Saturday, February 13, 2010

History Repeating Itself and Not in a Good Way

Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, A New History of the Great Depression. Barack Obama's presidency and his economic policies are placed in context once you read Shlaes' account of FDR and his policies. Written in 2007, there is no way Shlaes could have manipulated the similarities.

Consider this account of the Roosevelt Administration in 1937, four and a half years after the New Deal was introduced and the economy refused to budge. She refers to this time as "a depression within the Depression. "

"...the Economist would conclude...that the United States "seemed to have forgotten, for the moment, how to grow."

Yet Washington was doing all the wrong things. Officials in the capital seemed arrogant, obsessed with numbers, and oblivious to the pain the nation was suffering. People were angry that Congress and the president had recently raised taxes. With business so hard, why make it harder?" (2)

Sound familiar? Shlaes continues with a story of the treasury secretary giving a speech before the Academy of Political Science during this time:

"There had been a national emergency in the past, the secretary told listeners. But now it no longer existed. The secretary then went on to conclude that the country must now "continue progress toward a balance of the federal budget."

A member of the audience laughed out loud in shock. The remark seemed so much at odds with the painful reality of that November.

...Washington had already made thousands of efforts to help the economy, yet those efforts had not brought prosperity." (3)

Policy is not where the similarities end. "Roosevelt offered rhetorical optimism, but pessimism underlay his policies. ...Roosevelt cared little for constitutional niceties and believed they blocked progress. His remedies were on a greater scale and often inspired by socialist or fascist models abroad." (6)

And finally: "The problem was their naivete about the economic value of Soviet-style or European-style collectivism--and the fact that they forced such collectivism upon their own country." (7)

Arm yourself with historical fact. Read The Forgotten Man. For as Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."


  1. Hi,
    just found your blog thru freerepublic. I wanted to say that I am glad to not be the only one that has found the value in Ms. Shlaes' book. I currently have most of the audio book on my iphone, for when chores allow listening. She hits the nail on the head, without being partisan. My feeling was that she focused on accuracy more than anything, and I felt that she did a great job. Certainly better than most of the apologists out there. It reminds one of the old quote regarding those who are doomed to repeat history by virute of not studying it, doesn't it?

  2. Yes. Thanks so much for your comment, KnotWilbur. Audio is a great way to "re-read" her work. (And thanks for not chastising me for misspelling her name...yikes. Correcting now.