Jul 312007

There is a review of Amity Shlaes new book, “The Forgotten Man : a new history of the Great Depression” in the July 30 issue of The Weekly Standard. You have to be a paid subscriber to read the whole article, but here’s the link anyway.

The reviewer, Stephen Schwartz, says in one place: “While the outcome of the New Deal was perceived as beneficial, and was unaccompanied by repression, it has long been observed that the emergence of the American social welfare state had elements in common with Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s state-directed economic revival, and Stalinist compulsory agrarian collectivization and central planning.”

Unaccompanied by repression? Well, it certainly didn’t have repression on the scale of those other examples listed, but something was in the air at the time, world-wide. It wasn’t just Stalin who was doing central planning that resulted in dislocations of populations.

Last year when on a bike tour that passed through one of the TVA projects of the 1930s, I was surprised to learn of the level of resentment that still exists over the human dislocations undertaken in that not-so-successful experiment in central planning. And then I learned there is a literature about it, too.

I blogged about it here: Alabama trip, Day 4, Wednesday March 29, the Trace — Part 1.

I quote here about one of my discoveries on Jstor:

Another is this: TVA and the Dispossessed: The Resettlement of Population in the Norris Dam Area. By Michael J. McDonald; John Muldowny

The AHA reviewer says this: “Using oral-history techniques as well as a vast array of documentary evidence and statistics, Michael J McDonald andJohn Muldowny have skillfully and judiciously analyzed these failures. They conclude that even though the numerous long-run benefits can be cited legitimately as a result of TVA operations, there should nevertheless have been a more active and aggressive planning program…[But, G]iven the circumstances described by the authors, it is extremely difficult to imagine how the adverse impact of relocation on the people of the Norris Basin could have been significantly minimized.”

It sounds as though Amity Shlaes didn’t get into that aspect of the New Deal.

And why is it that these trends seem to cross national borders? This is one reason why it’s so worrisome to see Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez eliminating the free presses in their countries. Trends like that have a way of leaking out over the entire world. In our country we already have McCain-Feingold and the recent attempts to reinstate the so-called Fairness Doctrine. What more is coming?