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What the New Deal Did

Author(s): DAVID M. KENNEDY


Source: Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 124, No. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 251-268
Published by: The Academy of Political Science
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25655654
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What theNew Deal Did

DAVID
The

United

now

States

a cascading
economic
crisis.
industries teeter on the brink

confronts

houses

Venerable

M. KENNEDY

collapse, once-mighty
banking
mounts. The air thickens with recollections
of
of oblivion, and unemployment
of the 1930s, and with comparisons
between Barack
the Great Depression
and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Obama

So what was theGreat Depression, and what did FDR do about it?The

short answer
Roosevelt

was
Depression
of it, to the nation's

is that the Great

made

the most

a rare political opportunity, and


lasting benefit. A longer answer

was a catastrophic
economic
Depression
to resolve, at least not until World War
II came
some
answer
he
after
assumed
office.
A
still
would
along,
eight years
longer
the connection
between FDR's
short-term economic
recognize
policy failure

would

crisis

and

acknowledge
that Roosevelt

that the Great


failed

the New

Deal's
long-term
these matters.

surrounds

political

"At the heart of theNew Deal,"


Hofstadter
As a writer

success.

Much

misunderstanding

the distinguished historian Richard

once

"there was not a philosophy


but a temperament."
wrote,
in The New York Times put it not long ago, "F.D.R.
threw a bunch
ones
the
and
the
that
stuck
became
the
New Deal."1
wall,
against

of policies
a kind of unprincipled, harum-scarum
That view pf the New Deal?as
frenzy
incoherent policies
of random,
that failed to slay the Depression
demon?
in our national folklore. It is badly mistaken.
has become deeply embedded
If
we are to understand
to our own time, it is
the Great Depression's
relevance
to understand

imperative

the relationship

between

the economic

1930s and thatdecade's signaturepolitical legacy,theNew Deal.

Into the years of the New Deal was


change than in virtually any comparable
1
Richard

Hofstadter,

The American

Political

crowded

compass

Tradition

and

more

social

and

crisis of the
institutional

of time in the nation's

past.

theMen

York:

Who

Made

Alfred A. Knopf, 1948),XXX; The New York Times, 16 January2001, Sec. A, p. 23.
DAVID

M.

KENNEDY

of the Bill Lane


Prize winning

Center
Freedom

Political Science Quarterly

is the Donald

Professor
of History Emeritus
and Co-Director
at Stanford University. He
is the author of the Pulitzer
The American
in Depression
and War, 1929-1945.
People

for the American


from Fear:

It (New

J.McLachlan
West

Volume 124 Number 2

2009

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251

| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

252

on the scale
is always controversial.
Change
Change
has proved
controversial.
Debate
about
interminably

the New

Deal

the New

Deal's

wrought
histori

cal significance,its ideological identity,and itspolitical, social, and economic

re
has ground on for three quarters of a century. Roosevelt's
consequences
a perpetual
of American
forms have become
touchstone
political argument,
re
a talisman invoked by all parties to legitimate or condemn as the occasion
an
of
toward
emblem
and
barometer
American
attitudes
government
quires,

itself.So justwhat, exactly,did theNew Deal do?


Itmight be well to begin by recognizingwhat theNew Deal did not do. It

fell pathetically

full economic

short of achieving

Roosevelt's

recovery.

pro

grams made a substantial dent in the 25 percent unemployment rate of


1933, but unemployment averaged 17 percent throughoutthe 1930s and never
went below 14 percent untilWorld War II occasioned massive federal spending
and effectively wrote

finis to the Depression

Decade.

the reasons

Among

that

theNew Deal failed to overcome theDepression andWorld War II did was the
simple fact that thewar made intellectuallyconceivable and politicallypossible
deficit spending on a level thatwas neither dreamed nor attempted before the
war came. The biggestNew Deal deficitwas some $4.2 billion in 1936, largely
"Bonus

of the veterans'

because

Bill,"

Roosevelt's veto. No New Deal


the federal

by contrast,

deficit was

which

not

passed,

deficit reached 6 percent of GNR


$53 billion, more

over

incidentally,

than an order

In 1943,

of magni

tude larger than in 1936, and as a share of GNP nearly six times the largest

New

Deal

What
New

Deal

deficit, at 28 percent.

ismore, much mythology and heated rhetoricnotwithstanding,the


did not

redistribute

substantially

income. America's

the national

income profile in 1940 closely resembled that of 1930, and for thatmatter
1920. The falling economic tide of theDepression lowered all boats, but
by and large theyheld their relative positions. What little income levelling
there was

rather

resulted more

returns to investments,
from Depression-diminished
"wealth
tax policies.
the so-called
than redistributive
tax," or
True,

"soak-the-rich"

tax, that Roosevelt

pushed

the war-time

Revenue

through Congress

in 1935

imposed

a 79 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $5 million; but that rate ap
plied to but a single taxpayer in all theUnited States JohnD. Rockefeller.
The basic rate remained 4 percent, and even thatapplied to a decided minority
of Americans.

Until

fewer

than one American

collections,
tax at all. A Depression-era

Acts

household

hugely expanded
in twenty paid

couple with an income of $4,000 would

federal

tax

income

any
have

been

in the top tenthof all income receivers; if theyhad two children, theywould
have paid a federal income taxof $16 in 1936.A similarfamily
making $12,000
placing them in the richest1 percent of households?would have paid $600.
Nor, with

essentially

minor

exceptions

like the Tennessee

ity's (TVA) electric-power business, did theNew Deal

mental

contrast

tenet of capitalism,
with the pattern

Valley

Author

challenge the funda

of the means
private ownership
in virtually all other industrial

In
of production.
whether
societies,

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WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

communist, socialist, or capitalist, no significant state-owned


inNew Deal America.2

It is also frequentlysaid that theNew Deal

enterprises

| 253

emerged

conformed to no pre-existing

a spokesman,
not even Franklin
that it never produced
ideological
agenda,
was
out
to
the
New
who
able
Deal's
social and
Roosevelt,
lay
systematically
so
in
and
critics
have
Then
that
economic
later,
many
charged
philosophy.
tent
the
of
Roosevelt's
New
that
Deal
under
consistent
impulses contended
to seek for system and coherence was to pursue a fool's errand. That accu
sation has echoed

in assessments

repeatedly

that stress the New

mon

Deal's

grel intellectualpedigree, its improbablyplural constituentbase, itspolitical

its abundant promiscuities,


inconsistencies,
pragmatism,
stancies, and failures. What
unity of plan or purpose,

incon
contradictions,
one might ask, was to

be found in an administration that at various times tinkeredwith inflation


with deficit spending and budget-balancing,
carteliza
of consumption
the promotion
and the intimidation of
reduction and land reclamation,
farm-acreage
public employment

and with price-controls,


tion and trust-busting,
investment,
projects and

forced

torian concludes

removals

with

some

the grand manner."4

one his
from the labor pool?3 "Economically,"
"the
New
Deal
had
been
in
justice,
opportunistic

