Presidents Day: Remembering FDR’s victims

February 20, 2012

Presidents Day is one of those weird holidays, a conflation of the birthday’s of two of our greatest presidents, Washington and Lincoln, into a nondescript Monday-off that not only honors those two, but the likes of… Millard Fillmore, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Jimmy Carter? Someone owes George and Abe an apology.

Regardless, today is an apt time to think about the men we’ve entrusted with the highest office in the land and about the good and bad they’ve done. At the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney takes a look at Franklin Roosevelt, nearly a saint in the liberal pantheon and the subject of books that are as much hagiography as they are history, and reminds us that FDR also had a quite a record of demolishing freedom in order to expand state power. Carney presents three examples of the victims of FDR’s statism, but one especially stands out:

Innocent Japanese Americans: Government, ultimately, is force and the threat of force. This is most in view when it comes to imprisonment.

Certainly one of the very worst sins of the U.S. Government was FDR’s creation of internment camps. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, none of whom had ever been accused of a crime, along with Italian- and German-Americans, were packed off to prison camps. Think about it this way: FDR’s internment of a hundred thousand Americans was closer in time to today than it was to the Emanicipation Proclamation.

The Japanese-American internment was really one of the worst atrocities against civil rights after slavery ended, up there with Jim Crow, and a president who could approve this order should be harshly criticized for his abuse of power and the cavalier trampling of citizens’ rights at least as much as he should be praised for any good he did.

We entrust our Chief Executives with great power, especially in time of war, and the example of FDR and the Japanese internment is a reminder to us to consider the character of the person we place in office, not just his or her record.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Video: why the New Deal was a failure

December 13, 2011

Obama’s first term (1) saw a full-throated return to Keynesian economics — massive increases in government spending, debt, and (if they had gotten their way) taxes to try to stimulate the economy. As we all know, it failed miserably.

For the 2012 election, Obama has doubled-down on the Keynesianism to openly advocate policies of higher taxation, more regulation, more government-directed redistribution of income, and, yes, even more flushing tax money down the toilet stimulus spending. Obama and his people claim that this worked before under FDR, so we should do it again.

Wrong. The history of the New Deal (and its predecessor under Hoover) is almost the opposite of what we’ve been taught in school. The biggest misrepresentation of all is that it worked.

It didn’t. The New Deal was a failure that only made the misery worse, as this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity argues:

The real lesson we should take from the economic policies of the Hoover and FDR administrations is that big-government, statist interventions don’t work. Instead, they exacerbate the problem by hindering the self-healing properties of a free market.

In 2012, we have a choice between a party that advocates economic policies that are an empirical failure — the Democrats and the their Hoover/FDR interventionism– and one (2) offering those shown to be an empirical success, the policies of Ronald Reagan and, yes, Warren Harding.

For most voters (3), once armed with the facts, the choice becomes clear and easy.

RELATED: For more on the truth about Hoover, FDR and the New Deal, let me recommend the following:

  • Ohanian and Cole, “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis” (Journal of Political Economy, 2004) While behind online subscriber walls, you should be able to find it at any university library.
  • Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man
  • Jim Powell, FDR’s Folly

Footnotes:
(1) And, to be fair, the last year of Bush’s second term.
(2) Sure, the Republicans have been far from perfect, and the eventual nominee himself may be tempted by big-government “solutions,” but they’re still a far sight better than the (Social) Demcorats.
(3) Other than a certain core that, for whatever reason, prefers to cling bitterly to their cherished myths and bad ideas and be infantilized wards of the state.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Sunday Book Review: FDR’s Folly

September 25, 2011

Many years ago, when I was doing my undergraduate degree in History, I read “The Historian’s Craft,” by the great French historian Marc Bloch. One lesson he taught that’s stuck with me all these years is that “objective” history is a myth; the historian, by declaring what is significant through his choice of what facts to include in his work, inevitably suffuse the work with a subjective viewpoint — his opinion.

Careful historians take this inevitable bias into account and look for facts that contradict their thesis, evaluating them against those that support the historian’s point of view and thus reaching a reasoned synthesis. But, again almost inevitably, certain perspectives gain wide enough acceptance that they go from being opinion and argument to unquestioned “received wisdom.”

