FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depressionby Jim Powell
“Admirers of FDR credit his New Deal with restoring the American economy after the disastrous contraction of 1929—33. Truth to tell–as Powell demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt–the New Deal hampered recovery from the contraction, prolonged and added to unemployment, and set the stage for ever more intrusive and costly government.… See more details below
“Admirers of FDR credit his New Deal with restoring the American economy after the disastrous contraction of 1929—33. Truth to tell–as Powell demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt–the New Deal hampered recovery from the contraction, prolonged and added to unemployment, and set the stage for ever more intrusive and costly government. Powell’s analysis is thoroughly documented, relying on an impressive variety of popular and academic literature both contemporary and historical.”
–Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate, Hoover Institution
“There is a critical and often forgotten difference between disaster and tragedy. Disasters happen to us all, no matter what we do. Tragedies are brought upon ourselves by hubris. The Depression of the 1930s would have been a brief disaster if it hadn’t been for the national tragedy of the New Deal. Jim Powell has proven this.”
–P.J. O’Rourke, author of Parliament of Whores and Eat the Rich
“The material laid out in this book desperately needs to be available to a much wider audience than the ranks of professional economists and economic historians, if policy confusion similar to the New Deal is to be avoided in the future.”
–James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate, George Mason University
“I found Jim Powell’s book fascinating. I think he has written an important story, one that definitely needs telling.”
–Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers’ War
“Jim Powell is one tough-minded historian, willing to let the chips fall where they may. That’s a rare quality these days, hence more valuable than ever. He lets the history do the talking.”
–David Landes, Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University
“Jim Powell draws together voluminous economic research on the effects of all of Roosevelt’s major policies. Along the way, Powell gives fascinating thumbnail sketches of the major players. The result is a devastating indictment, compellingly told. Those who think that government intervention helped get the U.S. economy out of the depression should read this book.”
–David R. Henderson, editor of The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics and author of The Joy of Freedom
The Great Depression and the New Deal. For generations, the collective American consciousness has believed that the former ruined the country and the latter saved it. Endless praise has been heaped upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for masterfully reining in the Depression’s destructive effects and propping up the country on his New Deal platform. In fact, FDR has achieved mythical status in American history and is considered to be, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of all time. But would the Great Depression have been so catastrophic had the New Deal never been implemented?
In FDR’s Folly, historian Jim Powell argues that it was in fact the New Deal itself, with its shortsighted programs, that deepened the Great Depression, swelled the federal government, and prevented the country from turning around quickly. You’ll discover in alarming detail how FDR’s federal programs hurt America more than helped it, with effects we still feel today, including:
• How Social Security actually increased unemployment
• How higher taxes undermined good businesses
• How new labor laws threw people out of work
• And much more
This groundbreaking book pulls back the shroud of awe and the cloak of time enveloping FDR to prove convincingly how flawed his economic policies actually were, despite his good intentions and the astounding intellect of his circle of advisers. In today’s turbulent domestic and global environment, eerily similar to that of the 1930s, it’s more important than ever before to uncover and understand the truth of our history, lest we be doomed to repeat it.
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Read an Excerpt
The Great Depression has had an immense influence on our thinking, particularly about ways to handle an economic crisis, yet we know surprisingly little about it. Most historians have focused on chronicling Franklin D. Roosevelt’s charismatic personality, his brilliance as a strategist and communicator, the dramatic One Hundred Days, the First New Deal, Second New Deal, the “court-packing” plan, and other political aspects of the story. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the effects of the New Deal.
