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Economies of the Future

Economies of the Future

(p.156) Chapter 4 Economies of the Future
Looking Forward
Jamie L. Pietruska
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on long-range economic forecasts and ideas about predictability in the work of commodity price forecaster Samuel Benner, utopian novelist Edward Bellamy, and meteorologist Henry Helm Clayton. It begins by examining the theme of predictive certainty in Samuel Benner’s popular guide to commodity price cycles, Benner’s Prophecies of Future Ups and Downs in Prices, which first appeared in 1876 and was reprinted in over fifteen editions until 1908. The chapter then explores the theme of foresight in the literary work of Edward Bellamy, emphasizing the economic certainties underpinning the futuristic vision of utopian socialism in his best-selling 1888 novel Looking Backward. Finally, the chapter traces the career of Henry Helm Clayton from his tenure at Massachusetts’ Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory from 1886 to 1909 through the operation of his private consulting weather service from 1925 to 1942, throughout which time he sought to establish a correlation between meteorological and economic cycles and to popularize his theories of periodicity. This chapter demonstrates the enduring appeal of predictive certainties in the realm of the market and political economy despite the increasing acceptance of probabilism in science and culture at the turn of the twentieth century.

Keywords:   economic forecasts, cycles, Samuel Benner, commodity price forecasting, Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, utopian socialism, Henry Helm Clayton, Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, periodicity

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