The history of the New Deal is an example of this. According to the standard telling, the era of vast government intervention in the economy under Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved the nation from economic collapse after the reckless laissez-faire economics of the 1920s and a series of “do nothing” Republican presidents. People found jobs, the hungry were fed, and labor gained their just rights. This was the orthodoxy pushed by liberal historians such as Arthur Schlesinger and Frank Friedel, whose works influence the teaching of history in high schools and colleges down to today.

In recent years, however, works by conservative and libertarian authors have challenged this orthodoxy to argue that the New Deal was not nearly as effective as proclaimed, perhaps even a total failure. Actually analyzing the application and results of New Deal policies, rather than just concentrating on the politics, a few years ago two UCLA economists published a study arguing that FDR’s policies lengthened the Depression by seven years. Journalist Amity Shlaes authored “The Forgotten Man,” an important revisionist history of the Great Depression that questions many of the standard assumptions.

Into this latter, revisionist literature in 2003 came Jim Powell’s “FDR’s Folly: how Roosevelt and his New Deal prolonged the Great Depression.” Powell is a scholar with the libertarian Cato Institute, and he approaches the New Deal with a very skeptical eye. His thesis is that the New Deal was a failure because its diagnosis of the problem, that the economic collapse was caused by prices (both of goods and labor) being too low and that the way to fix the problem was to regulate the economy to maintain prices at a higher-than-market value. He shows instead that this contributed to the problem by making labor too expensive, thus pricing less-skilled workers out of the market and thus keeping unemployment high. (By some estimates, unemployment never went below 13-15% during the Depression. If a program is to be judged by its results…)

Powell also criticizes the vast expansion of federal power under FDR, an expansion made necessary because of the administration’s belief that free markets had failed, that unrestrained competition had brought about the crisis, and that the only way out was to highly regulate all aspects of the economy. This had the effect, Powell argues (I think correctly), of severely weakening economic liberty, for example the freedom of two or more parties to agree to a contract, and the rights a property owner, such as  a factory owner, has over his own property. What had previously been the inherent rights of the individual guarded under the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments were gutted by a succession of Supreme Court rulings, particularly after FDR was able to appoint several sympathetic Justices, who argued that “economic rights” were less important than political rights, such as free speech.

Powell organizes his book in a series of questions, which are then explored to attack one aspect or another of the New Deal orthodoxy. Here are some samples:

  • “What did FDR borrow from Hoover?” (1)
  • “Why did FDR triple taxes during the Great Depression?”
  • “Why did the New Dealers destroy all that food when people were hungry?”
  • “How did New Deal labor laws throw people out of work?”
  • “How did FDR’s Supreme Court subvert individual liberty?”
  • “How did New Deal policies cause the Depression of 1938?”

It’s become a cliché to describe a book as “eye-opening,” but that’s the effect Powell’s book had for me, clearing the scales of liberal orthodoxy away from my eyes by stepping outside the accepted history and daring to ask questions and hold the New Dealers accountable for the results of their policies. And, with the full-throated resurgence of statism under Obama and the progressives, this eight-year old book has a new relevance. Believe me, just change a few of the names and dates, and you’d swear Jim Powell was writing about Barack Obama.

Maybe Time was right to say Obama is the new FDR.

Summary: FDR’s Folly (2003, Three Rivers Press) — recommended.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, the orthodox view of a laissez-faire Hoover is all wrong.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


FDR in favor of Jewish quota laws?

March 25, 2011

It’s hard to say otherwise, given the source is official United States diplomatic records:

The document which Dr. Medoff sent me last week, concerning FDR and the Holocaust, was frankly shocking. It had to do with the Allies’ occupation of North Africa, which they liberated from the Nazis in November 1942. At the time, President Roosevelt publicly pledged the Allies would do away with the anti-Jewish laws that had been in force in the region. But when FDR met in Casablanca with local government leaders in January 1943, he took a very different line. The transcript of those discussions, which Dr. Medoff cites, reveals what FDR said about the status of the 330,000 Jews living in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia: “The number of Jews engaged in the practice of the professions (law, medicine, etc) should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population…The President stated that his plan would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore toward the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc., in Germany, were Jews.”

Hard to believe a president would say such a thing? Maybe, but the source is unimpeachable: the transcript appears in Foreign Relations of the United States, a multivolume series of historical documents published by the U.S. government itself. The Casablanca volume was published in 1968, but did not attract much notice at the time. Dr. Medoff has done a public service by bringing it to our attention again.

Emphasis added.

