21 October 2005

Conservative folklore

Here is a conversation similar to those I've been engaged in over the past years, on the subject of FDR and the Great Depression.
Can't remember now whether it was in high school or sometime in my first couple years of college when I first heard the argument that the New Deal didn't end the Depression.

It was a long time ago, whenever it was, but that first time I heard it was far from the last. It was dismaying then that so many years after FDR there were people who could seriously argue the point and it's even more dismaying now that they're still arguing the point.

But then there are people who still argue that slavery wasn't so bad.

And anyway the South wasn't fighting to protect slavery, it was fighting for States' Rights.

Which rights?

Well, um, the right to permit slavery...

The the New Deal didn't work argument went---goes---Since at some unspecificed point a few years into FDR's first or second term the United States hadn't returned to the level of prosperity it supposedly enjoyed in 1928, nothing Roosevelt did had any real effect.

This comes out of an idea that has been a fundamental of conservative thought forever: Since there is no heaven on earth and no human endeavor is perfect and therefore Utopia is impossible, we might as well not bother trying to solve any problems, particularly if trying means having to spend my tax dollars.

At any rate, whenever I'd make the case that the point from which to begin measuring Roosevelt's success or failure should be 1931 or so, and if you do that you see that things are an awful lot better, on the whole, by 1938.

Yes, would come the insistent rebuttal, but he didn't end the Depression.

The problem I had and anyone with a real knowledge of history has with this argument is that it's true. Roosevelt didn't end the Depression. We don't believe that he did. He saved us from the worst of it, turned the economy around, and set us on a road that led to the great prosperity and stability of the 1950s. It took years for the country to recover. But what you're faced with here is the grade school text book version of history---the Happy Days Are Here Again three paragraph summation of the 1930s and 40s. Roosevelt ended the Depression and won World War II.

If the New Deal didn't end the Depression, what did?

Always, always, the person I was arguing with came back with: World War II.

World War II?

World War II.

Not the New Deal?


So all the massive government spending programs and job programs didn't work?


But World War II did?



By revitalizing American industries and putting everybody back to work!

Uh huh. And what was it, specifically, that revitalized those industries?

Orders for guns and planes and tanks and battleships, of course. There was a war on, duh!

I see. And who was the main customer for all the guns and planes and tanks and battleships?

Um, the Government.

And where did all those people go to work?

Um, the military.

Which means who paid their salaries?

The Government.

So massive Goverment spending and job programs didn't work but then a massive government spending and jobs program did?

Well, yeah. But it was different!

How so?

It just was!

Give me one way.

Well, we needed all that stuff during the war.

The guns and tanks and planes and battleships?


And we didn't need the roads and the schools and new post offices and dams and electrification programs?

Sputter. Sputter.

Here I would helpfully provide my opponent with the point that the good thing about planes, tanks, and battleships is that they get shot down, blown up, and sunk and have to be constantly replaced. You build a school and 30, 40, and even 50 years can by before you have to build another one.

In 1933, when Roosevelt took office, unemployment was at 25%. By 1941, the start of Roosevelt's third term, it shrunk to under 10%. Employment increased from 38 million in 1932, to 44 million in 1936, and in 1941 rose to over 50 million. While not all of FDR's New Deal initiatives were successful, his administration ushered in an era where the size of the middle class mushroomed, and an America where most all willing to work could provide for a family on one income.

Sadly, many blindly swallow the conservative revisionist reassessments, that go completely against the truth of the empirical economic numbers.


Too much to say in a small window of 500 words. Therefore, I'll just paraphrase.
I've said enough on FDR and have agreed wholeheartedly that the New Deal was very influential before, during and after the war.
To suggest, however, that we'd have climbed out of the Depression without the influence of the war in Europe is completely wrong. Sadly, it seems that both sides can't simply agree that the war propelled the country out like a rocket thanks in large part to New Deal policies still in place today.

