Friday, August 17, 2007

The Book I Read:
The Forgotten Man
by Amity Shlaes

Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.

Say what? An, "instrument of unimagined power"? Was this spoken by George W. Bush you guess? Or perhaps Donald Rumsfeld? Surprisingly to some, the answer is no. This incredible statement was uttered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his 2nd Inaugural address on January 20th, 1937.

Not much in contemporary politics is so lionized as FDR and his New Deal. Indeed, no lefty politician fails to offer venerations to FDR and sadly no contemporary Republican dares to challenge his legacy. Today's political terms of debate have not moved much since FDR. Indeed, the Democrat party continues to honor issue and identity groups that FDR empowered and made dependants of the State, including farmers and labor unions. And Republicans are cast as guardians of the wealthy; the rapacious, and the exploitive as they were back in FDRs day. Apparatchiks of FDRs administration would feel at home in today's MoveOn and DailyKos communities. FDR's effects cast a long shadow.

Indeed, reading this extraordinary book I could not anticipate what each succeeding page would reveal regarding FDRs New Deal excesses.

That FDRs federal budgets in each year outspent what the federal budgets of all other years combined spent.

That under FDR's Works Progress Administration thousands of artists, writers, playwrites, and photographers were employed to produce among other things favorable propaganda promoting New Deal successes. (Karl Rove could only wish to get away with a fraction of such things!).

That Rex Tugwell, intellectual cadre of FDRs "Brain Trust" (and admirer of Josef Stalin), as head of FDR's Resettlement Administration was tasked to resettle thousands of urban and rural poor into planned suburban utopias (such as Greenbelt, MD) to serve as initial experiments in socialist state planning.

That FDR proposed a court packing scheme to staff the court with up to six additional Supreme Court justices of his choosing. (Sens. Biden and Schumer's bedwetting tantrums over Alito and Roberts are laughable in light of this).

Amity Shlaes' narrative whips by at breakneck speed, cataloging the degree and breadth of expansion of federal government power under FDR, slowing her narrative down at times to check in with her main protagonists, the "Forgotten Man" - those heroes that stood to defend the freedoms of individualism and individual action in the face of FDRs massive socialist collectivisation. "The Forgotten Man" was a idea popularized before FDRs time and was in reference to instances where Group A of people (the power class) discuss with Group B (power class & intellectuals) the plight of Group X (the underclass). Group A and Group B decide on a course of action to help Group X which involves coercing Group C (The Forgotten Man) to pony up the cash and bear the brunt of the effort. FDR turned this imagery around to suggest that Group X was "The Forgotten Man" all along and that Group C, the traditional "Forgotten Man", (the middle class) was not at all disadvantaged in his New Deal redistribution scheme.

Shlaes' book is to return the focus back to the original "Forgotten Man" and detail how traditional bootstrap individualists endured the FDR regime. Amazing characters such as black preacher Father Divine who lead his multiracial congregation to reject subservience to New Deal solutions. Or about Bill W. - the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the self-help movement. Or financier, former Treasury Secretary, and wealthy philanthropist Andrew Mellon who's private pursuit of collecting mankind's finest works of art culminated in his donating his entire collection to the United States for the establishment (and funds to build) a National Gallery of Art for the free enjoyment of all citizens.

In the face of dehumanizing collectivism, Shlaes' "Forgotten Man" strikes back and offers lessons to today's own freedom loving individuals waging battle against collectivizing government and rejecting those politicians peddling promises of socialist utopias. Their dissent is truly patriotic.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger gagknee said...

my only reason for not commenting is that my lack of intelligence would detract from your post.

good day, sir.


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