WPA sign

Learning from the Great Depression

Its theme, “Financial Crisis and Reform,” makes this year’s Cross-Border Post-Keynesian Conference relevant to everyone. The conference, held every two years, will take place at the Burchfield Penney Art Center on October 9 and 10. “Post-Keynesian” refers to a subfield of economics whose practitioners seek to correctly interpret the key insights of twentieth-century economist John Maynard Keynes, considered by many to be “the father of macroeconomics.”

Keynes is widely known for his theories about the causes of recessions and depressions, and he advised Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

October marks the 80th anniversary of the famous stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. Conference organizers have incorporated several cultural events relating to that period in America’s history. On Thursday, October 8, at 7:00 p.m., Anthony Chase, assistant to the dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, will introduce Cradle Will Rock, an award-winning 1999 film written and directed by Tim Robbins. Cradle Will Rock tells the dramatic story of a 1937 musical, directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman, which was not allowed to open—and opened anyway.

“The reason we’re including these particular events,” said Ted Schmidt, associate professor of economics and finance and one of the conference organizers, “is that people have compared the current economic crisis to the Great Depression. It was a difficult period, and the arts expressed some of the frustration people felt.” With input from Don Metz, associate director of the Burchfield Penney, the conference committee explored ways to engage the museum and make the conference multidisciplinary.

The conference itself begins Friday at 9:00 a.m. Attendance at the conference is free for Buffalo State faculty, staff, and students; however, registration is required. The cost to attend the Friday evening reception and banquet is $30.

The keynote session, “Financial Crisis and Reform,” is free and open to the public and takes place on Friday at 4:00 p.m., with Schmidt serving as moderator. Panel members are Jan A. Kregel, a noted post-Keynesian economist who is a senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College; L. Randal Wray, who also serves as a senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute; and Robert Pollin, professor of economics and founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Professors Kregel and Wray are going to show us that Keynes and his followers are the only economists who understand financial crises,” said Joelle Leclaire, assistant professor of economics and finance and chair of the committee that organized the conference. “Their key insights on how they can be resolved are certain to generate lively discussion.”

On Saturday, a number of sessions are scheduled for the morning. In the afternoon, three events are free and open to the public. At 2:00, author and entrepreneur Mark Goldman, a lecturer with the History and Social Studies Education Department, will present “The Great Depression and Buffalo’s Arts Culture.” Afterward, Bruce Fisher, director of Buffalo State’s Center for Economic and Policy Studies, will moderate a panel discussion, “The Future of Capitalism.” The panelists are Curtis Haynes Jr., associate professor of economics and finance; Albert Michaels and Gary Marotta, professors of history and social studies education; and Michael Niman, associate professor of communication.

Charles Mancuso, professor of music, will introduce the conference’s closing event at 8:00 p.m. The 198 String Band will present “...Whose Names Are Unknown,” a multimedia representation intended to help the audience appreciate the “experience of the Great Depression and the national recovery policies of the New Deal.”