William Rees-Mogg wonders, in his Times (of London) column today, whether Barack Obama has it in him to be the next FDR. I sincerely hope not. Let us consider the following data on unemployment rates during the 1930s:
(Source: US Department of Commerce, Historical Statistics of the United States, as quoted by Thomas J. Lorenzo, in “How Capitalism Saved America, page 180-181),
With a set of figures like that, perhaps it is no wonder that hagiographers of FDR prefer to focus more on his record as a war leader these days. If Obama does share any of FDR’s traits for sheer deviousness on the economic front, we have trouble on our hands.
It is amazing how certain myths persist. Back in the early 1980s, when I was doing my history A-levels, one of my teachers gave me the whole ‘heroic’ portrait of FDR. I suspect this is still the default position of most history textbooks today.