In arguing for the gold standard and against Matt O’Brien, James Rickards claims “The reason we didn’t [have a swift recovery] in 1929 is policy uncertainty and Roosevelt changing his mind,” to which O’Brien rightly points out that Roosevelt was not President in 1929, and that as soon as he took office, recovery began. Rickards’s reply is, “Roosevelt did nothing to get us out of the Great Depression.”
Now, it is obviously false that Roosevelt-inspired uncertainty had anything to do with the decline from 1929 onward, though perhaps that’s just Rickards making a mistake. The further claim betrays an underlying animus toward Roosevelt, informed by false beliefs about the Great Depression, and supports my off-the-cuff thought about gold-standard advocacy here.
Asking why there was a slow recovery after Roosevelt took office is like Newton asking why apples, once detached from the tree,…
We did not think because national government had become a threat in the 18th century that therefore we should abandon the principle of national government. Nor today should we abandon the principle of strong economic units called corporations, merely because their power is susceptible of easy abuse. In other times we dealt with the problem of an unduly ambitious central government by modifying it gradually into a constitutional democratic government. So today we are modifying and controlling our economic units.
As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.
Below is the cruiser Indianapolis, as she appeared on June 19, 1933, just before President Franklin Roosevelt boarded her and fired a shot heard ’round the world.
After Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard on March 6 – apparently temporarily but, as he intended, permanently – the dollar price of gold rose. With this inflation came a rise in commodity prices and for three months the happy image of a recovery from the Great Depression. During this time, Roosevelt talked easily with world leaders about restoring stable exchange rates and with them international trade; in the six weeks from late April through early June he wined, dined, or otherwise conferred with – by one scholarly count – ten prime ministers and other foreign representatives, and with them issued statements regarding the desirability of a world conference for currency stabilization.
Mike Grunwald has a post at FP summarizing his new book, The New New Deal. The basic argument (of both the post and the book) seems to me clear and unassailable: the President’s “stimulus package,” or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is an under appreciated success for two reasons.
First, as to recovery, the jobs stimulus averted much worse unemployment than we would otherwise have had; this is widely understood.
Second, as to reinvestment, it will bring real and lasting “change” — Grunwald uses this word deliberately, arguing that (unlike FDR) Obama has scrupulously kept his campaign promises. ARRA has transformed the energy sector, giving renewable energy a new lease on life; it modernized medical records, it put money into high-speed rail, and pushed high-speed internet out to poorer areas. This is the more original part of Grunwald’s book and the most valuable; it’s…
I loved Jeremy Irons’s performance in Margin Call, and not only because of John Tuld’s final monologue – which is in turn brilliant not only because it contains a tacit arithmetic tribute to the New Deal that undermines the thrust of what he’s saying.
In the list of dates, following 1797, the longest stretch without one of these crises is from 1937 to 1974 – the period of the New Deal’s sway over banking, finance, monetary and fiscal policy.1 Which undermines Tuld’s subsequent suggestion that there’s nothing we can do about it.
Nonpartisan [sic] stars of the revue were Miss Mary Lou Williams, a Negro jazz pianist, and her hot jive quartet. Jamming on such noncontroversial themes as “Lady Be Good,” the quartet turned the show into a convention of rug cutters. Later in the show Mary Lou played her own number, “Ballot Box Boogie in the Key of Franklin D.,” which was musically satisfying but, politically, no Gettysburg address.
One might be tempted to award this round to Lincoln, but: Roosevelt did have people composing boogie-woogie and setting up barnstorming variety show tours.
Regular readers will know we frequently give time and attention to the best of presidents, with special regard to the underrated Franklin Roosevelt. But perhaps we should give equal time to the bad presidents whose badness goes insufficiently remarked – not just the mediocre presidents, but those whose harms go underappreciated.
In the 1912 election, the Democrats gained sixty-one seats to increase their majority in the House of Representatives and seven seats to get a majority in the Senate. Yet their presidential candidate, Woodrow Wilson, won fewer votes than William Jennings Bryan had in 1908, 1900, or 1896. Wilson also underperformed Democrats in Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, and elsewhere,…
Matthew Avery Sutton, “Was FDR the Antichrist? The Birth
of Fundamentalist Antiliberalism in a Global Age,” Journal of American History 98, no. 4 (March 2012): 1052-1074.
A NONTRIVIAL QUESTION RAISED
When and why did white evangelical Christians, or fundamentalists, become categorically opposed to American liberalism?
There is a journalistic rule that all headlines that ask questions are properly answered “no,” and this article is no exception; even to white evangelical Christians, it turns out, FDR was not the antichrist. According to Sutton, they thought he was moving in that direction, though.
This article fits in with the discovery that modern conservatism predates not only the alleged overreach of liberalism in the 1960s or early 1970s, but also World War II. As Sutton says, “As the actions of…
Not to pile on, but there’s also this, in the new Democracy. Unlike the aforementioned TLS essay, the whole thing is online; here’s a short excerpt:
The single moment that made postwar liberalism feel most like a cause worth fighting for came in the darkness of April 4, 1968, when an Indianapolis crowd, assembled to hear Robert F. Kennedy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, instead met a man obliged to tell them that Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. When Kennedy broke the news, a desperate wail burst from the throats of those gathered, a sound unlike any other, bespeaking the tide of anguish and anger about to rush over the republic, sweeping reason before it—but not yet, or not here, not if Kennedy had his way.
Speaking off the cuff, he claimed a shared sorrow—his own brother had been killed in the line of political duty, at a time when he had begun…
Do we need any other political/historical commenter than John McEnroe? Greg Sargent points to this plaintive request to the President from a wealthy donor:
They felt unfairly demonized for being wealthy. They felt scapegoated for the recession … and they blamed the president and his party for the public’s nasty mood. The administration, some suggested, had created a hostile environment for job creators.…
One of the guests raised his hand; he knew how to solve the problem. The president had won plaudits for his speech on race during the last campaign, the guest noted. It was a soaring address that acknowledged white resentment and urged national unity. What if Obama gave a similarly healing speech about class and inequality? What if he urged an end to attacks on the rich? Around the table, some people shook their heads in disbelief.
While we’re watching the signal, if not single, liberal achievement — the BFD, if you will — of the Most Disappointing President Ever™ writhe before conservative jurists like a tasty Christian before so many lions deciding whether merely to rip out the mandate or devour it whole (the Scalia lion is, of course, played by Jeremy Irons and drawling, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”), let’s pause to remember how the Real Democratic Party™ acted when the High Court tossed out a law that was important to their constituents and agenda: They simply passed it again, with a different rationale.
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).