Acton Institute Powerblog

Debunking the New Deal

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It’s long been my contention that the mythology surrounding the New Deal in large swaths of the popular imagination plays an ongoing, important, and harmful role in politics and policy debate. For that reason, I welcome periodic attempts to debunk the myth.

Jonah Goldberg offers a perceptive and enlightening perspective on New Deal historiography and its current uses and abuses. Unlike Daniel Gross (cited by Goldberg), I don’t care whether the analyst is an historian, economist, policy wonk, or journalist, so long as he or she is using the evidence and searching for the truth.

Among Goldberg’s excellent observations, this: “In any case, no matter how you slice it, the notion that the New Deal was a single, consistent program is nonsense.”

And the provocative conclusion:

Some of the New Deal surely helped, and much of it definitely hurt, they might grudgingly concede; but to get mired in such questions is to overlook the true meaning and majesty of it all. This was the first time while the country was not at war that the American people gave war powers to liberals to do whatever they thought best. That’s what liberals love about the New Deal, and that’s the real reason they want to bring it back.

Kevin Schmiesing Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., is a research fellow for the research department at the Acton Institute. He is a frequent writer on Catholic social thought and economics, is the author of American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895-1955 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2002) and is most recently the author of Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II (Lexington Books, 2004). Dr. Schmiesing holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in history from Franciscan University ofSteubenville. Author of Within the Market Strife and American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895—1955 (2002), he serves as Book Review Editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also executive director of CatholicHistory.net.

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