Is Government the Answer?

 “The most terrifying words in the English language are ‘we’re from the government and we’re here to help.’” Ronald Reagan

In his second inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the all-powerful federal government he was trying to build as “an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.” During his first term, he boasted, he had “made the exercise of all power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public’s government.”

FDR was articulating one of the central beliefs of the political Left: that only good can come of making the government more powerful, and that only a more powerful government can do anything good.  Individuals and businesses in the private sector, according to this view, play no constructive role in society.

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New Deal Politics

The most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.’” Ronald Reagan

When the stock market crashed in October of 1929 the American unemployment rate shot up to 9%. American businesses and workers quickly made adjustments, as they had during previous depressions, and by June of the next year unemployment was down to 6.3%.

Then the government started “helping.”
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The Roosevelt “Stimulus”

“Nothin’s wrong with this country that ain’t only just temporary.” Diamond Jim Brady was speaking for many Americans when he made that statement of faith in America’s capitalist system. The year was 1895, and the nation was two years into a deep economic depression. The country had been through other depressions before, the most recent starting in 1873, and had always recovered quickly. Soon Brady’s prediction would come true; within a couple years the country would start another period of strong economic growth.

Before the 1930’s the United States had suffered, and quickly recovered from, many economic depressions. Until Herbert Hoover became president in 1929 the federal government made little pretense of being able to legislate prosperity. The usual government response to recessions and depressions was to trim spending a little, in response to the reduction in tax revenues, and just wait for movers and shakers like Diamond Jim Brady to re-build the nation’s economy.

The depression of the 30’s was the first one to which the government responded with massive increases in spending; and it would turn out to be the one that hurt the nation the most, and lasted the longest. But don’t expect to hear that in a typical college history class; today’s mostly left-leaning college faculties are teaching their young charges that the Great Depression of the 1930’s was an unprecedented event that could only be overcome through massive government spending and a restructuring of the economy under strict government control.

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