“Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes Pulitzer Prize winning historian David M. Kennedy for a discussion of what is to be learned from The Great Depression. Professor Kennedy, author of Freedom From Fear, The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, analyzes the genius of Roosevelt’s leadership, the tragedy of Herbert Hoover, the relationshp between FDR’s short term goals to deal with the economy and his long term goals to establish a new political coalition and create institutions to stabilize American capitalism and more equitably distribute its resources. Professor Kennedy goes on to draw parallels wtih the current global economic crisis and the lessons that the Obama administration could learn from the New Deal.”
From UC Berkeley Events
As a Liberal myself I don’t like hearing Franklin Roosevelt being viewed as a Liberal, especially when it comes to civil liberties, equal rights, the United States Constitution, and individual liberty broadly, areas where President Roosevelt doesn’t score very well with me and other Americans.
I mean President Roosevelt is a bigger inspiration for today’s Neoconservatives, who take the view that national security is more important than individual liberty. And that national security concerns even trump the U.S. Constitution. As we’ve seen with the so-called War on Terror like with the Patriot Act.
The way his the FDR Administration dealt with German, Italian and Japanese-Americans during World War II, three important ethnic groups in America, groups who all immigrated or descended from those main countries that the United States were fighting against during World War II. Germany, Italy and Japan, these ethnic groups were being detained and held by the Roosevelt Administration and held in concentration camps. Similar to how German-Jews were being detained by the Nazi Germans in Germany, because of their ethnicity and were seen as threats to the state because of their ethnic background. And seen loyal to someone other than their home country.
Now of course these Americans were certainly treated better than the European-Jews. But what they have in common is they were being held because of their ethnicity. No real Liberal would have a policy, or support a policy that detained people because of their ethnicity, or race. So on that score alone FDR scores really bad as a Liberal.
Neoconservative, comes to mind when I look at Franklin Roosevelt when it comes to civil liberties and individual freedom. A Liberal, wouldn’t have done that and been much farther ahead of FDR when it came to civil and equal right for all Americans. Not treating non-Anglo-Saxon-Americans as intruders in their own country.
When you think of economic liberalism, it is about using government to empower people in need and other people. So they have the tools that they need to live well in life be successful. Not use government to take care of people and not expect anything from them on their own. And make them dependent on the state for their economic well-being.
The New Deal was successful because it created a system that people could go to when they were in need and simply did not have the economic resources to take care of themselves.
That is where the safety net not welfare state starts. But not where it ends and in many cases like with Welfare Insurance, that is where the safety net ends with the New Deal. So in that sense FDR was more of a Progressive in his first two terms and more of a Social Democrat in his last term as someone who wanted to use government to take care of people like with a welfare state. And not using government to empower people to be able to take care of themselves.
And then you get to civil rights where President Roosevelt was either not interested in it, or didn’t believe all Americans deserved the same constitutional rights and be treated equally under law. Which again no real Liberal believes in and you get to two key areas where FDR doesn’t score very well as a Liberal: civil liberties and equal rights.
But where FDR does very well as a Progressive or Social Democrats when it came to economic policy, has to do with the safety net and infrastructure investment. And other government work projects programs.
But where FDR does score very well as a Progressive is where it comes to infrastructure investment, economic regulation, not economic statism, or state-ownership which is different.
And foreign policy where FDR was a clear Liberal Internationalist and a big reason why America won World War II and the Cold War and FDR does very well as a Progressive, but not in the other key areas of progressivism. Which is about using government to help people in need, not run their lives for them. While protecting our individual rights.
I’m not sure Franklin Roosevelt ever knew his own political philosophy, or ever had one. He was someone at least as President that took issues as they came and did what he thought was best. But someone who developed an economic philosophy as he became President and became a real economic Progressive. Someone who wanted an activist government to make government a great country for more Americans.