View the h-us1918-45 Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-us1918-45's May 2002 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-us1918-45's May 2002 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-us1918-45 home page.
American National Biography Online Rogers, James Harvey (25 Sept. 1886-13 Aug. 1939), economist, was born in Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of John Terrel Rogers and Florence Coker, farmers. The family had banking connections and operated several hundred acres of farmland, and in later years the son referred to himself as a cotton farmer. After receiving a B.S. and an M.A. from the University of South Carolina in 1906 and 1907, Rogers matriculated as an undergraduate once again at Yale and obtained his bachelor's degree in 1909. At both institutions he specialized in mathematics. Additional graduate studies under Alvin Johnson at the University of Chicago resulted in Rogers's decision to combine his interest in math with economics. He returned to Yale, where he received an M.A. in math and economics jointly in 1913. He then went on to write a doctoral thesis on "Some Theories on the Incidence of Taxation" (1916). While working on his doctorate, Rogers became deeply interested in sociology. Having been awarded Yale's traveling Cyler Fellowship in economics in 1914, he went to the University of Geneva to study with Vilfredo Pareto. Although Pareto was the leading mathematical economist of his day, he had retired from formal teaching and, like Rogers, had developed an interest in sociology. He welcomed the young American to his home, and during a ten-month period the two discussed Pareto's manuscript on general sociology. Rogers later arranged for and supervised its translation, which appeared in 1935 as The Mind and Society. Rogers accepted his first position as an instructor in economics at the University of Missouri in 1916. He was promoted to associate professor in 1919. The following year he moved on to Cornell University, and after three years there as an assistant professor (1920-1923), he returned to Missouri as professor of economics (1923-1930). In 1930 he became professor of political economy at Yale and in 1931 was promoted to a Sterling professorship and made a fellow in Pierson College. Rogers also served five times (1926-1935) as lecturer at the Geneva School of International Studies. While Rogers enjoyed a long and distinguished academic career, he also had a keen interest in government service. In 1917-1918 he had served as a statistician on the Council of National Defense and in 1918-1919 as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. From 1933 to 1937 he was a member of the League of Nations' Economic Committee. In addition, in 1934 he was a special representative of the U.S. Treasury in China, Japan, and India. Service as one of President Franklin Roosevelt's monetary advisers during the first administration gave Rogers an opportunity to exert a direct influence on public policy during the early years of the Great Depression. A supporter, although not an uncritical one, of Irving Fisher's views on the close linkage between the quantity of money and prices, Rogers recommended a moderate policy of "controlled inflation" to encourage investment. Businesses would presumably have an incentive to invest at a relatively low price level so that they might profit from sales at the inflated level. In 1931 Rogers produced a bestseller, America Weighs Her Gold. Attacking a rigid adherence to the gold standard, the book treated the depression in terms of international economic relations. Excessive tariff barriers and intergovernmental debts had led to a concentration of gold in the United States and in France. Fearing inflation, however, the Federal Reserve Board had not permitted the inflowing gold to serve as the basis for an enlargement of credit by the nation's banks--an enlargement that would naturally be followed by price and currency expansion. Rogers urged the Federal Reserve to use its great open market powers, for example, the power to purchase government bonds. This would have the automatic effect of increasing the reserves of the member banks of the system, enabling them, in turn, to increase their loans to the business community. The resulting price and currency expansion would arrest the damaging price declines and the fall in spending and employment that followed. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve did not respond adequately, and scholarly opinion holds that its failure to do so had much to do with the depth of the depressed economy of the 1930s. It should also be noted that Rogers suggested a huge public works program to put money in circulation. Rogers never married. He died in a plane crash while engaged in private financial activity in Rio de Janeiro. Bibliography Rogers's papers are at the Yale University Library. His other principal publications are Stock Speculation and the Money Market (1927), The Process of Inflation in France (1929), and Capitalism in Crisis (1938). For a sketch of Rogers's career, an evaluation of his economic ideas, and a list of his publications, see Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, vol. 4 (1946). The standard critique of Federal Reserve policy at the onset of the Great Depression is in Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963). Rogers's experience as a statistician for the Council of National Defense is reflected in a monograph on the history of wartime prices that he prepared with the assistance of Grace M. Fairchild and Florence A. Dickinson, Prices of Cotton and Cotton Products (1919). He also wrote the section on foreign markets and foreign credits of the Report on Recent Economic Changes of the President's Conference on Unemployment (1929). Stuart Bruchey Citation: Stuart Bruchey. "Rogers, James Harvey"; http://www.anb.org/articles/14/14-00518.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org.