In recent decades, however, many economists have tried to determine whether New Deal policies contributed to recovery or prolonged the depression. The most troubling issue has been the persistence of high unemployment throughout the New Deal period. From 1934 to 1940, the median annual unemployment rate was 17.2 percent.1 At no point during the 1930s did unemployment go below 14 percent. Even in 1941, amidst the military buildup for World War II, 9.9 percent of American workers were unemployed. Living standards remained depressed until after the war.2
While there was episodic recovery between 1933 and 1937, the 1937 peak was lower than the previous peak (1929), a highly unusual occurrence. Progress has been the norm. In addition, the 1937 peak was followed by a crash. As Nobel laureate Milton Friedman observed, this was “the only occasion in our record when one deep depression followed immediately on the heels of another.”3
Scholarly investigators have raised some provocative questions. For instance, why did New Dealers make it more expensive for employers to hire people? Why did FDR’s Justice Department file some 150 lawsuits threatening big employers? Why did New Deal policies discourage private investment without which private employment was unlikely to revive? Why so many policies to push up the cost of living? Why did New Dealers destroy food while people went hungry? To what extent did New Deal labor laws penalize blacks? Why did New Dealers break up the strongest banks? Why were Americans made more vulnerable to disastrous human error at the Federal Reserve? Why didn’t New Deal securities laws help investors do better? Why didn’t New Deal public works projects bring about a recovery? Why was so much New Deal relief spending channeled away from the poorest people? Why did the Tennessee Valley Authority become a drag on the Tennessee Valley?
Curiously, although the Great Depression was probably the most important economic event in twentieth-century American history, Stanford University’s David M. Kennedy seems to be the only major political historian who has mentioned any of the recent findings. “Whatever it was,” he wrote in his Pulitzer Prize–winning Freedom from Fear (1999), the New Deal “was not a recovery program, or at any rate not an effective one.”4
It’s true the Great Depression was an international phenomenon—depression in Germany, for instance, made increasing numbers of desperate people search for scapegoats and support Adolf Hitler, a lunatic who couldn’t get anywhere politically just a few years earlier when the country was still prosperous. But compared to the United States, as economic historian Lester V. Chandler observed, “in most countries the depression was less deep and prolonged.”5 Regardless whether the depression originated in the United States or Europe, there is considerable evidence that New Deal policies prolonged high unemployment.
FDR didn’t do anything about a major cause of 90 percent of the bank failures, namely, state and federal unit banking laws. These limited banks to a single office, preventing them from diversifying their loan portfolios and their source of funds. Unit banks were highly vulnerable to failure when local business conditions were bad, because all their loans were to local people, many of whom were in default, and all their deposits came from local people who were withdrawing their money. Canada, which permitted nationwide branch banking, didn’t have a single bank failure during the Great Depression.
FDR’s major banking “reform,” the second Glass-Steagall Act, actually weakened the banking system by breaking up the strongest banks to separate commercial banking from investment banking. Universal banks (which served depositors and did securities underwriting) were much stronger than banks pursuing only one of these activities, very few universal banks failed, and securities underwritten by universal banks were less risky. Almost every historian has praised FDR’s other major financial “reform,” establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission to supervise the registration of new securities and the operation of securities markets, but in terms of rate of return, investors were no better off than they were in the 1920s, before the Securities and Exchange Commission came along.
FDR didn’t do much about a contributing factor in the Great Depression, the Smoot-Hawley tariff which throttled trade. Indeed, he raised some tariffs, while Secretary of State Cordell Hull negotiated reciprocal trade agreements which cut tariffs only about 4 percent. FDR approved the dumping of agricultural commodities below cost overseas, which surely aggravated our trading partners.
FDR tripled taxes during the Great Depression, from $1.6 billion in 1933 to $5.3 billion in 1940.6 Federal taxes as a percentage of the gross national product jumped from 3.5 percent in 1933 to 6.9 percent in 1940, and taxes skyrocketed during World War II.7 FDR increased the tax burden with higher personal income taxes, higher corporate income taxes, higher excise taxes, higher estate taxes, and higher gift taxes. He introduced the undistributed profits tax. Ordinary people were hit with higher liquor taxes and Social Security payroll taxes. All these taxes meant there was less capital for businesses to create jobs, and people had less money in their pockets.
