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The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

She's right: we did it

I was interested in reading another history of the Great Depression, having only read a single book on the subject, John Kenneth Galbraith's, 'The Great Crash: 1929'. Amity Shlaes' book was highly recommended by many authoritative sources as well-suited to the non-expe...
I was interested in reading another history of the Great Depression, having only read a single book on the subject, John Kenneth Galbraith's, 'The Great Crash: 1929'. Amity Shlaes' book was highly recommended by many authoritative sources as well-suited to the non-expert in economics who is interested in understanding the conditions which lead to the Depression, those factors that perpetuated it and, more particularly, what steps, if any, might be taken to avoid a repetition of those sorrowful times. As the author of a general-interest book, Shlaes tries to hold the reader's attention by abundant use of anecdotes to illustrate what otherwise might appear as arcane economic concepts. This yields a somewhat encyclopaedic survey of the times, but also familiarizes the reader with many important historical personalities that are currently obscure, e.g. Rex Tugwell, Raymond Moley, Adolf Berle and Felix Frankfurter. As I understood the book, the major points were: 1. FDR's penchant for experimentation, 2. His susceptibility to influence from his cohort of advisors the so-called 'Brain Trust', a frequently mutating group of intellectuals, recruited on the basis of their appeal to Roosevelt's current fancy and, most importantly, 3. That New Deal policies needlessly prolonged the Depression, simultaneously creating 'identity' and 'interest' politics. A corollary of New Deal policies was the creation of indebted constituencies: this resulted from developing conditions tantamount to 'class warfare' and by putting more and more people on 'the dole'. Shlaes, however, is candid enough to point out FDR's shrewd abilities as a political thinker, citing, for example, his swift reversal of course by adoption of the formerly vilified scions of 'big business' when he realized the liklihood of an impending European war and the need for support from this quarter. Another interesting an politically adroit move was FDR's appointment of Joe Kennedy as first head of the Securities and Exchange Commission: who better to monitor fraudulent securities trading activity than an insider and master of the method? John Maynard Keynes and his theories, adapted to various New Deal programs by FDR, receives a few pointed rebukes. The most telling point in favor of Shlaes' perspective came in the form of an endorsement by the current head of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke. In November, 2002, at a ceremony honoring Milton Friedman's ninetieth birthday, he was quoted as remarking, 'I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again.' Let's hope he's right. But, What better vindication could Shlaes' arguments wish for? In summary, an interesting book, well worth reading.

posted by Anonymous on September 25, 2007

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Most Helpful Critical Review

15 out of 56 people found this review helpful.

A reviewer

Funded by a corporate elite Think Tank, Amity Shlaes, a former Wall Street Journal Editorial scribbler purports to write ¿A New History of the Great Depression¿ from the perspective of ¿The Forgotten Man.¿ However, Shlaes substitutes the viewpoints of disgraced---and n...
Funded by a corporate elite Think Tank, Amity Shlaes, a former Wall Street Journal Editorial scribbler purports to write ¿A New History of the Great Depression¿ from the perspective of ¿The Forgotten Man.¿ However, Shlaes substitutes the viewpoints of disgraced---and now forgotten---Hoover Administration Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, for the common man FDR stood up for and defended during the Great Depression. Andrew Mellon famously demanded a ¿prolonged liquidation¿ and advised the road to recovery was to 'liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.' To which John Maynard Keynes responded, 'I do not understand how universal bankruptcy can do any good or bring us nearer to prosperity.' Shlaes shilling for the corporate elite cannot change the fact that Keynes was correct. The full and final economic recovery sprang not from businessmen buying up bankrupt assets but rather from the massive Government spending leading up to and during WWII.

posted by Anonymous on July 8, 2007

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Puts the New Deal and FDR in Perspective

    This book is a great resource for anyone who would like a fresh perspective on the Great Depression and FDR's policies; or would like to better understand what will and will not work to help bring our country out of its current economic slump. Too often the fairytale of the New Deal clouds the reality.

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    At last a fair and accurate history of the Great Depression!!

    This is an excellent book. It gives a very fair account of the Great Depression. It points the myriad mistakes made by both Hoover and Roosevelt. This book is a must read for these economic times. It puts all the bailout and sub-prime messes in to an all too clear focus. If you're the least bit sympathetic to the free-market, capitalism and the U.S. Constitution, this book will take your breath away.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    History DOES Repeat Itself.

    I've just finished reading Ms. Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, but when I watch the nightly news, I feel like the story never ended. What an incredible job she's done gathering the history the Great Depression and presenting it in a way that makes it seem like a mystery that's solving itself at the story unfolds. I highly recommend this book ... especially if you are (and I'll admit I was) ignorant of the genesis of the first Great Depression.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2009

    The Forgotten Man should be required reading for all high cschool and college students.

