11 July 2011

Rethinking the Great Depression and the New Deal

I've become increasingly interested in the history of the 1930s, and I just finished Eric Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction.  It has become increasingly clear to me that there are major holes in the dominant historical narrative about the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Roosevelt administration.  The standard, high-school-textbook version of the story goes something like this:

"Greedy stock market speculators caused the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the worst depression in American history; President Herbert Hoover believed in an outdated laissez-faire economic philosophy, so he did nothing; thankfully, President Roosevelt was elected, and his New Deal policies saved capitalism and helped the common man survive the Great Depression; and finally, World War II was an enormous boon to the U.S. economy, and it finally solved the problem once and for all."

Those of us with a preference for economic liberty and peace should be greatly disturbed by this story.  If true, it suggests that the best ways to fix a broken economy are (1) total war, including conscription; and (2) dramatic increases in government taxation, spending, regulation, and redistribution.

Thankfully, there are convincing reasons to believe that the standard narrative is wrong.  There is a lot more I need to read on the topic, but here are some resources and ideas that I look forward to exploring further:

-Murray N. Rothbard, America's Great Depression (free PDF and ebook)
-George Selgin, "The Economics of America's Great Depression" (course syllabus in PDF format with many links to readings).  My interest in this topic is largely attributable to a fantastic lecture I heard Selgin deliver in June.
-David Gordon, "What you must read about the Great Depression," Mises Daily, 2/22/09
-George Selgin, review of Hall and Ferguson's The Great Depression.

Stephen Davies, "Top 3 Myths About the Great Depression and the New Deal," LearnLiberty.org:

In my next post, I will share excerpts from Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal, which - unlike the libertarian works linked to above - is firmly on the side of the standard narrative.

06 July 2011

Lying about Libya

My latest op-ed, "Lying about Libya," appeared today in Mises Daily, a publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  You can read the article here. In it, I write:

"What was sold to the American public as a humanitarian intervention morphed almost immediately into unreserved support of one side in Libya's civil war and a commitment to overthrowing Libya's existing government.
To decide whether a military action undertaken in our name is prudent and just, we must adopt a skeptical stance toward politicians' stories and rationalizations. We must attempt to see through these to the reality of the situation.

Stories can change, and new excuses can be spun, but once a war is launched there is no predicting the course it will take or the consequences it will have. Wars rarely go according to plan; they set in motion a course of events that no one person or group of people can hope to control."

Click here to read the entire article. Please consider posting it on Facebook or Twitter, or otherwise passing it along to others if you enjoy it. Thanks, as always, for reading.