In addition, FDR increased the cost and risk of employing people, and so there shouldn’t have been any surprise that the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high. Economists Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, in their 1997 study Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America, reported: “New Deal policies (and some Hoover-era policies predating the New Deal) systematically used the power of the state to intervene in labor markets in a manner to raise wages and labor costs, prolonging the misery of the Great Depression, and creating a situation where many people were living in rising prosperity at a time when millions of others were suffering severe deprivation. . . . Of the ten years of unemployment rates over 10 percent during the Depression, fully eight were during the Roosevelt administration (counting 1933 as a Roosevelt year).”8 Vedder and Gallaway estimated that by 1940 unemployment was eight points higher than it would have been in the absence of higher payroll costs imposed by New Deal policies.9
Economists Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson reported, “It is difficult to ascertain just how much the New Deal programs had to do with keeping the unemployment rate high, but surely they were important. A combination of fixing farm prices, promoting labor unions, and passing a series of antibusiness tax laws would certainly have had a negative impact on employment. In addition, the uncertainty experienced by the business community as a result of the frequent tax law changes (1932, 1934, 1935, 1936) must have been enormous. Since firms’ investment decisions very much depend on being able to plan, an increase in uncertainty tends to reduce investment expenditures. It should not be a surprise that investment as a proportion of output was at low levels during the mid-1930s.”10
Black people were among the major victims of the New Deal. Large numbers of blacks were unskilled and held entry-level jobs, and when New Deal policies forced wage rates above market levels, hundreds of thousands of these jobs were destroyed. Above-market wage rates encouraged employers to mechanize and in other ways cut total labor costs. Many New Deal policies were framed to benefit northern industries and undermine the position of employers in the South, where so many blacks worked. “New Deal labor policies contributed to a persistent increase in African American unemployment,” reported economist David E. Bernstein.11
When millions of people had little money, New Deal era policies made practically everything more expensive (the National Industrial Recovery Act), specifically maintained above-market retail prices (the Robinson-Patman Act and the Retail Price Maintenance Act) and above-market airline tickets (Civil Aeronautics Act). Moreover, FDR signed into law the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which led to the destruction of millions of acres of crops and millions of farm animals, while many Americans were hungry.
New Deal agricultural policies provided subsidies based on a farmer’s acreage and output, which meant they mainly helped big farmers with the most acreage and output. The New Deal displaced poor sharecroppers and tenant farmers, a large number of whom were black. High farm foreclosure rates persisted during the New Deal, indicating that it did almost nothing for the poorest farmers. Historian Michael A. Bernstein went farther and made a case that New Deal agricultural policies “sacrificed the interests of the marginal and the unrecognized to the welfare of those with greater political and economic power.”12
The flagship of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act, which authorized cartel codes restricting output and fixing high prices for just about every conceivable business enterprise, much as medieval guild restrictions had restricted output and fixed prices. That FDR approved contraction was astounding, because the American people had suffered through three years of catastrophic contraction. With the National Industrial Recovery Act, it actually became a crime to increase output or cut prices—a forty-nine-year-old immigrant dry cleaner was jailed for charging 35 cents instead of 40 cents to press a pair of pants.
This wasn’t full-scale government control as in the Soviet Union, but it came closer than anybody had thought possible. Although the NIRA was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 1935, the New Deal continued to multiply restrictions on business enterprise. “Perhaps the greatest defect in these limited planning measures,” wrote economic historian Ellis W. Hawley, “was their tendency toward restriction, their failure to provide any incentive for expansion when an expanding economy was the crying need of the time.”13
While FDR authorized the spending of billions for relief and public works projects, a disproportionate amount of this money went not to the poorest states such as the South, but to western states where people were better off, apparently because these were “swing” states which could yield FDR more votes in the next election. The South was already solidly Democratic, so there wasn’t much to be gained by buying votes there. It was observed at the time that relief and public works spending seemed to increase during election years. Politicking with relief and public works money got to be so bad that Congress passed the Hatch Act (1939).