And yet, illumined by the stern-lanternof history, theNew Deal

seen

can be

that constituted
left in place a set of institutional arrangements
a more coherent pattern than is dreamt of inmany philosophies.
That pattern
can be summarized
in a single word: security.
to have

It is fitting that the New

Deal's

most

durable

and

reform

consequential

bears that veryword in its title: the Social SecurityAct of 1935. A measure

of Americans?farmers
of security was the New Deal's
and
gift to millions
as
as
and
children
and
the
well
workers,
blue-bloods,
elderly,
immigrants
countless
and home
industrialists,
bankers, merchants,
mortgage-lenders,
enormous
tracts of forest, prairie, and mountain.
buyers, not to mention
Forget

about

the colorful creations

of the decidedly

frenzied and much

of Symbolic

The New

bal

lyhooedHundred Days, like theCivilian Conservation Corps and theNational


2
See,

for example,

Mark

H.

Leff, The Limits

Reform:

and

Deal

Taxation,

1933-1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); U.S. Bureau of theCensus, Income
Distribution in theUnited States (Washington,
DC: GPO, 1966); SimonKuznets, "Long Term Changes
in the National

Income

of the United

States

of America

since

1870,"

in Kuznets,

ed., Income

and

Wealth Series II (Cambridge:Bowes and Bowes, 1952); Jeffrey


G. Williamson and PeterH. Lindert,
American
Lampman,

A Macroeconomics
Press,
Inequality:
History
(New York: Academic
1980), and Robert
inNational
The Share of Top Wealth-Holders
Wealth
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University

Press, 1962).
3
The

classic

study of the New

Deal's

tangled

intellectual

genealogy

in the realm

(New York:

Harcourt,

of economic

policy isEllis W. Hawley, The New Deal and theProblem ofMonopoly (Princeton,NJ: Princeton
Press, 1966).
University
4
James MacGregor
Burns,

1956), 322.

Roosevelt:

The Lion

and

the Fox

Brace

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and Co.,

| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

254

Industrial

Recovery
But
consequential.

of them were

Act. Most

all of the New

Deal

short-lived

reforms

in
and ultimately
The Federal

that endured

Insurance
the Securities
and Exchange
Commission,
Deposit
Corporation,
the Federal
the National
Labor Relations
Administration,
Board,
Housing

theFair Labor Standards Act, and above all the Social SecurityAct?had

common

not

cardinal

to end

the immediate

crisis

of the

purpose:
simply
to make
to temper for
life less risky and more predictable,
thereafter what FDR
and vicissi
called the "hazards
repeatedly
but

Depression,

generations
tudes" of life.

The New Deal provided more assurance to bank depositors (FDIC), more
reliable informationto investors (SEC), more safety to lenders (FHA), more
stability to relations between capital and labor (NLRB), more predictable
wages to themost vulnerable workers (FLSA), and a safetynet forboth the
unemployed and the elderly (Social Security). Those innovations transformed
theAmerican economic and social landscape. They profoundly shaped the
fates of Americans

born

long after

the Depression

crisis had

passed.

With

the exception of FDIC, none of them dates from 1933.Had economic health

been miraculously
restored in the fabled Hundred
Days, a swift return to busi
ness as usual might well have meant politics as usual as well, and none of those
landmark reforms would have come to pass. Indeed, there would have been no
New

Deal

as we

it.

know

To be sure, Roosevelt

to enlarge

sought

the national

state as the principal

instrumentof the securityand stabilitythathe hoped to impart toAmerican


life.But legend to the contrary,much of the security that theNew Deal
into the fabric of American

threaded

society was

often stitched with a remark

ably delicate hand, not simply imposed by the fistof the imperious state.And

with
was

the notable

not usually

was

Nowhere

exceptions
purchased

of agricultural
subsidies and old-age
with the taxpayers' dollars.

the artful design

of the New

Deal's

security

it

pensions,

program

more

evident than in the financial sector.At the tip ofManhattan Island, south of
Dutch settlersbuilt theirwall to
the street laid out along the linewhere the first

defend

against marauding

ism.Deep
Exchange,

Indians,

beats

the very heart

of American

capital

in theurban canyons of the old Dutch city sits theNew York Stock

whence

had come

the first herald

of the Depression's

onset. As

the

great crash of 1929 reverberated throughthe financial system,annihilatingbil

and forcing bank closures, it raised a mighty cry


Street," a site that early and late has been beleaguered

in asset values

lions of dollars

for the reform of "Wall

by threateninghordes incensed at its supposedly inordinatepower. The New

Deal

heeded

ican financial

that cry. Among


sector, including

its first initiatives was


the banks

and

the reform of the Amer

the securities markets.

What

it accomplish?

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did

WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

| 255

Faced with effectivelycomplete collapse of the banking system in 1933,

confronted a choice. On the one hand, it could try to nationalize


create a new government
bank that would
the system, or perhaps
threaten
to drive all private banks out of business. On
the other hand, it
eventually
to the long-standing
the
of
banks
could accede
requests
major money-center
the New Deal

relax restrictions on
around Wall
those headquartered
Street?to
and thereby
interstate banking, allow mergers and consolidations,

?especially
branch and

facilitate the emergence of a highly concentrated private banking industry,

institutions to carry on the nation's banking


just a few dozen powerful
business. That, in fact, was the pattern inmost other industrialized
countries.

with

But theNew Deal


American

localized

structural change

did neither. Instead, it left the astonishingly plural and


one

system in place, while


banking
inducing
and introducing one key new institution.

important

The structuralchange, mandated by theGlass-Steagall Banking Act of

1933, was

to separate

poses. The

same Act

investment

banks

from commercial

thus securing

banks,

depositors' savings against the risks of being used forhighly speculative pur
a new entity, the Federal

created

Insurance

Bank Deposit

Corporation (FBDIC, later simplyFDIC). Guaranteeing individual bank de


posits up to $5,000 (later raised), and funded by minimal subscriptions from
Federal

Reserve

member
forever liberated banks and
institutions, the FDIC
or panics. These
from
the
fearful
of
bank
two
"runs,"
depositors
psychology
measures
an
new
not
did
elaborate
simple
impose
oppressively
regulatory
costs on either
apparatus on American
banking, nor did they levy appreciable

banks. But they did inject unprecedented


taxpayers or member
stability into
the American
Bank
which
at the rate
had
occurred
failures,
system.
banking
of hundreds per year even before the Depression's
numbered
fewer
descent,

than 10 per year in the several decades after 1933.


