terça-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2004

Mais sobre Roosevelt e o New Deal

"In this madness, the New Dealers had a method. Despite its economic illogic and incoherence, the New Deal served as a massive vote-buying scheme. Coming into power at a time of widespread destitution, high unemployment, and business failures, the Roosevelt administration recognized that the president and his Democratic allies in Congress could appropriate unprecedented sums of money and channel them into the hands of recipients who would respond by giving political support to their benefactors. As John T. Flynn said of FDR, “it was always easy to interest him in a plan which would confer some special benefit upon some special class in the population in exchange for their votes,” and eventually “no political boss could compete with him in any county in America in the distribution of money and jobs.”

In buying votes, the relief programs for the unemployed, especially the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration, loomed largest, though many other programs promoted the same end. Farm subsidies, price supports, credit programs, and related measures won over much of the rural middle class. The labor provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act and later the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act purchased support from the burgeoning ranks of the labor unions. Homeowners supported the New Deal out of gratitude for the government’s refinancing of their mortgages and its provision of home-loan guarantees. Even blacks, loyal to the Republican Party ever since the Civil War, abandoned the GOP in exchange for the pittances of relief payments and the tag ends of employment in the federal work-relief programs. Put it all together and you have what political scientists call the New Deal Coalition—a potent political force that remained intact until the 1970s.

(...)If demagoguery were a powerful means of creating prosperity, then FDR might have lifted the country out of the depression in short order. But in 1939, ten years after its onset and six years after the commencement of the New Deal, 9.5 million persons, or 17.2 percent of the labor force, remained officially unemployed (of whom more than 3 million were enrolled in emergency government make-work projects). Roosevelt was a masterful politician, but unfortunately for the American people subjected to his policies, he had no idea how to end the depression other than to “try something” and, when that didn’t work, to try something else. His ill-conceived, politically shaped experiments so disrupted the operation of the market economy and so discouraged the accumulation of capital that they impeded the full recovery that otherwise would have occurred.

(...)Once the New Deal had burst the dam between 1933 and 1938, ample precedent had been set for virtually any government program that could gain sufficient political support in Congress. Limited constitutional government, especially after the Supreme Court revolution that began in 1937, became little more than an object of nostalgia for classical liberals.

But in the wake of the New Deal, the ranks of the classical liberals diminished so greatly that they became an endangered species.

The legacy of the New Deal was, more than anything else, a matter of ideological change. Henceforth, nearly everyone would look to the federal government for solutions to problems great and small, real and imagined, personal as well as social. After the 1930s, opponents of a proposed federal program might object to its structure, its personnel, or its cost, but hardly anyone objected on the grounds that the program was by its very nature improper to undertake at the federal level of government.

People in the mass,” wrote H.L. Mencken, “soon grow used to anything, including even being swindled. There comes a time when the patter of the quack becomes as natural and as indubitable to their ears as the texts of Holy Writ, and when that time comes it is a dreadful job debamboozling them.”11

Six decades after the New Deal, Americans overwhelmingly take for granted the expansive, something-for-nothing character of the federal government established by the New Dealers. For Democrats and Republicans alike, Franklin Delano Roosevelt looms as the most significant political figure of the twentieth century."

The Mythology of Roosevelt and the New Deal September 1, 1998Robert HiggsThe Freeman

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