The New Deal approached its climax in 1938 as Thurman Arnold, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, began to file about 150 lawsuits against companies employing millions of people. Hawley called this “the most intensive antitrust campaign in American history.”14 Whatever the merits of the government’s claims, these lawsuits made it politically more risky for businesses to pursue long-term investments, and private investment remained at an historically low level throughout the New Deal—prolonging the Great Depression.
All the highly publicized relief programs and public works projects couldn’t make up for the damage inflicted by New Deal taxes, restrictions, antitrust lawsuits, and the rest. Indeed, the more money the government spent on relief and public works, the more tax revenue it needed, and the more damage done to the economy.
As a cure for the Great Depression, government spending didn’t work. In 1933, federal government outlays were $4.5 billion; by 1940 they were $9.4 billion, so FDR more than doubled federal spending, and still unemployment remained stubbornly high. Changes in federal budget deficits didn’t correspond with changes in gross domestic product, and in any case the federal budget deficit at its peak (1936) was only 4.4 percent of the gross domestic product, much too small for a likely cure.15
The most that could be said in FDR’s defense was this, by Donald R. Richberg, former head of the National Recovery Administration: “Although the tremendous expenditures and supports for agriculture and industrial labor that were projected in the Roosevelt administration did not end a huge unemployment problem, they did raise new hopes and inspire new activities among the American people which turned them away for a time at least from even more radical political programs.”16
FDR had assumed unprecedented arbitrary power supposedly needed to get America out of the Great Depression. Although Democrats controlled Congress, FDR was impatient with American democracy, and he issued an extraordinary number of executive orders—3,728 altogether17—which is more than all the executive orders issued by his successors Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton combined. In the name of fairness, FDR saw to it that some individuals were treated much more harshly than others under the federal tax code. NRA codes denied individuals the fundamental liberty to enter the business of their choosing. Compulsory unionism denied individuals the right to work without joining a union. Americans gave up these liberties and more without getting out of the Great Depression, as had been promised. Principal legacies of the New Deal have been a massive expansion of government power and loss of liberty.
FDR’s failure to end chronic high unemployment and his increasingly arbitrary tactics were reasons why, after 1936, his political support declined. Republicans gained seats in Congress during the 1938 elections, and they gained more seats in 1940. FDR’s own vote totals declined after 1936, and Republican presidential vote totals increased over both those of 1936 and 1932.
FDR didn’t make the recovery of private, productive employment his top priority. Along with advisers like Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Rexford Tugwell, and Thomas Corcoran, FDR viewed business as the cause of the Great Depression, and he did everything he could to restrict business. His goal was “reform,” not recovery. Accordingly, the New Deal taxed money away from the private sector, and government officials, not private individuals, made the spending decisions. New Deal laws determined what kind of people businesses must hire, how much they must be paid, what prices businesses must charge, and it interfered with their ability to raise capital.
The British economist John Maynard Keynes recognized that FDR’s priorities were subverting the prospects for ending high unemployment. He wrote FDR a letter which was published in the December 31, 1933, issue of the New York Times. Keynes warned that “even wise and necessary Reform may, in some respects, impede and complicate Recovery. For it will upset the confidence of the business world and weaken their existing motives to action. . . . I am not clear, looking back over the last nine months, that the order of urgency between measures of Recovery and measures of Reform has been duly observed, or that the latter has not sometimes been mistaken for the former.”18
Newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann observed that New Deal “reformers” would “rather not have recovery if the revival of private initiative means a resumption of private control in the management of corporate business . . . the essence of the New Deal is the reduction of private corporate control by collective bargaining and labor legislation, on the one side, and by restrictive, competitive and deterrent government action on the other side.”19
The failure of the New Deal seems incredible considering that FDR is widely rated among America’s greatest presidents. Moreover, many of the brightest minds of the era were recruited to Washington. FDR, who graduated from Harvard College, filled many of his top positions with graduates of Harvard Law School. They had clerked with the most respected judges of the era. These and other New Dealers were hailed for their compassion and their so-called progressive thinking. They were widely viewed as more noble than the greedy businessmen and reckless speculators who were thought to have brought on the depression. New Dealers wanted to eliminate poverty, abolish child labor, and right other social wrongs. Many New Dealers saw themselves as trying to make the world over. How could such bright, compassionate people have gone so wrong?