If speculation

and

lack of depositor

confidence

had

been

the major

problems of the banking system, the cardinal afflictionof the closely related
securities

industry had

been

ignorance.

Pervasive,

systemic

blan

ignorance

ketedWall Street like a perpetual North Atlantic fog before theNew Deal,
badly impeding the efficientoperation of the securitiesmarkets and leaving
them vulnerable

to all kinds

of abuses.

Wall

Street

the 1930s was

before

environment. Many
firms whose
securities were
strikingly information-starved
no
or
traded
whose
data were so
publicly
published
regular reports,
reports
as
worse
to
and
selected
be
audited
than
It
useless.
arbitrarily
capriciously
was this circumstance
awesome
on
a
that had conferred such
handful
power
of investment

monopoly
impossible

Chernow,

like J.P. Morgan,

in the secondary
for the average

Especially

5
For

bankers

of the information

a vivid

because

necessary
markets where
investor

of the workings
description
The House
of Morgan
(New York:

to come

reliable

information

by, opportunities

of the pre-New
Atlantic

they commanded
sound financial

to making

Monthly

Deal

financial

Press,

a virtual

decisions.5
was all but

abounded

marketplace,

1990).

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for

see Ron

| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

256

and wildcat
insider manipulation
this market,"
the canny speculator

"It's
speculation.
P.
Joseph
Kennedy

in
easy to make money
a
to
had confided
part

ner in thepalmy days of the 1920s. "We'd better get inbefore theypass a law
it."6

against

The New Deal did pass a law against it,and assigned Joseph P. Kennedy to
implement that law, a choice often compared to putting the fox in the hen
house, or settinga thief to catch a thief. In 1934 Kennedy became the first
chairman

of the new

Securities

one

Commission,

Exchange

of just four new

regulatory bodies established by the supposedly regulation-madNew Deal.7


The SEC's powers derived from statutes so patently needed but so intricately
technical thatTexas Congressman Sam Rayburn admitted he did not know
so readily because
itwas so damned
good or
some
years later, Rayburn
acknowledged
incomprehensible."
that the SEC,
thanks in part to the start it got from Kennedy, was "the stron
over
in the government." A study of the federal bureaucracy
gest Commission

whether

so damned

the legislation

"passed

seen by Herbert Hoover


commission

independent

Yet

"an outstanding example of the

called the SEC

at its best."8

For all the complexity of its enabling legislation, the power of the SEC
resided principally in just two provisions, both of them ingeniously simple.

disclosure
of detailed
information, such as balance
sheets,
names
of
and
loss
and
the
and
statements,
corporate offi
profit
compensation
were
firms
securities
traded.
The
about
second
whose
cers,
required
publicly

The

firstmandated

verification of that informationby independent auditors using standardized


of
At a stroke, those measures
ended
the monopoly
procedures.
accounting
Street was now
the Morgans
and their like on investment information. Wall
saturated with data

and

that were

The

transactions.

on businesses.

requirements

relevant,

SEC's

and comparable

accessible,

across

firms

new

regulations
unarguably
imposed
reporting
also gave a huge boost to the status of the

They

accounting profession. But they hardly constituted


theory or practice of free-market capitalism. All
the economic
dramatically
improved
regulations

a wholesale

assault

on

the

to the contrary, the SEC's


efficiency of the financial

markets by making buy and sell decisions well-informed decisions, provided


that the contractingparties consulted thedata now so copiously available. This
was less the reformthan itwas the rationalization of capitalism, along the lines
own claims

of capitalism's

6
Kennedy
quoted
York: W.W. Norton,
7
The others were
Federal
notably

in Michael
1980), 60.
the National

Communications
the Federal

and
Commission,
8
Congressman

about

R.

Beschloss,

Labor

Power

Commission,

the Federal

Reserve
and

free markets

Kennedy

Relations
Some

Commission.

Sam Rayburn

how

and Roosevelt:

Board,

existing
the Federal

were

An

Uneasy

the Civil Aeronautics

agencies were also


Trade Commission,

to work. To

supposed

Alliance

Authority,

(New
and

the

considerably
strengthened,
the Interstate Commerce

Board.
the Hoover

Commission

Report

quoted

in Thomas

K. McCraw,

Prophets ofRegulation (Cambridge,MA: The Belknap Press ofHarvard UniversityPress, 1984),175,


153-54.

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WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

be sure, a later generation's

financial prestidigitation

the SEC's

eluded

| 257

capac

ity responsibly and effectively to exercise its regulatory functions; but that
sorrydevelopment supported an argument for updating and upgrading the

Commission,

not for challenging

its essential

rationale.

housing policies provide perhaps the best example of its

The New Deal's

sector by introducing new


for stabilizing a major
economic
techniques
ments of information and reliability ?
and offer another lesson in what

ele

can

happen when government agencies fail to keep pace with changes in the

for housing was then


private sector. By its very nature, the potential demand
and later large, widespread,
and capable of generating significant employment
in countless
localities. John Maynard
that
Keynes was not alone in recognizing
housing was a sector with enormous promise for invigorating the Depression
era economy. Well
to put his eggs in the
before Keynes
urged Roosevelt
Herbert
Hoover
had
the
Better
Homes
for Amer
housing basket,
patronized
in the 1920s. In 1931, as new home construction
ica Movement
by
plunged
a national presidential
95 percent from its pre-1929
levels, he had convened
conference

on Home

the latter phrase,

and Home Ownership.


Its very title, especially
Building
to the housing issue.9
advertised Hoover's
preferred approach

As in thebanking sector, theNew Deal faced a choice in thehousing field.