    This is one of the best books I have read this year. After reading it I feel like the forgotten man but i do have faith America will finally see the light and take back our government in 2010.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2007

    The Forgotten Man Revisited

    This is indeed, an outstanding reference, resourseful...a must for the serious reader of the Great Depression.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2010

    Cut through all of the fluff.

    I used to think that I had a pretty good understanding of the Great Depression. FDR was elected to office and saved the country from an inept Herbert Hoover, along with the large corporations that "controlled" the economy at that time. Much of my information was based upon public high school and public university educations that reinforced this theme. My knowledge was also supported by grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles that had lived through this difficult time. Ms. Shlaes book has given me an entirely new perspective. Some may criticize it as biased. On the contrary, I think she has produced an objective body of work that has been extensively researched and includes excerpts from personal diaries and letters of key players in the Roosevelt administration. Those individuals were directly involved with policy making during this period. I was amazed at how closely events of the 1930's seem to parallel the actions of our current politicians in Washington. This book should be required for all high school and college students, as well as anyone holding office in local, state, or Federal government.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    the truth about the great depression

    this is not your father's history book, or mine for that matter. but you will learn what really happened during the great depression.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Origins of Overreaching Government

    The Sixteenth Amendment seems to have been the only part of the Constitution respected by the New Dealers, setting the standard for so-called liberal politicians ever since.

    Amity Schlaes' topical and absorbing study of what really happened in the Great Depression should be on the reading list of every concerned American for its applicability to today. Ms. Schlaes captures your attention immediately in the introduction with a surprising twist in an economic and human-interest analysis from the era. The rest of the book illuminates the truths behind the conventional uncritical views of the origins and efficacy of New Deal policies taught in most history classes. From the influence of the many Soviet admirers and Stalin apologists in the FDR's administration, to the chilling unsuccessful assault on the Schecter Brothers' small poultry business, the lesson of the dangers of big government overreach are well documented in this excellent book. You can't escape the parallels to today.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    Good Time to Read This

    This book is a true eye-opener and very timely. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know what is going on with the economy now.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2008

    A Great Expose

    Amity Shlaes has written a great book explaining the causes of the great depression. I think anyone interested in America's history should read this book.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2010

    Great Book!

    Even Glenn Beck recommends it! A must read...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Forgotten Man............Remembered

    An enlightening update to an era usually viewed as a "video soundbite" in today's world. Politics are nicely set aside and an intelligent review of socialist policy thrust upon this country and it's people has been written.

    This history is repeating itself today. With the publication of this book, we the people, cannot blame the resurgence of socialist, Marxist public policy on our ignorance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    K

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    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2013

    Ms Shlaes cites factual sources of the 1930's to support her con

    Ms Shlaes cites factual sources of the 1930's to support her contention 
    that President Franklin Roosevelt, aided by his advisors, worsened and
    lengthened the Great Depression. The "forgotten man" was the fellow who
    had to pay for FDR's mistakes. It is instructive for us today to learn what were
    the errors and misguided economic beliefs of the Roosevelt Administration.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2011

    Important and Engaging History

    Amity Shlaes has written a wonderfully readable and informative history of The Great Depression. Contrary to the claims of reviewers who engage in ad hominem ideological attacks against the author, "The Forgotten Man" provides keen insight into the contending economic ideas and political philosophies that continue to shape the very different Republican and Democrat answers to the perennial question of how we order our lives together.

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  • Posted August 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Unintentionally Prophetic

    This book is not a treatise on Keynesian economic theory. Although John Maynard Keynes plays a brief role in the books pages. It's a well researched narrative of several important players inside and outside of the Roosevelt administration. Ms Shlaes develops the character of these important players, so that the reader can develop a better understanding of their histories, interests and motivations. She also shares with the reader how those interests and motivations change over time.

    The Forgotten Man is a thread that runs from William Graham Sumner, to Raymond Moley, and to FDR himself. But, when borrowing from Sumner the meaning was changed in the opportunism of the 1932 campaign.

    The characters that are central to the storyline are shown to possess the foibles that afflict the common man. The author is very even handed in that respect. Although throughout the book FDR is shown to be a nemesis of the constitution, an economic naif, a superb communicator and a power craving opportunist.

    The book was published prior to the severe financial crisis that the United States experienced in 2007-2010. Therefore Ms Shlaes researched and authored the book without the foresight of those events. Taking that into account and reading with the knowledge of the unfolding events brought about by the Obama administration and an obeisant congress seems prophetic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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