This book attempts to explain what went wrong and why. I draw on major findings by economists about the actual effects of the New Deal—how it promoted cartels, imposed confiscatory taxes, made it harder for companies to raise capital, made it more expensive for companies to employ people, bombarded companies with dubious antitrust lawsuits, and relentlessly denounced employers and investors, prolonging high unemployment. Published during the last four decades, these findings have been virtually ignored by pro–New Deal political historians like James MacGregor Burns, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Frank Freidel, William Leuctenburg, and Kenneth S. Davis. In his autobiography, Schlesinger acknowledged that he “was not much interested in economics.” It is remarkable how such respected historians, writing about the most important economic event of twentieth-century American history, could disregard the growing economics literature which challenges their views.
Unless we clearly understand the effects of the New Deal, we cannot say we understand it at all—and more important, what the Great Depression experience means for us now. It would be tragic if, in a future recession or depression, policymakers repeated the same mistakes of the New Deal because they knew only the political histories of the time.
I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the Great Depression as we know it was avoidable. Better policies could have prevented the bank failures which accelerated the contraction of the money supply and brought on the Great Depression. The Great Depression could have been over much more quickly—the United States recovered from the severe 1920 depression in about a year. Chronic high unemployment persisted during the 1930s because of a succession of misguided New Deal policies.
A principal lesson for us today is that if economic shocks are followed by sound policies, we can avoid another Great Depression. A government will best promote a speedy business recovery by making recovery the top priority, which means letting people keep more of their money, removing obstacles to productive enterprise, and providing stable money and a political climate where investors feel that it’s safe to invest for the future.
11.Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 1997), p. 129.
12.Lester V. Chandler, American Monetary Policy, 1928-1941 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 247.
13.Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 493.
14.David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 361.
15.Lester V. Chandler, America’s Greatest Depression, 1929-1941 (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 91.
16.Historical Statistics of the United States from Colonial Times to the Present (Washington, D.C.: Department of Commerce, 1974), II, p. 1107.
18.Vedder and Gallaway, pp. 128, 131, 132.
19.Vedder and Gallaway, p. 141.
10.Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson, The Great Depression: An International Disaster of Perverse Economic Policies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), p. 147.
11.David E. Bernstein, Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001), p. 103.
12.Michael A. Bernstein, The Great Depression: Delayed Recovery and Economic Change in America, 1929–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 270.
13.Ellis W. Hawley, The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly: A Study in Economic Ambivalence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966), p. 485.
14.Hawley, p. 421.
15.“Gross Domestic Product (Millions of 1929 dollars),” National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Series 08166. http://www.korpios.org/resurgent /GDPreal.htm; “Summary of Receipts, Outlays and Surpluses of Deficits, 1789–2004,” The Budget for Fiscal Year 2000, p. 19, http://w3.access.gpo .gov/usbudget /fy2000/pdf/hist.pdf.
16.Donald R. Richberg, My Hero: The Indiscreet Memoirs of an Eventful but Unheroic Life (New York: Putnam’s, 1954), p. 152.
17.National Archives and Records Administration, Executive Orders Disposition Tables, http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/eo.html.
19.Quoted in Gary Dean Best, Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt Versus Recovery, 1933–1938 (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1991), p. 213.
Meet the Author
JIM POWELL, editor of Laissez Faire Books, has been a senior fellow at the Cato Institute since 1988. He is the author of the bestselling book The Triumph of Liberty, which the Wall Street Journal called “a literary achievement,” and he has written more than 400 articles for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Money magazine, Reason, and numerous other national publications. A world-renowned historian, Mr. Powell studied under Daniel Boorstin and William McNeill at the University of Chicago, and he has lectured across the United States as well as in England, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Argentina. He lives in Connecticut.