It could

take Keynes's
advice and get behind proposals
for large-scale, European-style
liberals like Robert Wagner
Hoover's
Or
it
could
follow
lead and seek measures
grams.

home building and individual home ownership. Despite

with government-built

model

communities

like the so-called

from congressional

public housing pro


to stimulate private

its experimentation
Greenbelt

Towns

(ofwhich only threewere built), and itsoccasional obeisance to public housing


programs (as in themodestly fundedWagner-Steagall National Housing Act
of 1937), theNew Deal essentially adopted?and
significantlyadvanced?

Hoover's

program,

Two

approach.
the Home

Administration,
ciation
(Fannie

gram after World

new

Owners'

the New Deal's


agencies
implemented
Loan Corporation
and the Federal

later supplemented
by the Federal National
in
the
Veterans'
Administration's
1938,
Mae)
War

II, and

the Federal

Home

Loan

housing

Housing
Asso
Mortgage

Mortgage

housing

pro

Corporation

(FreddieMac) in 1970.10
The HOLC began in 1933 as an emergency agencywith two objectives: to

and to improve lending


protect defaulting homeowners
against foreclosure
institutions' balance
sheets by re-financing shaky mortgages. With much pub

licity,theHOLC
9
For

stopped the avalanche of defaults in 1933. But its lasting

a study of Hoover's

policies,

see Karen

Dunn-Haley,

The House

that Uncle

Sam

built:

the

Political CultureofFederalHousing Policy, 1919-1932, (Ph.D. Dissertation, StanfordUniversity,1995).


10
The

to Kenneth
discussion
of housing
is much
here
indebted
T. Jackson's
work,
pioneering
Frontier: The Suburbanization
Crabgrass
Press,
of the United States (New York: Oxford University
Act of 1934, and the Frazier
programs,
1985). Parallel
legislated by the Farm Mortgage
Refinancing
Lemke
Farm Bankruptcy
Federal
Acts of 1934 and 1935, gave similar relief to farm owners.

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| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

258

legacy was

a quieter affair. Just as the SEC


introduced standardized
accounting
to facilitate its nation-wide
into
the
the
securities
HOLC,
practices
industry,
uniform national appraisal methods
lending operations,
encouraged
through
out the real estate industry. Its successor,
the FHA,
created in 1934 to insure
inmuch
that the FDIC
the manner
insured bank depos
long-term mortgages
next
the
standards
of home construc
took
and
defined
national
its,
logical step
tion. The creation of Fannie Mae
New
Deal's
the
housing program
completed
Fannie Mae

apparatus.

furnished

lending

institutions with a mechanism

for re

selling theirmortgages, thus increasing the lenders' liquidityand making more

for subsequent
rounds of construction. Taken
together, the
of appraisal methods
and construction
criteria, along with
insurance and re-sale facilities the New Deal
put in place, re
of the risk from home-lending.

available
money
standardization
the mortgage
moved much
FHA

The

Nor

and Fannie

Mae

did

themselves

neither

to stimulate

much

built houses

they manage
they arranged an institutional
landscape
of private capital could flow into the home

money.
1930s. But
amounts

the post-World

War

II years. The New

Deal's

new

nor

construction

loaned

in the

in which

unprecedented
construction
industry in
housing policies, cleverly com

mingling public and private institutions,demonstrated thatpolitical economy


not be a zero-sum

of state power automat


game, inwhich the expansion
the war was over, this
Once
ically spelled the shrinkage of private prerogatives.
or intimidated
so
New Deal
"reform" proved not to have checked
capital
much as to have liberated it.And eventually
it revolutionized
the way Amer
need

icans

lived.

Before
homes.

in ten lived in their own


the New Deal,
only about four Americans
in the 1920s typically paid full cash or very large down
for their houses, usually not less than 30 percent. The standard mort

Homeowners

payments

with a highly limited service area, had


gage was offeredby a local institution

only a five to ten year maturity, bore interest as high as 8 percent, and required
a large "balloon"
payment, or refinancing, at its termination. Not surprisingly,
were renters.
a majority of Americans
under such conditions

The New Deal changed all that.Uniform appraisal procedures made


lendersmuch more confident in the underlying value of mortgaged proper

them less nervous about loans going sour. Con


insurance made
to
lenders
accept down payments of ten percent, and to offer
began
sequently,
Interest
with level monthly payments.
amortized
mortgages,
thirty-year fully
as
came
risk
rates on mortgages
the
diminished.
element
of
also
down
Finally,
ties. F.H.A.

nationally standardized
appraisal
Mae's
(and, later, Freddie Mac's)

and construction
national market

standards, along with Fannie


formortgage
paper, allowed

funds to flow out of regions of historic capital surplus to regions of historic

capital deficit?that
South and West.

is, from city to suburbs

and

from the Northeast

in short, put in place an apparatus


of financial security that
to
and
the Sunbelt. Private
suburbia
build
post-war
private money

The New Deal,


allowed

to the

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WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

| 259

Four decades
after the New Deal,
nearly two
houses. By the opening of the
in owner-occupied
?
a signal social
were homeowners
twenty-first century, nearly 70 percent
new owners
too
the
last
increment
of
achievement,
among
many
though
one
to service
the
their mortgages.
unable
percent,
Only
usually
proved

built private
money
thirds of Americans

homes.
lived

poorest of the poor, lived in public housing. By contrast, in JohnMaynard


Keynes' England, nearly half the population lived in public housing in the
years,

early post-war

as did more

than a third of the population

of France.11

**
In the financial

and housing

sectors,

the New

Deal

built structures of stability

by the inventivelysimple devices of standardizing and promulgating relevant

schemes
self-insurance
that
information, and by introducing
industry-wide
to
calmed jittery markets
and offered dependable
safeguards
capital. In many
was
less
itwas, sim
somewhat
other sectors, the New Deal's
artful;
technique
or
to
at
to
But
its
least
modulate
destructive
effects.
suppress competition,
ply,
the objective was the same: to create a uniquely American
system
everywhere
of risk-reduced, or risk-managed,
capitalism.
The New Deal
its crudest version of the anti-competitive
applied
approach
sector. There
to the chronically volatile agricultural
it contained
destabilizing

competitionwith the ham-handed device of simplypaying producers not to

surpluses off the market


altogether. Some
produce, keeping price-depressing
of the same logic of mandatory
and even subsidized
reduction of competition
was also apparent
treatment of labor markets.
in the New Deal's
Franklin
Roosevelt

declaimed

about

and the Fair Labor

rityAct
But those Acts

also

shaped

for the Social Secu


justice in his campaigns
he
and
achieved
much justice, too.
Standards Act,
a manpower
to do
policy that had nearly as much
social

with stability,plain and simple, as it did with social justice. Prohibitions on


child labor,combinedwith virtuallyobligatory retirementby age 65, statutorily
shrank

Retirees

the size of the labor pool and therefore reduced wage-competition.


in effect, paid not to work, just as farmers were paid not
were,

to

produce (though all but the firstgeneration of Social Security pensioners

were

ostensibly

unapologetically

paid from their own


drew their subsidies

forced-savings
from general

accounts,
Treasury

while

farmers

revenues).