Fortunately, as the author of the article, former New York City mayor Ed Koch points out, the Allies didn’t follow FDR’s suggestion.

I realize Roosevelt held the prejudices common to his class, but the “…understandable complaints which the Germans bore toward the Jews in Germany…”? While at that very moment, Jews were being herded into camps, enslaved, gassed, massacred, and burned? Wow…

And don’t tell me he didn’t know.

Too bad Willkie lost.

via Power Line


If this is a recovery, where are the jobs??

October 31, 2010

President Obama (and especially his fawning sycophants in the media) likes to compare himself to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who lead the nation during the Great Depression. In this brief video essay from Reason.TV, Ted Balaker looks at the current jobless recovery and see other similarities to FDR that Obama might not enjoy:

Balaker and Professor Ohanian blame the uncertainty caused by the raft of new regulations and laws coming from Washington, as well as uncertainty about the effects the progressives’ spend-and-borrow binge may have. Businesses hate uncertainty, because it leaves them with no way to forecast what conditions will be like, hence making them less willing to risk capital on new employees. It is, in fact, a rational response, something FDR never quite got: he wanted to tax retained earnings, solely to punish businesses that wouldn’t spend. The Obama administration has broached a similar idea.

While I agree about the uncertainty created by government intervention in the market, I’d add another factor: policies that are just plain bad, because they make the economic situation worse. In the video, we see one good example: the CEO of Nationwide Support Services wait anxiously to hear the details of a new FTC regulation; depending on how it goes, she may not be able to hire the new people she’d like to hire – or she may have to go out of business altogether.

Really, is this any way to run an economy?

Of course it isn’t. As is becoming increasingly clear as new research is done into the New Deal, the statist, interventionist policies of the Roosevelt administration (and Hoover’s) did not help. Indeed, they prevented a job-creating recovery.

The best thing the government could do would be to quit intervening in the marketplace and stop trying to engineer it. It’s simply much too complex to be controlled by a relatively small number of policy-makers. With minimal intervention and a lightened burden of spending, taxation, and regulation, the market economy will heal itself and create jobs.

Sadly, that’s a wise course we can’t expect from the current crowd, so this Tuesday we take step one in a two-step process of firing and replacing them with people who get it.

Step two comes in 2012.

PS: Yeah, I’ve been tapping Reason.TV a lot today, but, what can I say? They do good stuff. 

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Court packing: Don’t go there, Mr. President

March 1, 2010

Yet more proof that Progressives are anti-democratic. First, they whined about the filibuster; when they couldn’t get their own way, in spite of having overwhelming majorities in both houses for over a year and owning the presidency, it had to be because archaic rules thwarted them, not because the people were rejecting their statism and forcing moderate members of their own party to back away from ObamaCare.

Now it’s the court system. With the only seats on the Supreme Court likely to open up before 2012 being liberal seats and with a 5-4 Center-Right majority in place, it’s occurred to some that, if ObamaCare passes, the Court could undo major portions of it. For Progressives, who know better than anyone else in the nation (in their own minds) how citizens should manage their lives, this is unacceptable. Therefore, the only solution is, according to Stan Isaacs,  to stack the deck:

This may come as a surprise to some people, but the U.S. Constitution does not specify the size of the Supreme Court.

The original Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number of justices at six. It shrank to five in 1801. It expanded to seven in 1807. It grew to nine in 1837 and 10 in 1863. It fell back to seven in 1866. It returned to nine in 1869 and has remained at that number since.

Political issues accounted for the changes. The Federalists reduced the number to five, hoping to deprive Thomas Jefferson of an appointment. The incoming Democrats repealed that measure, raising the number to seven. It went to nine in 1837 to give Andrew Jackson two more seats. Civil War issues led to more fluctuations before the court settled at nine under President Ulysses Grant.

So if nine justices is not writ in stone, the embattled President Obama should deal with this hostile conservative/reactionary court by adding three members.

Oh, I dare you Stan. Go for it. Just try it. How’d it work for FDR, anyway? Average citizens may not remember his court-packing scheme, but they can smell a rat, nevertheless. They’ll see that jamming the Court with new, Progressive justices is nothing more than an attempt to impose by judicial fiat what the Left cannot get through the legislature. There’s a word for using unelected judges to impose one party’s policy, Stannie:

Dictatorship.