The simple fact is WWII happened. FDR siezed the oppurtunity in 1939 to sell surplus munitions and start funding the war effort for the allies. 12.5 million active duty men; all factories focused on the war; NO cars made for the public between 1941-1945.
The numbers between 1940-1944 would not have been rosy had it not been for the war. Do not forget, also, that technology surged ahead significantly post 1941 thanks to the war. There was no looking back after 1945; again, thanks to the New Deal and esoecially to WWII.
And the slavery post; good God, his friends must be complete idiots to converse like that. Sadly, Libs take this as Gospel Conservative Ideology.
What horseshit, it won't work. I'm a conservative and proud, because I'm NOT a revisionist.

Might I also say that Libs have unfairly targeted Hoover as a pariah and stool of the Depression. Go figure.
1. The unemployment numbers posted refute the "WWII solved the depression" — compare 1932 to 1936 and then 1941.

2. FDR did prepare for war during peace, despite the opposition from opposition party (and the 1940 Republican campaign was run on the plank of keeping out of us another European war that Roosevelt was leading the nation into as was charged) — but still you miss the point, that it was massive government expenditures, that sort of makes the argument that the previous programs didn't go far enough.

3. On Hoover — though my grandparents regard him is "worse president ever" and cursed him their entire life, he just happened to be the chief at a most precarious time — and engineers haven't fared too great in presidency (counting Carter too in that category). Still, I'd rate both those guys a lot higher than Coolidge, and the current Bush incantation.
I guess I was misunderstood in my post. I do get the point. And you're absolutely correct about FDR preparing for war as early as 1937, I think (which is why I respect him so much; he had foresight).
However, my point is that had there been no war, had Hitler been satified with Germany and Japan been satisifed with well...you get the point....I really don't think the massive spenditures of the New deal would have brought an end to the Depression. My point is simply that the massive spending during the war and most important, the outcome (an annhilated World and an untouched juggernaut America)ended the Depression. In other words, the New deal programs were important, yes; but without the War to kick it into action, things would have been different.
In any case, Naum, the story is very biased in my opinion. Take the slavery comment. His conservative friend is an absolute moron, but so is the author. The Civil War is too important and influential to be generalized in a few sentences. But you know that.
Have a nice day.
Oh yes, your point Number 3 was right on. If anything, Coolidge was more at fault (although, I don't think anyone could be at fault, since the Depression was a vicious cycle manufactured by all, including the normal Average Joe's). The Depression was the effect of a young Industrial Economy that grew up too fast without a tight leash, so to speak.
Ludwig von Mises Institute

In short, it was capitalism that finally ended the Great Depression, not FDR's hair-brained cartel, wage-increasing, unionizing, and welfare state expanding policies. It's good to see that the Journal of Political Economy, the University of Chicago, and UCLA are finally beginning to catch up to the libertarian scholarship of Richard Vedder, Lowell Gallaway, Robert Higgs, Jim Powell (author of FDR's Folly) and such predecessors of theirs as Henry Hazlitt, John T. Flynn, Murray Rothbard, F.A. Hayek, William H. Hutt, Benjamin Anderson, and others associated with the Austrian School.

by Thomas DiLorenzo


Read the book "America's Great Depression" by Murray N. Rothbard
"Guest" what started the Great Depression?

I would love to send anyone who was opposed to the New Deal back to living conditions before the New Deal. Living conditions were horrid. Everyone seems to forget this.
Takes a lot of intellegence and insight to simply cut and paste verbatium a libertarian article here.

Takes a lot of "intellegence" and insight to simply reply with NO actual rebuttal to a solid article (...and very logically solid book)! All you can do to make up for you inferiority complex is to attack the messenger! Why should I waste my time typing up an answer to your question (which is a hard question and requires a long answer)---while you can't even address the article!?

(Just in case you are dying to know...without even probably reading the article...Hahah.... which does give some hints...it was primarily the Federal Reserve System during Hoover! And FDR kept almost all of Hoover's bad policies during his administration!)

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