The

Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the industry-widebargaining power of


the new CIO

unions,

also built broad

floors under wages

and

thereby

further

reduced the abilityof employers and employees alike to compete by lowering


labor costs.

11
Jackson,

also demonstrates
that both the private and public
Frontier, 224. Jackson
and even exacerbated
racial
encouraged
by the New Deal
frequently reinforced
Britain
It
that
the
had
abandoned
in
is
also
worth
1990s,
noting
by
substantially
segregation
housing.
the public housing model,
and a majority
of Britons had become
homeowners.

housing

Crabgrass

programs

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| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

260

In some

sectors,

new

regulatory

commissions

orderly

provided

forums

where the rules of competition could be agreed on and the clash of interests
accommodated

in a peaceful

manner.

The

National

Labor

Relations

Board

constituted a compelling example of that technique. Elsewhere, as in large


infrastructural

industries

like transportation,

as

and energy,

communications,

well as in thewholesale distribution and retailmarketing sectors, theNew


Deal sought stabilityby directly curtailingprice and cost competition, often
created
in 1938, per
Board,
by limiting new entrants. The Civil Aeronautics
formed those functions for the infant airline industry; the Interstate Commerce
for the older railroad industry, and, after the passage of theMotor
of 1935, for truckers as well. The Federal Communications
Com
born in 1934, did the same for telephones,
radio, and, later, television;

Commission

Carrier Act
mission,

theFederal Power Commission, thoughwith more difficulty,for oil and gas


production. The Federal Trade Commission, newly empowered by twoNew
Deal "fair trade" laws,was chargedwith limitingprice competition in the retail
and wholesale trades. (The Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 prohibited chain
stores

from discounting
corner
"mom-and-pop"

below

certain

stores against

stipulated
aggressive

levels,

a way

price pressure

of insulating
from the high

volume giants. The Miller-Tydings Act of 1937 legalized price-maintenance

between wholesalers
and their distributors, a way of stabilizing the
marketed
name-brand
of
nationally
prices
goods.)
and regulatory instruments
The creation of this array of anti-competitive
as an inappropriate
to the Great De
has often been criticized
response
contracts

for example, writes that "the


historian Peter Temin,
pression. The economic
an
to
with
solve
macroeconomic
New Deal
attempt
represented
problems
tools." Recent writers, including conspicuously
microeconomic
Amity Shlaes,

have levelled similar charges.12But that kind of judgement about theNew

not only ignores the substantial,


if incomplete,
economic
recovery that
that solving
It also rests on the assumption
Roosevelt's
policies did achieve.
of
demand
and
the macroeconomic
insufficient
high unemployment
problem

Deal

recovery was the New Deal's


highest priority. Certainly
by inducing economic
that such was his goal. But if actions
Roosevelt
said on countless occasions

speak louder thanwords, then itmay be fair to conclude that perhaps not
in stated purpose,

but

surely

in actual

practice,

the New

Deal's

premier

ob

jective, at least until 1938, and inRoosevelt's mind probably for a long time
thereafter, was not economic
long run. In the last analysis,

recovery

tout court but structural

reform, not simply recovery, was

reform for the

the New

Deal's

highest ambition and its lasting legacy.


Roosevelt signalled as much in his Second InauguralAddress on 20 Jan
uary

1937. On

that occasion

he uttered

one

of his most-quoted

and most

12
in an Atmosphere
Temin's
remark is in Gary M. Walton,
ed., Regulatory
Change
of Crisis: Cur
The
rent Implications
Years
Press,
Shlaes,
1979), 58; Amity
of the Roosevelt
(New York: Academic
Man:
A
New
York:
the
Great
History
Depression
2007).
forgotten
of
(New
HarperCollins,

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WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

"I

lines:

see one-third

| 261

of a nation

ill
ill-housed,
ill-clad,
in
that
nourished."
He
about
the
passage
emphatically
speaking
victims of the Great Depression.
Just moments
about
earlier he had boasted
of prosperity
since he had assumed
the return of at least a measure
the

misunderstood

was

not

in 1933. But then, in one of the most extraordinary


and revealing
presidency
canon
remarks in the entire
of presidential
addresses, he said: "Such symptoms
of prosperity may become
portents of disaster!" Here was an unmistakeable
of Roosevelt's

indication

crisis and political

sensitivity
opportunity. Like

to the relationship
between
economic
a later president, Barack Obama,
who

told an interviewerinFebruary 2009 thathard times are "when the political


starts to move

system
created

a rare moment

knew that the Depression


effectively," Roosevelt
of political
and institutional malleability
when

had

the

tectonicplates ofAmerican political lifecould be consequentially shifted.13


The pattern of economic restructuringthat theNew Deal put in place

arose

out of the concrete historical


of the Depression,
circumstance
but it
even mainly determined
not wholly or perhaps
that
It
circumstance.
by
also had a more coherent intellectual underpinning
than is customarily recog
nized. Its cardinal aim was not to destroy capitalism, but to de-volatilize
it, and

was

at the same

its benefits more

time to distribute

initiatives were

from decades

evenly. New Deal


regulatory
of anxiety about overcapacity
and
that had so disrupted
the first great

precipitated
the very issues
competition,
national
the
in the nineteenth
railroads,
century, and led to the cre
industry,
ation of the country's first regulatory commission,
the Interstate Commerce
cut-throat

in 1887. Against
that background,
to
the Depression
Commission,
appeared
mark the final, inevitable collapse of an economy
that had been beset for at
least fifty years by overproduction
and an excess of competition. The regula

toryregime that theNew Deal put in place seemed, therefore,but a logical

extension

of the kind competition-controlling


remedies
that the ICC had first
a
a
half
and
applied
century earlier,
fitting climax to five de
cades of sometimes wild economic
turbulence.
to the railroads

