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William Trufant Foster

William Trufant Foster

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William Trufant Foster (January 18, 1879 - October 8, 1950), was an American educator and economist, whose theories were especially influential in the 1920s. He was the first president of Reed College
Reed College
Reed College is a private, independent, liberal arts college located in southeast Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1908, Reed is a residential college with a campus located in Portland's Eastmoreland neighborhood, featuring architecture based on the Tudor-Gothic style, and a forested canyon wilderness...

.

Career


Foster was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 18, 1879. He graduated from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 with an A.B. in 1901 and an A.M., 1904. Foster was an instructor of English at Bates College
Bates College
Bates College is a highly selective, private liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, in the United States. and was most recently ranked 21st in the nation in the 2011 US News Best Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The college was founded in 1855 by abolitionists...

 in Maine, from 1901-03 and served as a coach of Bates' internationally known debate program. Foster was also professor of English and Argumentation at Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College , founded in 1794, is an elite private liberal arts college located in the coastal Maine town of Brunswick, Maine. As of 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranks Bowdoin 6th among liberal arts colleges in the United States. At times, it was ranked as high as 4th in the country. It is...

 in Maine in 1905. He authored "Argumentation and Debating", published in 1908. Foster eventually received a Ph.D. in 1911 from Teachers College, Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

. His conception of "the ideal college" set out in the concluding chapter of his dissertation, led to his appointment as the first president of Reed College
Reed College
Reed College is a private, independent, liberal arts college located in southeast Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1908, Reed is a residential college with a campus located in Portland's Eastmoreland neighborhood, featuring architecture based on the Tudor-Gothic style, and a forested canyon wilderness...

, 1911-1919. He rejected intercollegiate sports and fostered close intellectual collaboration between faculty and students. He was director (1920-1950) of the Pollak Foundation of Economic Research, in Newton, Massachusetts
Newton, Massachusetts
Newton is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States bordered to the east by Boston. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Newton was 85,146, making it the eleventh largest city in the state.-Villages:...

, where he emphasized the need to protect consumer interests.

Economics


He collaborated with his Harvard classmate Waddill Catchings in a series of economics books that were highly influential in the United States in the 1920s. His influential books, written with Catchings , were Money (1923), Profits (1925), Business Without a Buyer (1927), The Road to Plenty (1928), and Progress and Plenty (1930).

With Catchings, he was one of the leading pre-Keynesian
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 economists, in the underconsumptionist tradition, advocating similar issues to Keynes such as the paradox of thrift
Paradox of thrift
The paradox of thrift is a paradox of economics, popularized by John Maynard Keynes, though it had been stated as early as 1714 in The Fable of the Bees, and similar sentiments date to antiquity...

 and economic interventionism
Economic interventionism
Economic interventionism is an action taken by a government in a market economy or market-oriented mixed economy, beyond the basic regulation of fraud and enforcement of contracts, in an effort to affect its own economy...

. The two are now rarely mentioned in contemporary economics texts, standing as they do in the shadow of Keynes's The General Theory.

Foster and Catchings rejected traditional laissez-faire economics and called for aggressive federal involvement to balance the economy lest destabilizing forces upset prosperity. The main problem was underconsumption
Underconsumption
In underconsumption theory in economics, recessions and stagnation arise due to inadequate consumer demand relative to the amount produced. The theory has been replaced since the 1930s by Keynesian economics and the theory of aggregate demand, both of which were influenced by...

, which could be overcome by strategic government spending in public works
Public works
Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community...

. The theory strongly influenced the anti-depression programs of Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

, as well as Federal Reserve Board Chairman Marriner Eccles.

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