, is the myth that “unimpeded markets, free from government intervention, determined winners and losers in post-World War II America.”

In fact, scholars have shown that the federal government has been heavily involved in the economy since the 1930s regardless of which party was in office, said Freund. History points to numerous instances of direct and indirect government involvement that fostered growth, he said. Meanwhile the many federal regulatory and spending initiatives—in areas including housing, education, agriculture, the military, and business-creation—that drove post-war growth also condoned, and often endorsed, discrimination against select populations.

His earlier book, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America, described how the Cold War-era white middle class flourished and invested heavily in the idea of the free-market while overlooking the government’s role both in creating affluence and in segregating housing, educational, and employment opportunities.