Those

views found theirmost

systematic formulation inFranklin Roosevelt's


1932 campaign
address at San Francisco's
Commonwealth
Club. As much as
can, that speech served as a charter for the New Deal's
any single document
economic
program.
"The history of the last half century," said Roosevelt
in San Francisco,
a history of a group of financial Titans....
"in large measure

is

long as we had free land; as long as population was growing by leaps and
bounds; as long as our industrial plants were insufficient to supply our own needs,
society chose to give the ambitious man free play and unlimited reward provided
only that he produced the economic plant so much desired. During this period of

As

13
FDR's
Lehrer,

accessed
inaugural,
27 February
2009.

at http://bartelby.com/124/pres50.html;

Obama

interview

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with

Jim

| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

262

expansion, there was equal opportunity for all and the business of government
was not to interfere but to assist in the development of industry."
now

But now, said Roosevelt, "our industrialplant is built; the problem just

under existing conditions


it is not overbuilt. Our
last frontier
more
no
and
been
there
free
land.... We
since
is
reached,
long
practically
are now providing a drab living for our own people....
is whether

has

Clearly, all this calls for a re-appraisal of values. A mere


plants, a creator ofmore railroad systems, an organizer
likely to be a danger as a help. The day of the great
Titan, to whom we granted everything ifonly he would

builder ofmore industrial


ofmore corporations, is as
promoter or the financial
build, or develop, is over.

task now is not discovery, or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily


producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering
resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for
our surplus production, of meeting the problem of underconsumption, of adjust
ing production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equita

Our

bly, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The
day of enlightened administration has come.... As I see it, the task of government
in its relation to business is to assist the development of ... an economic constitu
tional order."14

The
stabilize

of course,

National

Administration,
Recovery
limit
and
price and wage
production

its measures

with

competition,

was

the classic

to
in

stitutionalexpression of thatphilosophy. But even after theNRA's demise in


New Deal effortsto
1935, the thinkingthathad shaped itcontinued to inform

erect a new
That

"economic

thinking
implicit. The

usually
inRoosevelt's

constitutional
order."
on three premises,

rested

first was

Commonwealth

two of them explicit, the other


evident
the notion, so vividly and repeatedly
that the era of economic
Club Address,
growth

to the closing of the frontier, Roosevelt,


echo
celebrated
thesis about the 1890s, suggested
Jackson Turner's
ing Frederick
instead the
did not mark a transient crisis but heralded
that the Depression

had ended. With

death

his references

of an era and the birth of a new historical

ers, from Rexford

Tugwell

epoch. Many other New Deal


in
to the young Keynesians
who rose to prominence

the second Roosevelt administration,shared thisview. It deeply colored their


thoughtrightdown to the end of theDepression decade. "The economic crisis

Currie wrote
is not a temporary one," the economist Lauchlin
facing America
to his boss, Marriner Eccles,
in 1939. "The violence of the depression
following
for some time the fact that a profound
"obscured
continued,
1929," Currie

change of a chronic or secular nature had occurred."15 That change, Currie


was the emergence
of a "mature"
concluded,
economy, one whose
capacity
for growth was largely exhausted. The best that could be hoped for, therefore,
I, 742-756.
UPPA, Vol.
15
inAlan
Currie quoted

Brinkley,

The End

(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 122.

of Reform:

New

Deal

Liberalism

in Recession

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and War

WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

| 263

the gross levels of production


of the late 1920s, and to effect a
of
distribution
consuming power so as to sustain those levels
equitable
himself said consistently
that his "goal" was to raise
indefinitely. Roosevelt

was

to restore

more

to "ninety or one hundred"


billion dollars. "When, the Lord
as
as October
to
he
late
remarked
1937, "but that is a
reporters
only knows,"
a
sound
Measured
income
of nearly 87
national
against
perfectly
goal...."16
national

income

billion dollars in 1929, itwas also a perfectlymodest goal, a goal inspiredby


of economic

visions

restoration,

not economic

expansion.

The second premise that informedNew Deal policy was closely related to

the first, and was also evident in Roosevelt's


Commonwealth
Club address. It
was the idea that the private sector, left to its own devices, would never again
to sustain even
be capable of generating sufficient investment and employment
a 1920s-level

economy. That premise was the starting-point forHarry Hopkins'


Both he and Roosevelt
thatWPA
Progress Administration.
presumed
would be a permanently
necessary
program.
government
employment
("The
can absorb all able-bodied
time...when
said
workers,"
industry and business

Works

in 1936, "seems to grow more distant with improvements


inmanage
Hopkins
ment and technology.")17 The same assumption
about the long-term structural
of the private sector in "mature" economies
formed much of the
inadequacies
intellectual core of Keynesian
Even
before
gave the idea full
analysis.
Keynes

articulation, thismotif ran like a bright thread through thewritings of the

of the dismal science


in the 1930s. Alvin Hansen,
professional
practitioners
a Harvard
to become America's
economist destined
gave
leading Keynesian,

forcefulexpression to thisnotion in 1938 inFull Employment or Stagnation?, a

to popularize
that helped
the concept of "secular stagnation" while also
that
to make up for the per
government
arguing
spending was indispensable
manent
of private capital.18
deficiencies
book

New

The thirdpremise thatmoulded the economic thinkingand policies of the


Deal

was

the assumption,
less consciously
held
determinative
that
the
United
nonetheless,
powerfully
ically self-sufficient nation. That concept of economic
lain Roosevelt's
international
only

than the other


States was

two, but
an econom

isolationism

had under

frank declaration
... are

in his first inaugural


address
that "our
in point of time and necessity
secondary
of a sound national
It had formed the
economy."

trade relations

to the establishment

basis of his inflationaryschemes of 1933 and 1934. It formed the filamenton


a series of New

which

and price-fixing
16
PPA,

1937 Vol.,

1938 Vol.,

PPA,

Deal

legislation,
476;

see

from crop-supports
measures,
was strung. When
Roosevelt

also Roosevelt's

Annual

Message

to Congress

to minimum-wage

spoke

of "balance"

of January

3, 1938,

in

3.

17
to Save
Harry Hopkins,
Spending
(New York: W.W. Norton,
1936), 180-181.
18
or Stagnation?
Alvin H. Hansen,
Full Employment
(New York: W.W. Norton,
1938). Witnessing
the economic
later revised his views on secular stagnation.
"All of us
II, Hansen
impact ofWorld War

had

our

Nation,

sights too low," he wrote


21 October
1944, 492.

in 1944.

