The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Carver, Thomas Nixon (1865–1961)

  • A. W. Coats
Reference work entry


Carver’s career exemplifies the blend of scientific economics and popular social science so characteristic of his period. He was born on 25 March 1865 in Kirkville, Iowa. After a disrupted undergraduate education at Iowa Wesleyan and the University of Southern California (AB, 1891), he studied at Johns Hopkins under Richard T. Ely and John Bates Clark, eventually obtaining his PhD at Cornell in 1894. A joint appointment in economics and sociology at Oberlin led to a professorship in political economy at Harvard (1900–32), where for a time he taught the only course in sociology. His principal theoretical work in economics was an extension of Clark’s marginalism to a synthesis of abstinence and productivity theories of interest. He also made pioneering contributions to the economics of agriculture and rural sociology, and published several textbooks and numerous magazine articles. Carver’s attacks on radicalism and socialism, his forthright advocacy of individualism, thrift and free enterprise, and his insistence on the crucial value of natural resources conservation and social balance, made him a cult figure among Harvard students. Acceptance of Malthusian population theory and recognition of the dangers of corporation power did not quench his optimism, although he favoured public works and credit expansion as a corrective to the 1930s depression. Carver served as adviser to the Department of Agriculture and Director of its rural organization service in 1913–14. An energetic and successful Secretary-Treasurer of the American Economic Association from 1909 to 1913, he was elected President in 1916. He died in Santa Monica, California, on 8 March 1961.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. W. Coats
    • 1
  1. 1.