Who was Gunnar Myrdal

Gunnar Myrdal was a Swedish Keynesian economist and sociologist who won the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics alongside conservative Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek – despite both men being on opposite ends of the political spectrum — for their work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their analysis of income distribution.


Gunnar Myrdal, a Social Democrat, and one of the fathers of the Swedish welfare state of the 1960s, helped draft many social and economic programs. In America, he had become famous for his influential 1944 book on race relations, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem in Modern Democracy. His study was influential in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal racial segregation in schools.

A lifelong foe of inequality, and supporter of wealth redistribution, Myrdal showed how economic policies implemented by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, including the minimum wage law and restrictions on cotton production, hurt African-Americans. Later in life, he became obsessed with third-world poverty, which led him to advocate land reform in South Asia as a prerequisite for eradicating poverty.

Myrdal claimed that Keynes got the idea of using stabilization policy to smooth out economic cycles from his book Monetary Economics, published in 1932. Like fellow liberal-Keynesian John Kenneth Galbraith, Myrdal would later criticize such policies because the brakes were seldom applied and instead used to support inflationary policies which hurt the poorest in society.

Myrdal was born in 1898 in Sweden and died in 1987. He earned his law degree and doctorate in economics from the University of Stockholm, where he later became a professor of political and international economy. His wife, Alva Myrdal, was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982, for her efforts to promote world disarmament. Their son, leftist political writer and columnist Jan Myrdal, is a Maoist sympathizer and one-time supporter of Pol Pot.