July 28, 2007

Review Corner

I gave it away in a previous post, but I'd highly encourage everybody to buy and read Amity Shlaes's The Forgotten Man.

I don't suspect that we have a lot of "New Dealers" in ThreeSources Land who idolize FDR's economic policies. We fight every day against the New Deal legacy. To look at the US under President Coolidge, where the book begins, is to see a completely different national attitude toward freedom, property rights, and the right to contract.

I recommend this book for two reasons. It has a powerful narrative that few nonfiction books can claim. Even though you generally know the ending of each section, the book is a real page turner. The characters are lit brightly through deed and anecdote. I'm no expert on the period by any means, yet I came away with a clear feel for Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt, as well as losing candidates Alf Landon and (the book's hero) Wendell Willkie. Andrew Mellon, Justice Brandies, Harold Ickes the elder, Rex Tugwell, Samuel Insull, Father Devine, Huey Long, Father Coughlin. It has a large and bright cast that comes to life.

Exciting, yes, but the story was all too real. The other thing I enjoyed was Shlaes's detailing the extent of FDR's collectivist instincts. Call me naive but I was shocked. FDR wanted state control of everything and had the Supreme Court not clipped his wings, we'd be living in a country where Senator Clinton's polity would be considered laissez faire. It is truly astonishing.

Shlaes wears her heart on her sleeve. Heroes and villains are as clear in "The Forgotten Man" as in an Ayn Rand novel. You’ve read Shlaes in the Wall Street Journal; to her and me the collectivists are villans. She doesn't impute bad motives but she shows it as a battle of individualists vs. collectivists -- and she details how FDR's policies made the depression worse and longer. It was WWII that brought the country out, and one component was that President Roosevelt needed to ameliorate his methods and political battles to create a united front to win the war.

We all celebrate FDR's war leadership, and the book ends before Pearl Harbor. His first two terms are scrutinized as are the events leading up to them.

The Publisher's Weekly review says "It's also a thoughtful, even-tempered corrective to too often unbalanced celebrations of FDR and his administration's pathbreaking policies" Me, I give it five stars.

UPDATE: I got a nice thank you from Ms. Shlaes. I'm glad I did not call her a grouch.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at July 28, 2007 12:44 PM

Maybe you'll get the next book for free. ;)

If you want to learn more about FDR's socialism, check out FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression.

It's really shocking... I'll have to look for this one.

Posted by: AlexC at July 28, 2007 11:04 PM | What do you think? [1]