Sunday, August 9, 2009
The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes
Earlier this year, the American columnist Amity Shlaes wrote an article for Bloomberg.com under the heading "Cheering for Obama stimulus buys into 1930s myth", and it's hard not to see this revisionist history as a sideswipe at the Obama administration's efforts to tackle the recession. The myth Shlaes proposes to bust is that government intervention dug America out of the great depression. In fact, she argues, Obama's - sorry - FDR's Soviet-inspired, New Deal philosophy of redistribution and state control actually prolonged the depression through over-regulation and punitive taxation (her previous book was called The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It). FDR should have trusted in the market to right itself, she argues, while she eulogises the forgotten men (or small businessmen): those rugged individualists who funded FDR's government activism but were scapegoated by him for their trouble. The Forgotten Man was a bestseller in America, although Shlaes has been accused of being economical with the economic facts.