Most of us grew up hearing that Herbert Hoover was a cold, unfeeling President who refused to take action to help the massively troubled economy of his day. Capitalism run wild was to blame, and Roosevelt rode in to save us from the vicious, greedy private sector with the largehearted New Deal. In The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression Amity Shlaes, visiting senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and a syndicated columnist at Bloomberg, argues that federal intervention actually helped make the Depression so great. In the process, the common man (who ended up with the bill) was “forgotten”. Given the similarities in our day (and of our next President with Mr. Roosevelt), this book seems like a timely read. I am finding it fascinating (though demanding). [It is #54 on Amazon as I write, about 460 pages long, and less than $10.]
Shlaes’ article in today’s New York Post might serve as something of a primer. Her closing thoughts:
There is evidence, however, that FDR’s very strength was a negative, because he used it to give himself a license to do true experimenting. In his second inaugural address, FDR said that he sought “an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.”
No one knew what it meant, and markets were terrified. Everyone feared FDR would regulate or prosecute them next. Businesses refused to invest. The 1930s’ second half proved frustrating for the country: The economy was always recovering but never quite recovered. The Dow didn’t get back to its 1929 level until the mid-’50s.
These facts are important to bear in mind. The New Deal inspired. But it is the wrong deal for the country, even now.