See Alvin

H. Hansen,

"Planning

Full Employment,"

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The

| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

264

between

industry and agriculture,

American

or when

he posited

the require

ment "that the income of our working population actually expands sufficiently
to absorb

to create markets

sioning

an America

petitors,

he was
production,"
not
to
mention
foreign markets,

that increased

for which

did not exist.19

envi

clearly

com

foreign

***

From those intellectual building blocks, composed of a theory of history, a


of the nature

conception

of modern

economies,

and an appraisal

of America's

unique position in theworld, theNew Deal erected an institutionalscaffolding


designed to provide unprecedented stabilityand predictabilityfor theAmeri
post-war

serve as the latticework


In time, that edifice would
like
the
"mile-a-minute
vine"
kudzu,
economy
grew

financial

reliability,

on which

can economy.

the

that carpets

much of the South. The unparalleled economic vitalityof the post-1940 de


cades owed tomany factors,not least the gusher of deficit spending triggered
byWorld War II, as well as the long exemption fromforeigncompetition that
the results of thewar conferred on theUnited States. But the elements of
in commodity,
competition
transportation,
well-ordered
relations
between
communication,
retail, and labor markets,
at
of
minimal
levels
and
least
and
labor,
management
government
support
that owed much to the New Deal?must
of aggregate demand?developments
modulated

surely figure largely in any comprehensive explanation of the performance of

in the post-war quarter-century.


economy
economic growth as a later generation would know it formed little part
of
of the New Deal's
timid, attenuated
ambition, even after FDR's
acceptance
to
end
of
the
the
in
remained
reluctant
deficits
1938.
Roosevelt
Keynesian
the American
Yet

to engage
in the scale of compensatory
to pre-Depression
the economy
levels, let alone
his attacks on business
sufficiently to encourage
1930s

of the stabilizing

elements

his own government

spending
expand

to restore
adequate
it.Nor would he relax

capital to take full advantage


was putting in place. Ironically,

he succeeded in building structuresof stabilitywhile maintaining throughout


the 1930s,

so far as businessmen

and

investors were

concerned,

an atmosphere

of uncertainty.Capital can livewith restrictions,but it is terrorizedby insecu

is now hesitant about making


long term plans," the head of the
rity. "Business
to Marriner
in 1937, "partly
Eccles
Board wrote
New York Federal Reserve
are
it feels it does not know what the rules of the game
because
going to be."20
That

sentiment was widely

shared

in the business

much the regulations that theNew Deal


in the 1930s;

itwas

the fear of what

It was

community.

so

not

imposed that intimidatedbusinessmen

new and unknown

Roosevelt

provocations

14, and 1937 Vol., 496.


l9PPA, 1933 Vol.,
20
"The Decline
of the New Deal,
in Richard
Quoted
1937-1940,"
Polenberg,
The Ohio
State University
The National
et al, eds., The New Deal:
Level
(Columbus:

in John Braeman,
Press,

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1975),

255.

WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

| 265

at last Roosevelt
reform
the New Deal's
declared
yet unleash. When
the war compelled
government
spending on an
phase at an end, and when
to a
and the economy
scale, capital was unshackled,
energized,
unexampled

might

could scarcely have imagined in the

degree that he and other New Dealers


decade.

Depression

ever after, Americans

And

assumed

that the federal

gov

ernment had not merely a role, but a major responsibility, in ensuring the
health of the economy and thewelfare of citizens.That simple butmomentous
shift in perception was the newest thing in all theNew Deal, and themost
too.

consequential,

****

of course,

Humankind,

not

does

live by bread

assessment

alone. Any

of what

theNew Deal did would be incomplete if it restedwith an appraisal of New

Deal

the remarkable
and failed to acknowledge
policies
innovations nourished
temperament.
by Roosevelt's
expansive

economic

social

array of

The world isnot a finishedplace, thephilosopherWilliam James once said,


nor ever will be. Neither was theNew Deal a finished thing,though in later
years some scholars lamented
and its supposedly
premature

its incompleteness,
demise.21 But what

its alleged political


timidity,
needs emphasis,
in the final

accounting, isnotwhat theNew Deal failed to do, but how itmanaged to do so


much in the uniquely plastic moment of themid-1930s. That brief span of
in Amer
years, it is now clear, constituted one of only a handful of episodes
and lasting social change has occurred?when
ican history when substantial
the country was, in measurable
sys
degree, remade. The American
political

tem, after all, was purpose-built


from the national
manipulation

in the eighteenth century to prevent its easy


to bind governments
down from
capital,
as
the
of
chains
the Constitution,
Jefferson said, by
mischief,
especially
by
the notoriously constraining system of checks and balances.
It is hardly surpris
stasis defines the "normal" American
condition.
ing, therefore, that political
are not its limita
that backdrop, what stands out about the New Deal
Against
of its vision and the consequent
tions and its temerity, but the boldness
sweep
of its ultimate achievement.
all his alleged
social vision was
inscrutability, Franklin Roosevelt's
a
are
once
to
"We
make
he
said to Secretary
enough.
going
country,"
of Labor Frances Perkins, "in which no one is left out."22 In that unadorned
For

clear

sentence
21
Works
"The

Roosevelt

spoke

that generally
share
Achievements

volumes

about

a critical posture

Conservative

of Liberal

toward

Reform,"

the New
the New

Deal's
Deal

in Bernstein,

lasting historical

include Barton
ed., Towards

J. Bernstein,

a New

Past

(New

York: Pantheon, 1968);Howard Zinn,New Deal Thought (Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-MerrillCom
pany, 1966); Paul Conkin, TheNew Deal (ArlingtonHeights, IL: Harlan Davidson, 3d edition, 1992);
Alan Brinkley,The End ofReform (NewYork: AlfredA. Knopf, 1995), andMichael Sandel,Democ
MA:
racy's Discontent
(Cambridge,
22
Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt

The

Press of Harvard
Belknap
University
I Knew
(New York: Viking,
1946), 113.

Press,

1996).

