Eric Rauchway: Stop lying about Roosevelt’s record





Oh for pity’s sake. Some real news outlet needs to publish a nice short piece on conservative falsehoods about the New Deal. Amity Shlaes’s Liberty League retread has got a new lease of life, thanks to the Daily Show of all outlets (Jon Stewart, you should be ashamed) and now in the Wall Street Journal’s five “myths” about the Great Depression, we find stated as fact

As late as 1938, after almost a decade of governmental “pump priming,” almost one out of five workers remained unemployed.

Readers of this site know this is simply not true. For pity’s sake, Conrad Black knows this is not true. (You may here enjoy Bill Scher pointing out that Shlaes describes the Historical Statistics of the United States as an “obscurer” source of data.)

We find listed as a myth

The stock market crash in October 1929 precipitated the Great Depression. What the crash mainly precipitated was a raft of wrongheaded policies that did major damage to the economy

I’m sure Christina Romer would have something to say about that; so would Joseph Schumpeter. So indeed would Ben Bernanke. Interestingly, had the WSJ writer listed as a myth that the crash “caused” the Depression, he would have had a case. But that the crash “precipitated” the Depression is not so much myth as exactly right: it crystallized and let drop consumer worries, accelerating the downturn by occasioning a drying-up of buying on credit.

We find listed as a myth

Where the market had failed, the government stepped in to protect ordinary people

I’m sure the people saved from starving and homelessness by CWA, WPA, and CCC would differ; so would those saved from penury by FDIC; so would those saved from poverty by Social Security.

These people, these people who spend their time propagating these incorrect lessons from the Great Depression, the truth is not in them. For the record, here’s a quick look at economic performance under the New Deal.

Related Links

  • Paul Krugman: New Deal economics
  • Eric Rauchway: When is it lying?
  • Alex Tabarrok: Unemployment During the Great Depression
  • Eric Rauchway: Response to Tabarrok



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