John R. Commons

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John R. Commons [r]: Institutional economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. [e]

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Commons had lasting influence in American labor and social policies. As his students became more adept and more influential in the development of legislation and the administration of social and labor programs, they were called upon as experts when the time came. This was especially true of the New Deal. John R. Commons estimated that at least thirty of his former students were serving in some New Deal program or Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration position. So profound was Commons's influence through his students that economist Kenneth E. Boulding called Commons "the intellectual origin of the New Deal, of labor legislation, of social security, of the whole movement in this country towards a welfare state."[1]


  1. Jess Gilbert and Ellen Baker, "Wisconsin Economists and New Deal Agricultural Policy: The Legacy of Progressive Professors," The Wisconsin Magazine of History 80, no. 4 (Summer 1997), 281; Kenneth E. Boulding, "Institutional Economics: A New Look at Institutionalism," American Economic Review 47, no. 7 (May 1957), 7.