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Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Reader Seeks Clarification

My post titled Liberals Abhor Savings left unanswered questions.

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Mr. Richard W. Symonds emailed the following to me:

Dear Mr Brewton,
?
Thank you for your reply - I am most impressed on first reading, and I will inwardly digest on further reading. I do very much appreciate?the time and trouble you have taken in your reply.

May I come back to you for any?further clarifications ?
?
What?concerned me most was your use of the term “socialist professors”?in?FDR’s ‘Brains Trust’ - how do you rate FDR’s contribution to?US ‘success’ ??
?
Sincerely,
?
Richard W. Symonds?
Gatwick ‘City’ of Crawley
England


Dear Mr. Symonds:

Yes, by all means, come back to me with questions.  The whole point of my website is to be an educational resource.

Franklin Roosevelt took office in April 1933, at about the same time that President von Hindenberg appointed Hitler Chancellor of Germany.  The two events were not unrelated.

The Victorian age was marked by absolute certainty in Progress.  Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity (a variety of socialism without direct public ownership of industry, but simply with industry and transportation regulated by councils of intellectuals) seemed to offer a return to the Garden of Eden, with humanity and political society being perfected by the combination of presumably superior wisdom of intellectuals and eliminating most, if not all the essential qualities of private ownership of property.  J.S. Mill found Comte’s doctrine highly attractive, basing much of his “On Liberty,” as well as all of his laudatory “Chapters on Socialism” thereupon.

The First World War was a stunning shock to intellectuals, not to mention to English society deprived of roughly a million young men in their prime.  In the aftermath, during the 1920s and 30s, there appeared a whole literature, in the United States and Europe, questioning the future of democratic societies and looking with favor upon Mussolini’s Fascist State Corporatism.  As people then said, at least the trains in Italy were, for a change, running on schedule and mails delivered promptly.

Parenthetically, note that both Fascism and Nazism are simply variants of socialism, as both Mussolini and Hitler proclaimed.  The standard assertion that Hitler and Mussolini were right-wing radicals and the Soviets were left-wingers is arrant nonsense, concocted by apologists for socialism to avoid the taint of association.  In his many speeches beginning in the 1920s, Hitler repeatedly declared himself to be a socialist.  The very name of the party (National Socialist German Workers Party ? the Nazis) makes that clear, as does its slogan: “workers interests before corporate profit.”

In any case, Hitler’s speeches immediately after becoming Chancellor, Mussolini’s articles on Fascism in the Italian Encyclopedia, and Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933 all state the same themes and use much the same language.  All of it damns the private business sectors for the nation’s ills and prescribes collectivist planning as the cure.

Franklin Roosevelt’s very first enacted legislative program was the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which was modeled directly upon Mussolini’s Fascist State Corporatism.  Both delineated industry groups and created industry councils composed of industry leaders and union leaders, chaired by government officials.  Their task was to establish industry codes of conduct that would set production quotas, wage rates, and sale prices of goods.  In short, the NRA enacted Auguste Comte’s system of comprehensive regulation via government councils.

In an enlightening sidelight, newspaper reporters, struck by the parallels to Fascism, interviewed Mussolini to obtain his reaction.  Il Duce told them that the NRA was much too harsh compared to Fascist State Corporatism and that President Roosevelt was making a huge mistake in devaluing the dollar and attempting to re-energize the economy via price inflation.

Roosevelt had campaigned in 1932 on the promise to introduce state planning.  He then had only two models: Fascism and Soviet Communism.  His most notorious Brains Trust advisor was Rexford Guy Tugwell, an avowed socialist and admirer of the Soviet Union, as well as being an economics professor at Columbia University, when Roosevelt brought him into the new administration.  Tugwell was followed by a seemingly endless stream of professors and energetic young graduates from Columbia and Harvard, all eagerly bent upon perfecting American society by implementing socialism.

One of his advisors, Stuart Chase (who coined the term New Deal), wrote that anyone, from private citizen to Supreme Court Justice, who believed that the Constitution should stand in the way of socializing the nation had better step aside or be crushed.

In the event, for the first time in American history, an ordinary business recession was turned into a decade of unprecedented misery by the flailing about of the Roosevelt administration.  In retrospect, it’s difficult to understand how anyone, even a socialist, could have believed that economic activity might be revived, in the midst of a depression, by tripling the actual amount of taxes collected, by imposing NRA controls on business, by attempting to control agricultural production and prices, and by continually denouncing businessmen as the agents of evil.  The full list of Roosevelt’s idiocies can fill a book, as indeed they do with Jim Powell’s “FDR’s Folly.”

Liberals allege that Roosevelt’s policies ended the depression.  Yet, for eight years, unemployment remained above 10 percent (not bad for today’s socialist Germany and France, but unheard of in the United States).  Anyone looking at the facts must conclude that Emperor Hirohito, not Mr. Roosevelt, ended the American Depression.

In my assessment, Franklin Roosevelt stands alone as the worst President in our nation’s history, a man who corrupted the nation’s founding ethos in almost every respect and destroyed the single most important element in the Constitution’s checks and balances: the independent power of the states and local governments.  When Mr. Roosevelt took office, more than 70 percent of taxes were collected at the state and local levels.  During his tenure, the ratios were reversed.

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