Posts tagged ‘Roosevelt New Deal’

New Deal and Fascism

On a number of occasions, I have pointed to the strong echos of Italian-style fascism in Roosevelt's New Deal, particularly in the National Recovery Act, which was practically a copy of Mussolini's political-economic model.  David Gordon reviews a new book called the Three New Deals which delves deeper into this parallel development on matters of state control of the economy between Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini.

Roosevelt never had much
use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind
telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House
correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that
admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading
adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for
Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest "¦ most
efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It
makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell).

Why did these
contemporaries sees an affinity between Roosevelt and the two leading
European dictators, while most people today view them as polar
opposites? People read history backwards: they project the fierce
antagonisms of World War II, when America battled the Axis, to an
earlier period. At the time, what impressed many observers, including
as we have seen the principal actors themselves, was a new style of
leadership common to America, Germany, and Italy.

Once more we must avoid a
common misconception. Because of the ruthless crimes of Hitler and his
Italian ally, it is mistakenly assumed that the dictators were for the
most part hated and feared by the people they ruled. Quite the
contrary, they were in those pre-war years the objects of considerable
adulation. A leader who embodied the spirit of the people had
superseded the old bureaucratic apparatus of government.

He also gives us a good hint as to why so many people on the left today are trying to find way to paint the American economy as somehow broken or at some historical low point:

He concludes the book by recalling John T. Flynn's great book of 1944, As We Go Marching.

Flynn, comparing the New Deal with fascism, foresaw a problem that still faces us today.

But willingly or
unwillingly, Flynn argued, the New Deal had put itself into the
position of needing a state of permanent crisis or, indeed, permanent
war to justify its social interventions. "It is born in crisis, lives
on crises, and cannot survive the era of crisis"¦.

Fascism and the Philadelphia Eagles

Living for many years in Dallas, including the three-Superbowl period in the mid-eighties, it was nearly impossible not to jump on the Dallas Cowboy bandwagon.  And, part and parcel (Parcell?) of being a Cowboys fan was hating those NFL east franchises the Giants, Redskins, and the Eagles (the Cardinals were also in the division, but were such a joke that they were not even worth hating, which is ironic since they are now my team here in Phoenix).

When we were driving up to Princeton reunions from Washington DC, my old roommate Brink Lindsey pointed out to me, as we passed the new Philadelphia stadium, that the Eagles were named in the 1930's after the blue eagle of the National Recovery Administration, or NRA.

I found this hard to believe, that anyone would name a sports franchise after one of the worst pieces of legislation in American history, but it seems to be true.  Apparently, naming the team the eagles was part of a larger soviet-style propaganda program:

For a while, there was no escaping the bird. Towns all over the country got on the Blue Eagle bandwagon. A hundred thousand schoolchildren clustered on Boston Common and were led in an oath administered by Mayor James Michael Curley: "I promise as a good American citizen to do my part for the NRA. I will buy only where the Blue Eagle flies." In San Francisco, 8,000 schoolchildren were dragooned into showing their
allegiance by forming themselves into a human Blue Eagle on the outfield in Seals Stadium. In Cleveland, 35,000 enthusiasts gathered in the public square to cheer the unveiling of the Blue Eagle flag while city officials proclaimed the "end of the depression." In Memphis, 125,000 people watched another 50,000 march in the city's traditional Christmas parade; on the final float Santa Claus sat resplendent upon a big Blue Eagle, from which perch he threw candy to children. In a New
Orleans park, NRA celebrants erected an enormous pyramid on which were inscribed the names of more than 7,000 people and businesses who had taken the pledge; on top of the pyramid was a nine-foot eagle made of blue lights, while red and white bulbs spelled out "We Do Our Part." In Philadelphia, citizens were soon cheering for a new professional football team whose name was inspired by the general's icon: the Philadelphia Eagles. In Roanoke, North Carolina, "Shanghai Mickey" offered Blue Eagle tattoos for a mere 50 cents. In Atlantic City, beauty contestants had the Blue Eagle stamped on their thighs.

What's next?  Should we rename the Red Sox the Boston Alien and Sedition Acts?  How about having the Chicago Smoot-Hawley Tariffs?

By the way, for those who are not familiar, the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 that formed the NRA was the centerpiece of Roosevelt's New Deal, and was modeled on Mussolini's fascism in Italy (via Sheldon Richman of the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics):

The image of a strong leader taking direct charge of an economy during hard times fascinated observers abroad. Italy was one of the places that Franklin Roosevelt looked to for ideas in 1933. Roosevelt's National Recovery Act (NRA) attempted to cartelize the American economy just as Mussolini had cartelized Italy's. Under the NRA Roosevelt established industry-wide boards with the power to set and enforce prices, wages, and other terms of employment, production, and distribution for all companies in an industry. Through the Agricultural Adjustment Act the government exercised similar control over farmers. Interestingly, Mussolini viewed Roosevelt's New Deal as "boldly... interventionist in the field of economics." Hitler's nazism also shared many features with Italian fascism, including the syndicalist front. Nazism, too, featured complete government control of industry, agriculture, finance, and investment.

And further, from John Flynn's The Roosevelt Myth via Anthony Gregory:

[Mussolini] organized each trade or industrial group or professional group into a state-supervised trade association. He called it a corporative. These corporatives operated under state supervision and could plan production, quality, prices, distribution, labor standards, etc. The NRA provided that in America each industry should be organized into a federally supervised trade association. It was not called a corporative. It was called a Code Authority. But it was essentially the same thing. These code authorities could regulate production, quantities, qualities, prices, distribution methods, etc., under the supervision of the NRA. This was fascism. The anti-trust laws forbade such organizations. Roosevelt had denounced Hoover for not enforcing these laws sufficiently. Now he suspended them and compelled men to combine.

If you are not familiar with the NRA, you need to be if you are going to come to a conclusion about the New Deal and just how statist FDR's aspirations were.  Henry Hazlitt has a long evaluation here. In the end, the NRA was struck down by the Supreme Court, and never revived in large part because it was a disaster for the economy.  Many blame the NRA for strangling the recovery that began in 1933-34 and thus extending the depression. Parts of the law (collective bargaining, minimum wage) were incorporated in other later legislation, but the core concept of organizing industrial cartels with government backing to run industries and set prices, wages, and production levels died, fortunately.

By the way, the countries today that I know of that most closely adhere to the assumptions of the NRA are France and Germany, who expelled the fascists in the forties only to eventually adopt most of their corporatist economics.