Mr. President, ignore the advice of anti-democrats like Stan Isaacs. Your term in office has nearly hit the rocks because of your single-minded attempts to impose statist health-care reforms the majority of the nation soundly rejects. Sir, I guarantee you: if you even hint at going for court-packing, Election Day next November will not just be a bad day for the Democratic Party. Trust me, the people’s anti-authoritarian antibodies will kick into overdrive.

It will be an absolute catastrophe.

LINKS: Allahpundit laughs at the idea and tries to figure out who in the Senate would vote for it.

LINKS II: Big Journalism is aghast.


He wants to be the next FDR…

September 1, 2009

…But maybe President Obama is instead the next Herbert Hoover? Studying the policies pursued by the Hoover Administration in the wake of the 1929 crash, UCLA economist Lee Ohanian found that a strong recession became the Great Depression because of Hoover’s pro-labor, statist interventions:

Pro-labor policies pushed by President Herbert Hoover after the stock market crash of 1929 accounted for close to two-thirds of the drop in the nation’s gross domestic product over the two years that followed, causing what might otherwise have been a bad recession to slip into the Great Depression, a UCLA economist concludes in a new study.

“These findings suggest that the recession was three times worse — at a minimum — than it would otherwise have been, because of Hoover,” said Lee E. Ohanian, a UCLA professor of economics.

The policies, which included both propping up wages and encouraging job-sharing, also accounted for more than two-thirds of the precipitous decline in hours worked in the manufacturing sector, which was much harder hit initially than the agricultural sector, according to Ohanian.

“By keeping industrial wages too high, Hoover sharply depressed employment beyond where it otherwise would have been, and that act drove down the overall gross national product,” Ohanian said. “His policy was the single most important event in precipitating the Great Depression.”

The findings are slated to appear in the December issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic Theory and were posted today on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research (www.nber.org) as a working paper.

The article goes on to point out that Hoover’s exact solutions are not likely to be followed by President Obama. However, Ohanian argues, the disastrous results of Hoover’s interventions illustrate what can happen when government pursues hasty, ill-advised policies. Everything Hoover tried only made things worse.

And while Obama may not follow Hoover’s exact policies, we are seeing the same hasty, ill-considered rush to “do something:” the trillion-dollar pork fiesta stimulus bill; the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade “greenhouse gas” bill; and now the health-care bill aimed at nationalizing 1/6th of the US economy. Anyone of these is bad enough; in combination, the effects on the US economy would almost certainly be horrific.
I’d go a little farther than Ohanian in his article and argue that these kind of large-scale statist interventions, whether in terms of wage control and job-sharing like Hoover or massive Keynesian deficit spending like Obama, are doomed to fail because a free market economy is too complex and has too many factors to successfully control, manage, or direct. In fact, if one looks at Hoover’s predecessors, Presidents Harding and Coolidge, one sees the right way to handle a sharp recession. Treasury Secretary Mellon advised cutting government spending and lowering taxes to free up capital in order to stimulate business, and then let the natural forces of the market economy heal itself. Which it did, bringing the US out of the sharp recession of 1919-1920 and laying the groundwork for a decade of prosperity. (And which was repeated with greater success by Ronald Reagan in the early 80s.)
Articles like this one and Ohanian’s earlier research showing that FDR’s corporatism lengthened the Depression by seven years, as well as longer works of history such as Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man, are important revisionist works for two reasons. First, they dispel forever the notion implanted in popular consciousness by liberal historians and economists, that Hoover was a laissez-faire president with a do-nothing attitude toward the economy, a view used to justify the interventionist approach. Far from it, in fact: Hoover was very much an interventionist, and FDR continued and expanded several of his policies.
The second reason is that these researches present convincing evidence that the received wisdom about the Great Depression, that FDR’s policies pulled us out of it and that government intervention can fix an economy in crisis, is just plain wrong. Indeed, by 1939 the New Deal was clearly a failure and Treasury Secertary Morgenthau said (quoted in an article by Mark Levey):
By 1939 Roosevelt’s own Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, had realized that the New Deal economic policies had failed. “We have tried spending money,” Morgenthau wrote in his diary. “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”
In fact, only the military draft in the face of World War II broke the back of unemployment in the US, by pulling five million men off the streets.
Obama’s an educated man: maybe he should look more closely at his predecessors’ experiences before following further in their footsteps.
(via Jonah Goldberg)
LINKS: More at Hot Air.
PS. Sorry for the bad formatting, but something in this post is killing the spaces between paragraphs. Angry