Francis Meyrick


Book Review: “FDR’s Folly “

Posted on January 11, 2009

“FDR’s Folly ” by Jim Powell

ISBN 0-7615-0165-7

January 10, 2009

(Note: I own and have READ all of this book) (…)
Short review:
A heavy read for us simple bears, written by an accomplished academic. It’s bursting full of information, and very thought provoking. I like the lay out of the contents, where each of the 19 chapters asks a question, so you know what you are getting into. A must read for anybody willing to seriously set aside prejudices, and look at the underlying facts of FDR’s often bizarre and haphazard “experimenting ” with the US economy. I urgently need to go read an admiring book (any suggestions?) written by somebody who thinks FDR was a great president, because the more I read about him, I increasingly get the impression he was somewhat of an “economically uninformed klutz ” and basically just a shrewd and manipulative bluffer. Who,behind the rhetoric and the “fireside chats ” didn’t give a hoot about anybody except (votes for) himself. Who only got saved by the “crisis ” (he provoked?)of Pearl Harbor and WW2. And whose policies and shadow haunt us to this day.
(Sorry, apologies to FDR lovers; I have looked at the dissenters’ comments, who absolutely hated this book, and I AM shopping around for some PRO-FDR books. Let’s check out the opposition’s story…) (Bernanke’s essays?)

Long review:
I put the book down a few times, and read other stuff. I went back to it again, and eventually finished it. That tells you either that I’m a dimwit who struggles with words with more than two syllables, or that it’s just highly concentrated, heavy-heavy-heavy, with constant new names, dates and places, and lots of leafing back and forwards to follow the plot. Well worth it though. Some quotes for you, to get a taste of the goodies:
(page 57) “A major effect of deposit insurance was to transfer the cost of bank failures from depositors to taxpayers. The full consequences of federal deposit insurance didn’t become apparent until the 1980’s, when bailing out savings and loan associations cost $519 billion. “
(Page 71) “FDR imagined he could fix the world gold price from his bedroom “
(page 75) “From the very beginning of his administration, FDR attacked investors and employers “. This theme shows up clearly throughout the whole book.
(page 75) “The business community… was pitifully inept when FDR launched his moral crusade against free markets. ” FDR certainly interfered with the free markets, but he did so haphazardly, and seemingly on an ad-hoc,improvised, “Hey! Let’s try THIS idea ” experimental basis. The man, if nothing else, was remarkably high handed and conceited, it seems to me.
(page 77) “Like FDR, Mussolini believed that individualism was old fashioned, an obstacle to progress. “
(page 79) “Confiscation of wealth may satisfy the vengeful in us. It may sooth a retaliatory spirit. But it is the path of national suicide…. There must always be the reward motive. “
(page 82) “…FDR delivered a speech that again demonized investors and employers. He employed one attack after another… “
(page 86) “…in a November 1941 Fortune poll, 93 per cent of employers said they expected their property rights to be undermined and also anticipated the possibility of dictatorship “. One wonders how much FDR maybe admired Stalin and Mussolini?
(page 87) “FDR tax adviser Randolph E.Paul had acknowledged much worse, that FDR’s tax policies “intensified the depression they were working to correct “. Shades of… January 2009?
(page 93) “Invariably, politics influenced the way PWA money was spent. “
(page 185) “Experience everywhere indicates that politicians will hardly be able to keep their hands off such easy money “.
There truly is a staggering amount of information in this book. The pace is relentless. What amazes me is that so much of the content is -intensely- relevant to the big debate going on right now, January 2009, in the incoming Obama administration. Some of his devotees come out with policy statements, and express “Big Government ” “Federal ” attitudes, that have an eerie similarity to some of the content of this book. If you read this book, I think you might end up agreeing to some degree with me:
1) that the debate issues raised in “FDR’s Folly ” are as topical today as ever. Supremely relevant.
2) Too many politicians, who delight in the sound of their own voices on national television, never read History or Economics, and never seem to learn from past US policy mistakes.
3) It’s serious; are we once again going to see a US President and his “experts ” prolong this depression by trying the same past failed remedies?
4) And this is just my impression: Isn’t it amazing how FDR had all sorts of people cheering wildly for him, when in fact there is so much evidence in this book and others that he basically shafted them? That’s a neat trick: get people to vote for you, and love you, whilst you cynically screw them over royally. Just one of many examples in this book: so much money went to the richest states, because they were seen by FDR as ‘swing votes’. The poorer states, which were already loyal to him, got a fraction of the funds. Seeing as we are dealing here with empirical evidence, (cold facts) I don’t see how FDR lovers can explain that one away, but I’m willing to listen, ya hear?
5) FDR had complete contempt for the black race. That comes out with his treatment of the black tenant farmers, and above all his refusal to back an anti-lynching law. That amazes me. That alone paints a somber picture of the man who many revere as one of the greatest US presidents. Where was his “compassion ” there? It seems FDR’s colleagues were trying to prod him into action. From what I can see, he just thought it was funny. Hard to avoid the conclusion that deserving black people were treated with a cynical disregard. Simply… horrible.

Good book. I shall be using it a lot as reference material. Now to look at what the “other side ” says about it all.
Enjoy!

F.M.
(c)

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on October 5, 2009, 1:51 pm


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