John Maurice Clark 101: The Leading Keynesian Economist
Zatrun Published at March 16, 2023

John Maurice Clark (1884-1963) was an American economist known for his unique combination of traditional economic analysis with an institutionalist perspective. He was a pioneer in the development of the concept of workable competition and the economic multiplier, which became the theoretical basis for modern Keynesian economics. If you are interested in learning more about John Maurice Clark, keep reading this article on

Who is John Maurice Clark?

Clark was born on November 30, 1884, in Northampton, Massachusetts. He received his education at Amherst College, graduating in 1905, and earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1910. Like his father, economist John Bates Clark (1847-1938), Clark was interested in ethics and politics, and he worked to revise and expand his father’s book The Control of Trusts in 1912, which was published in 1914. Clark continued to explore this subject in his own work, particularly in his book Social Control of Business (1926, updated in 1939).

John Bates Clark

John Maurice Clark began his academic career as a teacher at Colorado College from 1908 to 1910 and then at Amherst College from 1910 to 1915. He joined the political economy faculty at the University of Chicago in 1915 and then moved to Columbia University in 1923, where he took over his father’s previous position. He spent the last three years of his academic life at Columbia and retired in 1957.

Throughout his career, Clark was interested in the dynamics of market economics. In his early work, “Studies in the Economics of Overhead Costs” (1923), he developed the acceleration principle, which suggested that investment demand could fluctuate widely with changes in consumer demand. He anticipated many of the key points of Keynesian theory in this work.

He also showed that high fixed-cost firms could reduce their average production costs and use pricing advantages in capital-intensive industries. Clark demonstrated that accurate cost information was critical for those seeking to regulate companies effectively.

John Maurice Clark

His Works, and Ideas

In his later work, including Social Control of Business (1926) and The Costs of the World War to the American People (1931), John Maurice Clark examined economic and legal factors that limited the social control of monopolistic behaviour. He argued that accounting provided a mechanism for monitoring the behaviour of economically powerful firms.

In “The Costs of the World War to the American People”, Clark introduced the concept of the economic multiplier, which refers to the amplification of spending effects on economic activity. He developed the multiplier effects of international trade and capital investment in this work and argued that the costs of the war to the American people were greater than the nominal amount spent by the government.

In summary, John Maurice Clark was a leading economist who made significant contributions to the development of modern Keynesian economics. He combined traditional economic analysis with an institutionalist perspective and explored the dynamics of market economics in his work. His contributions to the acceleration principle, workable competition, and the economic multiplier continue to be influential in economic theory and policy.

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