Category Archives: new deal denialist truth squadding

August 30, 2012, 8:57 pm

The gold standard for falsehoods.

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,…

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August 27, 2012, 9:11 pm

More on gold and deflation.

Paul Krugman lays out the case that a gold standard would cause deflation. He bothers with this because apparently the GOP is seriously considering a return to the gold standard. Deflation, as you’ve read on this blog, is a bad idea; much worse than inflation. So why on earth is deflation so hot with the GOP set, whose core constituencies are the same as the Bryanites of the 1890s who opposed the gold standard as the instrument of those who crucified Our Lord?

The only answer I can come to is that the argument must be, FDR took us off the gold standard; everything FDR did (except fighting Nazis) is evil; therefore we should go back on the gold standard.

This is of course a lousy basis for making policy.

Anyway it’s either that or the GOP are in thrall to the rentier class.

August 23, 2012, 11:39 am

The Indianapolis and its two historic bombshells (late entry for Shark Week).

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.

The conference met in…

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August 13, 2012, 4:05 pm

A stimulus is not a New Deal: on Mike Grunwald and the Obama record

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…

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July 10, 2012, 9:28 pm

Margin Call’s tacit tribute to the New Deal.

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.

1He also misses 1873 and 1893, I think.

June 29, 2012, 8:43 pm

Megan McArdle calls someone an “economic idiot.”

Megan McArdle is advising “liberals” that they “shouldn’t defend FDR’s attacks on the Court.” Any “liberals” who would take advice from Megan McArdle are probably not very bright, but there is so much misinformation in McArdle’s post it seems worth a little time to clear it up.

McArdle executes a pivot classic to the anti-New Dealer playbook: facing Andrew Sullivan writing that “the Court tried to sabotage the New Deal under Roosevelt,” McArdle responds, “it’s bad economics. The NRA wasn’t going to save America, and we should be glad that the Court put it to rest.”

Did you notice that? Sullivan was talking about “the New Deal,” and McArdle immediately starts talking about “the NRA.” You see this a lot, anti-New Dealers reducing the New Deal to the NRA. That’s because if you’re an anti-New Dealer, you have a big problem: the New Deal was, and remains, popular. Its most important…

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June 18, 2012, 5:18 pm

FDR: not the antichrist.

(Another in an irregularly produced series)

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.

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…

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February 14, 2012, 5:14 pm

Alexander Field, Greg Clark, and Optimism about the Current Unpleasantness.

On the jacket of Alexander Field’s new book A Great Leap Forward, my colleague Greg Clark says this:

As we sit mired in the Great Recession, Alexander Field’s exciting reappraisal of the Great Depression offers surprising solace. By showing the Great Depression was coupled with the most rapid technological advance in U.S. history, he fundamentally recasts the history of the 1930s. But he also offers hope that our own depression likely will have no long-run costs to the U.S. economy.

By measuring total factor productivity (TFP), or the improvement in productivity not accounted for by traditional inputs, Field finds tremendous gains during the Depression. They owe in part to private investment in manufacturing efficiencies, chemical processes, and other technical improvements. Historiographically, there’s a major payoff in showing that the vast majority of such innovation came during…

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December 22, 2011, 10:35 am

This history blog has its own history.

December 1, 2011, 10:51 am

… and the New Deal Denialists of DOOM!

Speaking of Charles Forsman as I was yesterday (he of the brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark/Popeye mashup) I realized that the timing of the hiatus prevented my sharing with you my own Forsman original sketch.


November 4, 2010, 8:10 pm

A river runs through it.

The charming Bidwell Bowl amphitheater on the campus of Chico State University. A creek separates the stage from the seating. I would love to perform there.


October 27, 2010, 2:26 pm

Now let us never speak of this again. Oh, maybe one more time.

Henry Farrell takes some time to write a careful case that he summarizes thusly:

Megan McArdle believes that we would all benefit from more intellectual charity in the exciting cut and thrust of the blogosphere. There is indeed a plausible case for this. What there is not a plausible case for, in my opinion, is more intellectual charity towards Megan McArdle.

This case begins with a discussion of the infamous “spanking Eric Rauchway incident,” which you may remember concluded with Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman saying I was right. Henry says McArdle promised to revisit the issue, which was a promise I did not see at the time.

June 30, 2010, 8:29 am

The Same Thing Over and Over Again Expecting Different Results

I tread warily on Eric’s turf, but this is too much to resist. David Leonhardt lays out, in today’s Times, the gamble which most of the world is about to undertake:

The world’s rich countries are now conducting a dangerous experiment. They are repeating an economic policy out of the 1930s — starting to cut spending and raise taxes before a recovery is assured — and hoping today’s situation is different enough to assure a different outcome.

The risk, of course, is that the same thing will happen that happened in the period 1936-1938. Then, premature fiscal tightening put a bullet in the head of the still shaky recovery, and the world economy collapsed back into depression. There is, now that you mention it, a book about this.

But now Things Are Different. For example, “Back then, however, European governments were raising their spending in the run-up to World War II. This…

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June 29, 2010, 10:45 am


I don’t know how often a sidewalk needs repaving. But this certainly looks like a WPA signature on a sidewalk in Davis, on the north side of First Street between B and C.

If that’s what it is, it’s a nice illustration of the scope of the WPA; it’s a point that can’t be made frequently enough and is nicely made in Jason Scott Smith’s book, that the WPA’s reach was one of the things that made it simultaneously so popular and so unpopular. The project for Dixon was a boondoggle, of course, but the project for Davis was vital to the improvement of infrastructure.

April 2, 2010, 8:38 am

Embarrassment by variable.

From Nate Silver, a social scientific lapse.

A study purporting to find a connection between stimulus spending and the partisanship of a district suffers from an obvious flaw. But in so doing, it provides an example of why it’s important to retain some common sense — and some sense of context — when conducting a statistical analysis.

The study, by Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University and the National Review, claims that congressional districts which elected a Democrat to the Congress received a larger amount of stimulus finds by a margin which is statistically significant even after controlling for certain other effects like the unemployment rate. However, the study does not control for at least one other variable that is overwhelmingly important in determining the dispensation of stimulus funds.

The variable in question is in fact pretty obvious if you simply look at the…

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