Unlearning Roosevelt


Writing in the July 8, 2007 Washington Post, George Will has a column titled “Declaration of Dependence.” The link to it is here, although you may have to register (for free) to read it.

All through my public school education, we were taught that Franklin Roosevelt was godlike for saving the country from the Great Depression. While I don’t directly know what schoolchildren are taught today, I imagine that the stature of Roosevelt has only increased, as his vision of large, overpowering government is in perfect alignment with the goals of public schools. This is more that I need to unlearn.

Some excerpts:

Some mornings during the autumn of 1933, when the unemployment rate was 22 percent, the president, before getting into his wheelchair, sat in bed, surrounded by economic advisers, setting the price of gold. One morning he said he might raise it 21 cents: “It’s a lucky number because it’s three times seven.” His Treasury secretary wrote that if people knew how gold was priced “they would be frightened.” … In his second inaugural address, Roosevelt sought “unimagined power” to enforce the “proper subordination” of private power to public power. He got it … Roosevelt, however, made interest-group politics systematic and routine. New Deal policies were calculated to create many constituencies — labor, retirees, farmers, union members — to be dependent on government. … Before Roosevelt, the federal government was unimpressive relative to the private sector.


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