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This was a great read and illustrates the problem with government. Government can help to facilitate prosperity by standing aside and allowing the creative juices of the individual to create opportunities for those who seek it. A good example is the mininum wage. Rather than burden small buisness, why not allow people at this end of the economic spectrum to keep more of their hard earned money. Give them a pass and allow them to keep what they have earned until they have reached a level of self-sufficiency where they can be a contributor to the greater society. FDR and the New Deal crowd meant well in their intentions, but those intentions only aggravated an already difficult time and added to the misery that the average individual faced trying to survive. This is a classic example where government--big government can be over-reaching and a detriment to all. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be the guiding principle in all what we do.
FDR's Folly is an excellent antidote to the FDR worship found in most American History. I realized how much I did not know about FDR's administration while reading a 'Nero Wolfe' mystery by Rex Stout. Stout, a staunch FDR supporter, was describing the work done by a government agency regarding consumer prices. One's assumption would be that FDR was concerned with rising prices, but in fact the opposite was true: manufacturers were forbidden to drop prices. The more I enquired the more conflicted I became. Until FDR, the founders' interpretation of the Constitution had been upheld. The limitations placed on the power of the Federal Government to tax one citizen to benefit another were honored. Private property rights were respected. Businesses were, for the most part, run as the owners saw fit. In the 1920's, a clash of global developments converged to spark the Great Depression and touched off the firestorm of public opinion that swept FDR into the White House. Marxists in the US admired the USSR and believed Stalin's lies about the economic situation there. This was taken as proof that taxing Peter to pay Paul would result in a better society. Private property abolition also appealed to a certain portion of the electorate. Widespread automation was increasing productivity and technological advances were fueling societal changes. People were leaving the farms in record numbers. Automobiles gave personal freedom a boost it had never had. Radio brought daily entertainment to the masses. And then, it all started to stall. US farmers had borrowed expecting the post-WWI price spike to continue. The UK, in dire need of propping up the pound, asked the US to help. The US raised the interest rate 3 times in one year. The UK couldn't afford US exports. The US businesses were having trouble with the newly increased interest rates. Wall Street saw that earnings would be sharply lower and CRASH. FDR's Folly runs through all the hideous mistakes which actually prolonged the Depression. Prices were controlled at a high level and not allowed to fall. At a time when Americans were starving, farm output was limited and surpluses burned. It was all quite well intentioned, but disastrous none the less. You will learn why American banks failed and Canadian banks did not. You will learn the WPA projects in safely Democratic states like Virginia paid workers a fraction of the wage earned in battleground states where Democrats had an electoral fight on their hands. You will learn that when FDR could not get his way with the Supreme Court, he began to maneuver to increase the size of the court from 9 to 13. Can you imagine the uproar if President Bush were to attempt that today? At least in that attempt to overthrow the American way of life and government, FDR failed. Even if you are a great FDR supporter or perhaps especially if you are a great FDR supporter, get this book. It is sobering to read how easily good intentions can go astray. For my own family, the scars of the New Deal are still painful: my grandfather's birthplace was flooded by a TVA dam, my great-grandmother's ancestral home and graveyard is now part of Skyline Drive and family members are forbidden to keep it maintained. My great-grandfather's farm survived FDR because he had never modernized and taken on debt. My grandfather said to my mother, a girl of 11, on FDR's death that were he not a Christian he would have a drink to celebrate. No matter who you are, you will learn something new from FDR's Folly. And it is quite possible it will sharpen your thinking skills in general, it did mine.
This book should be mandatory reading in Econ 101 classes. With exceptionally detailed research, Jim Powell has blown the lid off the populist historical record that suggests that FDR was one of this country's greatest Presidents. FDR's Folly details the disastrous effects on the economy of one failed government program after another and the bombast with which FDR, with the support of a liberal Congress, enacted them. It is a manifesto on the danger of government attempts to 'control' the economy. Kudos to Mr.Powell.
