Bryan Caplan  

The New Deal vs. the Kling Deal

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I'm frankly puzzled by Arnold's latest take on the New Deal. (That quote is from him, not DeLong as I initially guessed!) I think the New Deal was moderately fascist (i.e., Mussolini light, not Hitler light), but let's leave that aside. Arnold has previously written that:

[I]f I could go back to 1933 and tell President Roosevelt what to do, I would say "yes" to deposit insurance, "yes" to going off the gold standard, and "no" to pretty much every other New Deal policy, including Social Security.

Let's call these two recommendations the Kling Deal. Arnold, don't you think that the Kling Deal would have been more than enough to prevent the rise of American fascism? If so, why are you so sympathetic toward your father's judgment about the dire consequences of an America "without the New Deal"?

As best as I can tell, Arnold's dad's view makes sense only if the sole alternative to the New Deal was no policy change whatsoever. It wasn't. Indeed, relative to the Kling Deal, the New Deal greatly increased the chance of fascism by slowing the return to full employment.


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The author at MaxSpeak, You Listen! in a related article titled THEY TEACH THE CHILDREN OF VIRGINIA, II writes:
    Opinions . . . everybody's got one: "I think the New Deal was moderately fascist (i.e., Mussolini light, not Hitler light), but let's leave that aside." Because Franklin D. Roosevelt resembled Robert Mugabe. This has been another in our continuing... [Tracked on February 7, 2007 3:46 PM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Carl Marks writes:

My grandfahter tends to make similar comments regarding the Great Depression. After doing research on many of his statements, many turned out to my wrong or at least highly misleading. It could be that our fathers (and grandfathers) received too much of their information on (then) current events from (now) suspicious government programs.
Conclusion: take your ancestors recount of historical events with a grain of salt unless it deals with personal history

TGGP writes:

Harding's solution to his more severe (but shorter) recession in 1921 was to do nothing, and the american political system remained unscathed. The American elections during the Great Depression don't show any fascist parties having any success (including the 1932 election), so the idea that they were a big risk seems fanciful to me.

LowLife writes:

I agree with TGGP. Indeed, the closest we've come to facism, aside from the alcoholic fevers of Joseph McCarthy, is when the Supreme Court appointed Bush in 2000. Absent any additional policy screwups we just might survive this with our collective soul intact. Then - on to Neuremburg!

andy writes:

Americans seem to find hard to believe that fascism can happen in their own country. What do you call cartelisation of industry, confiscation of gold, incarceration of "suspect" races, the creation of a corporativist welfare-warfare state, massive propaganda featuring imperial eagles, work gangs, huge public work projects?

In Nero's time people called it imperial rule. I guess now "bread and circuses" has real good press.

Zhu Benben writes:

GMU professors are wonderful. Sincerely.

My childish knowledge about Pres. Lincoln and Pres. Roosevelt and their times are all shaken by you now.

TGGP writes:

We weren't close to fascism in the McCarthy era. For one thing, he was a senator and both the President and the other leaders of his own party did not take a shine to him. For another thing, although he is often associated with the House Un-American Activities Committee (which was created in the FDR era), as a senator he did not participate and his own focus was on people in the GOVERNMENT, rather than blacklisting Hollywood writers. The Venona Documents showed that the Soviets did have quite a number of paid agents in the high reaches of our government, so his "ravings" turned out to be, in the words Nicholas von Hoffman "closer to the truth than those who ridiculed him".

It is also not the case that without the Supreme Court Florida would have gone to Al Gore in the 2000 election. You can find the different results that would have occurred with different recounts here. The methods that would have resulted in a Gore victory were not requested by Gore. If the recounts that had actually been initiated had been permitted to complete, Bush's margin of victory would have actually increased.

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