I read this book earlier this year and it’s imprinted upon me in a most forceful way, so much so that I’m considering rereading it again. I recommend this book because I hear many politicians today talking about a modern era New Deal approach to our economic problems, yet there is an increasing consensus that FDR’s New Deal actually prolonged the Great Depression rather than relieving it. Clearly the events of WWII make it impossible to know what the outcome would have been if left to a natural course, but the evidence is compelling nonetheless.
It is precisely this consciousness of history that we simply have to be versed in.
In her telling, policymakers of the 1920s weren’t so incompetent as they’re often made out to be—everyone in the 1930s was floundering and all made errors—and WWII, not the New Deal, ended the Depression. This is plausible history, if not authoritative, novel or deeply analytical. It’s also a thoughtful, even-tempered corrective to too often unbalanced celebrations of FDR and his administration’s pathbreaking policies.
UPDATE: After this post went up I received an email from Frank Thomas with a link to this video. It’s a great compilation of Depression era photography set to music and beginning and ending with words from FDR’s inaugural address. It’s a compelling video, worth the 5 small minutes to watch it.