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Jim Powell is Senior Fellow at a libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., with which he has been associated since 1988. He has also done work for the Manhattan Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Right to Work Committee and Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

Powell is an author on the history of liberty. He wrote three books that reported findings about the unintended consequences of major presidential policies. Altogether he has written eight books and is perhaps best-known for FDR's Folly which has been praised by Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and James M. Buchanan, Harvard historian David Landes and historian Thomas Fleming.[1] Powell's books have been translated into Japanese.

He has contributed several hundred articles for an unusually broad array of publications.[2] He has given talks internationally as well as at Harvard, Stanford and other universities across the United States.


Powell was born in Norfolk, Virginia and grew up on Long Island. His father, Frank Coburn Powell, was a partner in a company that principally manufactured high quality phonograph turntables and cartridges. His mother, Madeline Shields Powell, was a catalog librarian. Both were from Indianapolis. Powell graduated from East Woods School (Oyster Bay, New York) and Millbrook School (Millbrook, New York) before entering the University of Chicago where he earned a B.A. in history. His professors included William H. McNeill (The Rise of the West), Donald F. Lach (Asia in the Making of Europe) and Earl J. Hamilton (War and Prices in Spain). As an editor of the student quarterly New Individualist Review, Powell helped publish articles by future Nobel Laureates F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and George J. Stigler. Other contributors included Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard and Yale Brozen. Powell worked as a researcher for future Nobel Laureate Ronald H. Coase.

Powell started his career as a direct response advertising copywriter, doing the bulk of his work for financial services companies like J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch and GE Capital. In 1976, he began freelancing for Barron's, then for other business publications, then publications in the art market and general-interest magazines. Writing for travel magazines took him to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, India, Belgium, Switzerland and Dubai.

Powell's early books were about the art market, commercial real estate and Japanese finance. By the late 1980s, Powell began to author books on liberty.


  • Greatest Emancipations, How the West Abolished Slavery (2008) ISBN 0230605923
  • Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy (2006) ISBN 0307237222
  • Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II (2005) ISBN 1400082366
  • FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression (2003) ISBN 0761501657
  • The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History Told through the Lives of Freedom's Greatest Champions (2000) ISBN 068485967X
  • Gnomes of Tokyo (1988) ISBN 039608964X
  • Risk, Ruin and Riches: Inside the World of Big-Time Real Estate (1986) ISBN 0025985302
  • An Investor's Guide to Under-Valued Art and Antiques (1983) ISBN 0399126929




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