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The President’s First 100 Days – FDR’s, That Is

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Here’s a letter to NPR:

Regarding today’s report on the first 100 days of the terms of various U.S. presidents, I dare say that your happy description of Franklin Roosevelt’s is potted (“The ‘First 100 Days’ Presidential Benchmark Goes Back To FDR And Napoleon [2]“).  Writing in 1939 in the Yale Review, John T. Flynn had a different and more realistic take on the start of FDR’s presidency:

“It was a hodgepodge of good intentions, of bold promises and glittering hopes – a desire to produce recovery, to create abundance while at the same time causing scarcity to get prices up; to help labor, to help the little business men and to help the big business men – all save a few who behaved badly to Mr. Roosevelt personally; to spend as much as possible and to tax as little as possible; to boost prices but not to diminish purchasing power; to raise wages and profits, too; to save the farmer, to save the railroads, to save anybody who could be saved with a subsidy; to make everybody happy and win everyone’s good opinion and, in the process of doing this, to adopt any idea which was presented by anybody with a friendly face and which seemed at a glance to have a chance to work.”*

Indeed.

It’s no wonder that the Great Depression lasted well beyond the end of the 1930s.  What is a wonder is that history has treated New Deal policies so uncritically and kindly.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* John T. Flynn, “Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Roosevelt,” The Yale Review, June 1939; reprinted in Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn [3], Gregory Pavlik, ed. (Irvington, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 1996), pp. 37-46.  The above quotation appears on page 42.

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