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| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

266

and unpretentious
old home on
Like his rambling, comfortable,
meaning.
was
a welcoming
the Hudson
the bluff above
Roosevelt's
New
Deal
River,
of many rooms, a place where millions
mansion
of his fellow citizens could

find at last a measure of the security that the patrician Roosevelts enjoyed
as theirbirthright.
the New

Perhaps

Deal's

greatest

achievement

was

its accommodation

of

thematuring immigrantcommunities thathad milled uneasily on themargins

and more before the 1930s. In bringing


society for a generation
of national
them into the Democratic
life,
Party and closer to the mainstream
even without fully intending to do so, also made
room for an
the New Deal,
almost wholly new institution, the industrial union. To tens of millions of rural

of American

Americans,
and roads,

the New

Deal

offered

the modern

as unaccustomed

as a well

comforts of electricity, schools,


stability. To the elderly and

financial

the unemployed itextended thepromise of income security,and the salvaged


dignity thatwent with it.
To black Americans theNew Deal offered jobs with theCCC, WPA, and

as importantly, the compliment


of respect from at least
and, perhaps
PWA,
some federal officials. The time had not come for direct federal action to chal

lenge JimCrow and put rightat last the crimes of slaveryand segregation,but
than a few New

more

Dealers

clear where

made

their sympathies
lay, and
the Pres
Roosevelt,
in small but unprece

for a better future. Urged on by Eleanor


quietly prepared
into the government
ident brought African-Americans

dented numbers. By themid-1930s theygathered periodically as an informal


"black

cabinet,"
guided
also appointed

Roosevelt
New

Deal

Bethune.
often by the redoubtable
Mary McLeod
Several
the first black federal judge, William Hastie.
Interior
Ickes'
and agencies,
including especially

Departments
Youth Administration,
National
and Aubrey Williams'
placed
Department
advisers for "Negro affairs" on their staffs.
scores of social experi
New Deal,
of Roosevelt's
In the yeasty atmosphere
to
ments flourished. Not all of them were successful, not all of them destined
of building a country from whose
last, but all shared the common purpose
Admin
basic benefits and privileges no one was excluded. The Resettlement
istration

laid out model

communities

for displaced

farmers and refugees

from

the shattered industrial cities, though only a handful of those social experi

ments

survived,

they soon

and

lost their distinctive,

Utopian

character.

The

Farm SecurityAdministrationmaintained migrant labor camps that sheltered


thousands of families like John Steinbeck's Joads. The Tennessee Valley Au
thoritybrought electricity,and with it, industry,to the chronically depressed
Upper South. The Bonneville Power Authoritymade a starton doing the same
for the Columbia

Deal

also

River

extended

Reorganization

Act

century-old policy
new law encouraged

Basin

the hand

The New
in the long-isolated Pacific Northwest.
to
The
Indian
Native
Americans.
of recognition

of 1934?the
of forced

so-called

assimilation

tribes to establish

Indian New

and

alienation

their own

the half

Deal?ended

of tribal

self-governing

lands. The
bodies

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and

WHAT THE NEW DEAL DID

| 267

some Indians denounced


this
to preserve
their ancestral
traditions. Though
museum
measure
a
to
as
that
make
"back-to-the-blanket"
sought
pieces
policy
consis
the Act accurately
reflected the New Deal's
out of Native Americans,
tently inclusionary

ethos.

The New Deal also succored the indigentand patronized the arts. It built
roads and bridges and hospitals. It even sought a kind of securityfor the land
itself,adding some 12millions acres of national parklands, includingOlympic
National Park inWashington State, Isle Royal inLake Superior, theEver
glades inFlorida, and King's Canyon inCalifornia. It planted trees and fought
on
and Bonneville
Coulee
It erected mammoth
dams?Grand
Fort Peck on the Missouri?that
the Columbia,
Shasta on the Sacramento,
were river-tamers and nature-busters,
to be sure, but job-makers
and region
builders, too.
erosion.

Above
had much

all, the New


of it a sense

Deal
who
gave to countless Americans
of security, and with it a sense of having

had

never

a stake

in

theircountry.And itdid it all without shredding theAmerican Constitution

or sundering
and alienation
the American
people. At a time when despair
were prostrating
that was no
other peoples
under the heel of dictatorship,
small accomplishment.
The

columnist

Dorothy
Thompson
at the end of the Depression

achievements

summed

decade,

up Franklin
in 1940:

Roosevelt's

We have behind us eight terrible years of a crisis we have shared with all coun
tries.Here we are, and our basic institutions are still intact, our people relatively
prosperous, and most important of all, our society relatively affectionate. No rift
has made an unbridgeable schism between us. The working classes are not clam
oring for [Communist Party boss] Mr. Browder and the industrialists are not
demanding a Man on Horseback. No country in the world is so well off.23
In the last analysis,

Roosevelt
his duties, in
faithfully discharged
as
trustee
of
"the
for
those
in
1933,
every coun
Keynes's
who
in
social
and
in
He
believed
did
mend
the evils of
peace
democracy.
try"
the Depression
reasoned
within
the
framework
of
the
by
experiment
existing

John Maynard

Franklin
words

social system. He did prevent a naked confrontation


between
and
orthodoxy
as
as
revolution. The priceless
value of that achievement,
much
the
surely
columns of ciphers that recorded national
income and production, must be

reckoned in any final accounting of what theNew Deal did.


The New Deal powerfully revitalizedAmerican life in the second half of
for sustained
economic
century. It built a platform
growth,
secure than
the benefits of prosperity widely, made more people more

the twentieth

spread

theyhad ever been, and helped set the stage for the civil rightsmovement that
at least a measure

brought
23
New

York Herald

of American

Presidential

Tribune,
Elections

of long-delayed

9 October

social justice forAfrican-Americans.

in Arthur M. Schlesinger,
Jr., The History
reprinted
McGraw
Hill,
IV, 2981-93.
1971), Vol.

1940,

(New York:

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| POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

268

as the century waned


came
and a new generation
toward risk, security, and the role of government

Yet

attitudes

tially. "Government
clared.
"Government

is not

the solution

is the problem."

to power, national
shifted consequen

to our problem," Ronald


de
Reagan
The policies
that flowed from that

political theologydid not fullydismantle theNew Deal, but theybadly compro


mised the capacity of government to adapt to the rapidlychanging character of
the global post-industrial
economy. As a new generation of political leaders peer
into the maw of another monstrous
economic
calamity, they would do well to
of the New Deal:
that government
has not
remember
the enduring relevance

only a right,but an obligation, tomake a country inwhich no one is leftout,


and inwhich all can live in safetyand security.*

This

People

article

from David M. Kennedy,


Freedom
is adapted
and updated
York:
Oxford
and War, 1929-1945
University
(New

in Depression

From
Press,

Fear:

The American

1999).

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