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The Roosevelt Myth

The Roosevelt Myth: 50th Anniversary Edition - John T. Flynn I haven't decided how extensively to review this book now that I'm finished. (It's a quick read for being a 445-page heavily detailed political/history text. I read it in nine days, which is an unusually high speed for me.)

This book was originally written in 1948, and was given a postscript in 1956 (I read the 1956 edition); the author lived through events he described. His book is an attempt to debunk the myth of Franklin Roosevelt's greatness and the myth of the New Deal's effectiveness in ending the Great Depression. (Whether due to his influence or not, the belief that the New Deal ended the Great Depression is probably already debunked to some extent, because when I was in high school in the mid-90s, my history and government teachers both stated clearly that the Depression was ended by WWII, not the New Deal. But Roosevelt is still seen as one of the greatest of American presidents.)

This book begins with the day of Roosevelt's first inauguration, and covers his entire presidency chronologically up to his death.

Salient details:

Roosevelt had no understanding whatsoever of economics, including the various economic factors that caused the Depression and what economic solutions were likely to effect economic recovery.

Roosevelt was not any sort of progressive, leftist, or Communist sympathizer. He had no political principles of any kind. He was interested only in whatever would bring him votes, political support, and he was an expert in that area. In short, he was nothing more than a politician, possibly the most skilled politician in American history.

Because of these two things--his total lack of understanding of economics, and his lack of political ideology--Roosevelt allowed two types of people to influence him as advisers and hangers-on in his administration:
1. Economic quacks: people who recommended foolish solutions for repairing the badly damaged American economy. With his lack of economic knowledge, Roosevelt was unable to identify bad advice, and the advice probably most influential him was the recommendation for spending unlimited amounts of money. This was based on a silly theory that government debt consists of the people's debt to themselves and is therefore meaningless.

[To be continued when I have enough concentration to finish. If you want to see my raw notes, send me a message.]

In the meantime, I offer these quotations:

"The Capitalist system can operate at its highest efficiency only when it is managed in accordance with those economic laws suited to its special character."

"The seeds of that disaster [the Great Depression] were first sown in New York State, of which Roosevelt was governor."

"The reader will fail to grasp the full meaning of these events unless he understands the origin of the depression. It was not in any sense a failure of the free enterprise system--generally referred to as Capitalism. It resulted from a group of grave abuses which afflicted that system."

"He [Roosevelt] had practically no understanding of the natural laws which provide the energy for private enterprise. His knowledge of economics was a total blank. He was essentially a politician."

"We liberated Europe from Hitler and turned it over to the mercies of a far more terrible tyrant [Stalin] and actually tried to sell him to the people as a savior of civilization."

"He [Harry Hopkins] was one of those maladjusted and surly creatures whose code was churned up out of his angry soul. He was a thoroughly bad character who would have been at home in an earlier manifestation in the court of Louis XV."

"What Roosevelt needed was some rational and healthy advice on how to bring the nation out of the chaos into which it had fallen. Instead he found himself under the influence of a collection of revolutionary spirits who were aflame with the hope not of bringing a recovery of the free system but of completing its ruin and building on the wreckage some form of socialist heaven."

The one thing I disliked is that on one or two occasions Flynn blatantly and unnecessarily insults Eleanor Roosevelt.