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Revisionist accounts of the New Deal

Why was that slump, over and done with by 1922, so much shorter than the following decade’s? Well, for starters, he said, President Woodrow Wilson suffered an incapacitating stroke at the end of 1919, while his successor, Warren G. Harding, universally considered one of the worst presidents in American history, preferred drinking, playing poker and golf, and womanizing, to governing. “So nothing happened,” Mr. Vedder said. Of course Mr. Vedder does not wish ill health — or obliviousness — on any chief executive. Still, in his view, when you’re talking about government intervention in the economy, doing nothing is about the best you can hope for from any president.

From a nice article on revisionist accounts of the New Deal and Roosevelt.

Via Marginal Revolution, which has a quite good comment thread on this issue.

Talk of Warren Harding, a much maligned president, reminds me of Paul Johnson’s book, Modern Times, in which that president gets a much-overdue rehabilitation, along with Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge.

8 comments to Revisionist accounts of the New Deal

  • mike

    “Oh come on, Cal darling – I want more than two words out of you…”

    President Coolidge: “You lose.”

  • David Gillies

    There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money, said Dr. Johnson, and there are few ways in which a politician can be more innocently employed than in whoring and gambling. As was pointed out at the time, when Two Shags Prescott was screwing his secretary, at least it was consensual, as compared to the daily Deliverance-style porking the rest of us are getting when politicians are not having a quick knee-trembler.

  • Kim du Toit

    Harding was lousy; Hoover was exponentially worse.

    The problem with Hoover was not that he did too little; his problem was that when he did anything presidential, it was usually awful.

    Most of FDR’s New Deal would have been impossible without the foundations laid by Hoover.

    Mark Levin’s book Liberty and Tyranny puts Hoover’s presidency into its proper perspective.

    Calvin Coolidge… now that’s my idea of a decent president.

  • Paul Marks

    “Harding was lousy”.

    Well he supported the income tax (a tiny one – but these things always grow) back in 1913, and he did not support free trade as President.

    However, his record as President (other than on overseas trade) is actually very good – not “lousy” at all.

    Paul Johnson was quite correct in his book Modern Times.

    Of course the main mistake was having Herber “The Forgotten Progressive” as Commerce Sec (the one department that increased its budget under Harding – and a department that should not exist), althought the various insane suggestions Hoover made were not followed – till he became President himself of course.

    “No man has offered me more advice – and all of it has been bad advice”.

    Calvin Coolidge on Herbert Hoover.

  • Coolidge was probably about as good a politician we’re ever going to get. I love the story about his son who was working one sumer on a farm and one of his co-workers said “If my father were President I wouldn’t be working on a farm.” To which the young man replied “If your father were my father , you would !”

    Compared to the Sunshine of Our Lives who is now in the White House FDR was pretty good. At least the New Deal actually built useful stuff like Damns and Fertilizer plants that could be turned into explosive factories when needed. He provide electricity to parts of the nations that didn’t have it. He may have done so in a awful socialistic way, but at least he did it.

    The Sunshine of Our Lives is shutting down the nuclear power industry and has promised to kill our coal fired electrical plants. We’re all going to freeze to death in the dark, but the Sunshine of Our Lives will tell us that its good for the environment.

  • M

    Harding, by virtue of only being president for two years and being a lazy fellow with more interest in boozing than world saving, deserves to be seen as the best 20th century president.

    I think that historians have made too much of the corruption under Harding. H.L. Mencken noted that the corruption under Harding was nothing compared to the corruption under the Wilson administration, especially during the period America was at war with Germany.

  • kentuckyliz

    I live in coal country. The EPA is interfering with permits and they have just about stopped. Mines are reducing shifts or closing. You see fewer coal buckets (trucks) out on the road. I hear fewer coal trains going by. There has already been a rate increase in my power bill starting this month.

    Some people are in for a rude awakening. They think fairies make energy out of thin air. Not so.

    Let the freezing and overheating deaths begin.

    It’s a Dark Green ObamaNation.

  • Paul Marks

    Corruption in the Harding Administration was indeed less than in many others – such as the Truman Administration (so praised by historians).

    But Warren Harding was not “lazy” – a lazy President would not have been able to cut government spending by 25%.

    Those who think government spending cuts are easy to get into effect know nothing of the nature of the state.