This book was a great read for anyone who does not know much about FDR and the New Deal. Although FDR meant well, his distrust of the American way-capitalism prevented the economy from growing out of this hole. The various programs, agencies, bureau's etc... created on behalf of FDR were nothing more than a waste of money. Whatever the value some programs, agencies, bureau's had were outweighed by the destructive nature of the intended and unintended consequences. What I found astonishing was the attack on productivity and buisness. The tax rates and the confiscatory policies nearly destoryed the U.S and the economy. Tax rates approaching 100% to what end? Fortunately, WWII provided an avenue for men and women to get back to work. However, there was much that had to occur to produce what was necessary to win the war. This book was an eye opener to how destructive misguided policies can wreck havoc on the average citizen. Grant it, FDR was at the helm in leading the U.S. and Allies in victory, but it was the American people and capitalism that won the war. I came away with the impression and appreciation for what capitalism can do when people and business are allowed to innovate and produce, as well as, how government interference can destory the veary fabric of what the U.S. and capitalism stands for and represents. The events of the last 3 years are instructive and suggest that history does repeat itself.
Let me make this clear; I am not a Republican. In fact, I truly loathe the current Republican leadership inside, and outside the White house. Now on to the book...
Despite my having an undergraduate degree in economics and a minor in US History, at no time did any of my professors plunge into the negative aspects of the New Deal as well as did the author of this great book. We are constantly bombarded with recollections of FDR as being a superhero who rescued our nation from the great depression and anyone who dares to research the subject and question the actual economic consequences of the New Deal is casted from academia and labeled as being a "right wing lunatic." But the Great Depression lasted more than a decade. So how could the New Deal have been responsible for our eventual recovery? More and more researchers are concluding that FDR's socialist price controlling schemes, huge increases in taxation, and overall forced manipulation of the marketplace as causing a recession, or short depression, to TURN INTO the famous Great Depression.
This book is an excellent read and a must for any person seeking to avoid the mistakes made by those of the past. Or at least gain a rounded view of one of our most popular presidents.
This book is concise, enlightening, well documented, well researched, and quite readable. It reveals the mistakes that Roosevelt and his minions made enroute to prolonging the Great Depression. There is not the lengthy character development that Amity Shlaes has in her book. However, Mr Powell cites the numerous errors made by the New Dealers in prolonging the Great Depression. FDR sycophants will want to avoid this fact based essay. Those with open, inquisitive minds will enjoy the read.
After reading the first seventy-five or so pages, I really didn't need to see anymore of Powell's whining and yelling over the New Deal. Here are some simple facts that he and the Friedmanites don't want you to know: 1.) The Federal Reserve was established by Congress in 1913 in response to the recent 1907-1909 depression that struck the manufacturing industry the hardest among others. Before that, at least six depressions occurred throughtout the nineteenth century from 1819 to 1895, precisely when there wasn't any governmental control. 2.) Many prominent Republicans and Democrats such as Presidents Roosevelt,Taft,and Wilson as well as the the presidential candidates Hughes (whom Powell mentions while he served as Supreme Court chief justice) and William Jennings Bryan all supported the enactment of central banking in order to promote stabilty. 3.) The "Roaring 20's" that Powell and other right-wing apologists fawn over was, as Powell himself admitted to a degree in the book (thus contradicting himself), marked by unrestrained spending and mounting debt, which is percisely what caused stockholders to default on their debts to lenders in the markets, causing that inevitable bubble to eventually burst in 1929.
Greed and capitalism created the depression. This book is a self serving mismash.I look at the cost of this book as a write off.
FDR's New Deal saved the lives of thousands of families, especially those that were lured into No Man's Land by the Homestead Act. READ ABOUT THAT!! He was a hero, and the previous reviews that say otherwise are just trying to rewrite history for the sake of right-wing politics.
This work gives the impression that today's Republican administration had a hand in its conception! Had FDR, one of the greatest presidents that ever governed this country, not performed the way he did, the Soviet Union would have had an American Communist 'twin sister'. If you want an outstanding read, I have provided an alternative title below.