Sunday, July 20, 2008

How should history remember FDR?

I've been wondering about this question on-and-off for a while now. I know most economists are unfriendly to him because of the widespread belief that his New Deal policies actually lengthened the Great Depression, but nonetheless he is consistently held in high regard in American Presidential rankings

Now, if the only criticisms against him were his economic policies, I would understand why he was held in high regard. Very few average citizens have any understanding of economics, and without any criticism it's easy to believe he was the man who brought us out of the Depression. But what about...

  • Japanese internment camps during World War II? These were absolutely atrocious and it's embarrassing to me that anyone could sign them into law. 
  • The switch in time that saved nine? This was a blatant attempt by FDR to take over the Judicial branch of the government.  It was disrespectful of the Constitution, as well, and I find it appalling. Combine this with his subsequent breaking of the two-term limit, and you have a man who made regular attempts at dictatorial power. 
  • Yalta? This was one of the worst treaties ever negotiated, from an American perspective, and FDR's ailing health is often cited as the reason he made so many concessions to Josef Stalin. I don't want to speculate on how this would've changed the world, but I do think there are a lot of ways America and the world would've been better off.

Maybe, when Social Security collapses completely from bankruptcy, people will begin to view FDR differently. Personally, I just don't understand how he gets so much love from Americans.


Anonymous said...

When people were starving and oranges were being treated with chemicals (so that people couldn't eat them) and dumped into the ocean, and Roosevelt seemed to care by creating jobs, then he became a hero. What affects us personally is what we see best. Along with The Grapes of Wrath, a personal view, The Hungry Years, by T.H. Watkins, gives additional pictures. There are people who survived being hungry for many years, but they still have marks -- anemia, a tendency to hoard, fears. Hunger still happens, or is allowed to happen.

Pete Abbate said...

Annonymous - great post. I like the perspective you offer.

The New York Times today has another perspective on FDR as a Divider. It's interesting to see the author praising this. I can't imagine any circumstances where I would support tyrannic rule of the majority, no matter what the long-term effects may be.

I'm sure this is idealized, but I believe if your ideas are truly good for most people, they will eventually be recognized as such. Until you receive that recognition, you have no business imposing on me or anyone else.

Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty