by Gary North: Agenda:
A Misleading Fundamentalist Video That Should Never Have Been Made
30, I visited the Georgia residence of President Franklin Roosevelt
in Warm Springs, Georgia. The visit was part of a weekend seminar
on America's entry into World War II, which was sponsored by the
Ludwig von Mises Institute. It was held at Callaway Gardens, which
is just a few miles down the road from Warm Springs.
I have believed
ever since 1958 that Roosevelt took steps throughout 1940 and 1941
which were designed to provoke the Japanese attack in late 1941.
My view was shared by the speakers at the conference. So, visiting
the presidential home in warm Springs was sort of cathartic for
me. It reminded me of how much work there remains to do in re-writing
park at Warm Springs serves as a kind of shrine for Roosevelt. Roosevelt
died in his home in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945. He had been
President for a little over 12 years. He had been President during
the worst economic disaster in the history of the United States,
and also the worst disaster, economically speaking, in the history
of the modern world. Then he presided over World War II. When you
consider the magnitude of these two disasters, back to back, it
is understandable why Roosevelt became the closest thing to a political
saint in twentieth-century American history.
When we look
back at the textbook versions of the great presidents, only one
of them presided over the country for eight years without any major
crisis. That was George Washington. Washington's time of trial had
been when he served as commanding general during the American Revolution.
The other men who are most likely to be named as a great President
were wartime presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.
Each presided over a national crisis.
his polio-induced paralysis, Roosevelt visited Warm Springs intermittently
from 1924 until 1945. The waters let him enjoy himself in the pool.
It was a vacation time for him.
There is a
museum on the property. As part of the tour through the museum,
there is a brief documentary about Roosevelt's years at Warm Springs.
It is narrated by Walter Cronkite. The documentary is filled with
praise for the fact that Roosevelt used government power to help
As I watched
that video, I thought back to my years as a high school student
in the late 1950s. I wrote a term paper on Pearl Harbor in the fall
of 1958, in my senior year. In preparation, I read a book by John
T. Flynn, The
Roosevelt Myth, which had been published in 1948. Flynn
was a long-time opponent of Roosevelt, stretching back to the mid-1930s.
This book served as his culminating critique of Roosevelt's presidency.
The book was
unique in 1948, because it was critical of Roosevelt's domestic
economic policies, and was also critical of his foreign policies.
Both can be described as interventionist. Today, almost 70 years
after Roosevelt's death, there remains only one book that is negative
about both his foreign policy and his domestic policy. That book
is The Roosevelt Myth. The book is not what I would call
a scholarly book. When I read it in 1958, I thought it needed more
footnotes. Some of its claims were insufficiently substantiated.
There has never
been a book written by a professional historian that is critical
of Roosevelt's foreign policy and domestic policy, There is a reason
for this. In academia, there is no widespread commitment to non-interventionism.
Ron Paul represents this tradition. He spoke at the seminar on non-interventionism.
His views are getting a wider hearing than anyone else since Robert
A. Taft, who died in 1953.
There is screening
in academia. Those who hold these views are not encouraged to go
on with their studies. They are not granted tenure at major universities.
This has been true for over 50 years.
does function as a kind of secular saint for most Americans. It
is still considered poor etiquette to criticize Roosevelt, despite
the fact that there has been a stream of books, beginning in 1947,
that indicate that he deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack
Pearl Harbor. These books are called revisionist history.
there have been a series of well-written books by professional historians
that are critical of his domestic economic policies. But still we
lack a one-volume treatment of Roosevelt's presidency from the point
of view of non-intervention.
When you find
a political figure who is essentially untouchable in the textbooks,
you can be sure that the textbooks are favorable to whatever policies
that political figure pursued. The textbooks function as a kind
of whitewashing operation. The worldview governing the writing of
the textbooks was also the official outlook and public justification
for the political career of the untouchable saint. If we look back
at the rhetoric of that political figure, we can conclude that his
political policies were victorious in his day, and they remain victorious
I have written
on several occasions that the absence of that anti-New Deal treatise
is a mark of the weakness in academic circles of the conservative
movement. You might imagine that, 67 years after his death, at least
one PhD-holding historian would have stepped forward to publish
a well-documented book that is critical of Roosevelt on this basis:
it is critical of Roosevelt's policy of government intervention.
But we do not have that book.
The book should
rest on multiple volumes of research. It would be much easier to
do a critical analysis of Roosevelt's foreign policy than to criticize
his economic policy. There is a large body of material that has
been critical of his foreign policy. Not many people have read this,
but it does exist.
policies are still the reigning policies of the United States government
and virtually all other Western industrial nations. The welfare
state is still triumphant in the thinking of most voters.
It is considered
a breach of faith to point out that the welfare state rests on government
coercion and bad economics. One is not even supposed to point to
the fact that Medicare and Social Security will inevitably bankrupt
the United States government if the two programs are not radically
revised so as to bankrupt the aged voters who have become dependent
on the two programs. In other words, bankruptcy is inevitable, but
it is a political question as to which groups will get bankrupted
first in the process. No presidential candidate is allowed to say
these things if he expects to be elected.
It is considered
the kiss of political death to say publicly that Franklin Roosevelt
undermined the Constitution of the United States on a systematic
basis in order to expand the power of the federal government. Yet
that is what he did.
that survey what he did will often admit that his actions ignored
the Constitution, but the authors of the textbooks always say that
this was necessary politically, as well as a good thing economically.
So, Ronald Reagan ran for President by praising Roosevelt. So did
the professionally trained historian Newt Gingrich. When the supposedly
most conservative candidates to run for the office of President
in the Republican Party praise Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, this
is clear testimony to the failure of the conservative movement in
the United States. In the 1930s, no journalist could survive for
long who opposed Roosevelt, but there were still politicians who
had the courage to call his power grabs what they were. This is
no longer true.
I think that
it will be possible for historians and economists who were critical
of Roosevelt to gain the public's hearing sometime in the future,
but only after the Keynesian experiment has visibly hit the shoals
of bankruptcy. For as long as half of the American electorate is
dependent on checks from Washington, either during their working
years or after, Roosevelt's position as a sainted politician will
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North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2012 Gary North
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