March 23

Blog #49 – Was the New Deal too radical?

On p. 799, the textbook gives us an analysis of the New Deal and how historians have evaluated FDR’s program.

1. Some historians feel that a reform movement like the New Deal would have happened whether there was a depression or not.  This is because of the cycles of reform that America has endured throughout its history.  A new reform movement would have tried to address the huge gap between rich and poor, the strong grip that business had on the American government, and the abuses of the stock market.   Stronger measures were needed than what was done during the Progressive Era (1900-1915).

2. Contemporary historians who wrote during the 1940s – 1960s believed that the New Deal was a “revolutionary response to a revolutionary situation” and that only World War II was able to pull the country out of the Depression.  FDR broke from the laissez-faire government tradition and pushed reforms through a Democratic Congress to reform America.  Except for a few historians who called the New Deal “socialistic”, most historians praised the program and its accomplishments.

3. Leftist historians felt that FDR didn’t go far enough to redistribute the wealth of the nation, improve race relations, and control giant corporations and their power.  For the most part, FDR left big businesses relatively alone in order to transform a “corrupt capitalist order.”  It appears that leftist historians would have been happier if FDR has presided over a more socialist government and economy with some central planning.  Businessmen had vilified FDR because of the effects that the New Deal had on American business – seeing him as a traitor to “his class,” essentially, that he’s rich and he’s not taking care of the wealthy interests in the country.

4. Historians in the last 40 years, including the authors of our textbook, felt that FDR acted within the American political and economic system to fix the country.  When FDR overreached with the Supreme Court and tried to add 6 new Supreme Court justices after they had overturned the AAA and the NRA in 1935, public opinion and Republican Congressmen pushed back to foil his plans.  Afterwards, laws were written by Congress that had to conform to existing political traditions – like the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Americans saw that something was very wrong, and that they wanted “to reform capitalism, not overthrow it.”  A sign that these laws have worked has been their longevity.  New Deal / FDR historian William Luechtenburg has called this time period a “half-way revolution,” neither radical or conservative, but somewhere in between that reflected what the American people wanted.

Your job: which assessment do you agree with and why?   Try to keep in mind that we should judge the New Deal from the time period and not from our time period.  Was the New Deal radical, too radical or not radical enough?

Use examples from the textbook, notes, and films we’ve watched.  

250 words minimum response.  Due Tuesday 3/26 by class. 

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Posted March 23, 2013 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

70 thoughts on “Blog #49 – Was the New Deal too radical?

  1. Sam

    Taking into account the mental, physical, and social climate at the time, I think that the actions that Franklin D. Roosevelt took were intended to help, not hurt the American public. As previously stated by Mr. Wickersham regarding the Historians of the last 40 years, we have been able to analyze the political mastermind behind the many radical reforms that were passed. The various acts that Roosevelt used were creative and innovative ways of kick starting the economy, for example the Tennessee Valley Act, we appreciate based on the looming Great Depression. I also believe that Roosevelt did the best he could with the statistics provided to him by his cabinet, and also the first lady. Without todays modern technology it may have been difficult finding out who still or did not need assistance. As for the thoughts that Roosevelt’s New Deal was too radical I do agree in the singular case of him attempting to alter the checks and balances system. The “almost perfect” system had been emplaced for a good number of years now, with little problems regarding the branches being unable to preform there job correctly. However, Roosevelt defiantly over stepped his boundaries when he attempted to tell the Supreme Court what to do (add 6 ne supreme court judges). Finally I agree with contemporary historians during the 40’s and 60’s, from that stand point that American needed a major event (such as world war two) to bring us out of out selfish political ways and fight for a just cause. I believe isolationism died the moment Pearl Harbor was hit, and what sank with it was the peace hopes of the past, while America’s angry rose to the top.

  2. Alexa R

    I agree with Historian one I do believe the reform would have happened either way. For a while there had been a big divide between poor and rich. People would work for ridiculous hours and be paid the minim but there were jobs but they were still poor the only difference is here weren’t jobs to be found they were still poor just more. With that many people that poor and people being so rich so big of difference there was going to be to join up to say something against it , and people looking for reform. For their time I feel like the new deal was radical for a while in America there were a lot of things being pasted and things being thrown on the table to be talked about. Things like AAA, CCC, FERA, FDIC, FLSA, FSA, HOLC, NIRC, NLRB, NRA, PWA, SEC, SS, TVA, WPA there all good things but that’s still a lot of plans plus all the things that were happening around the country with all the inventions I think it was a lot for people to take in at once I’m not saying that it was bad just a lot. The new deal was truly revolutionary for the time with all the changes that were being made that was breaking American traditions of that time. But with all of its revolutionary changes it opened the doors to great things that we still use today and that I can’t think of future without even though it might be over with by the time I get there.

  3. Darab Khan

    I agree with the contemporary historians who wrote during the 40’s to the 60’s. During such a great depression it is necessary for the government to finally step in. Which it finally did thanks to Roosevelt. Laissez-faire was obviously not working. Hoover’s approach didn’t work (which was basically the same as laissez-faire). So we needed intervention. People believe that his New Deal was too radical. I don’t agree with them. It’s not like the government has never stepped in before. Before when it stepped in it might have been bad for the country, but when Roosevelt did it he immensely helped us survive the Depression. We wouldn’t be the country we are today without his policies during that time period. With the AAA, CCC and the Emergency Banking Relief Acts, America was able to breathe again. After that it was time for reconstruction. This was a long painstaking process but again thanks to Roosevelt we were able to pull through. WW2, even though it wasn’t the best thing to happen in the world did help America out. It created jobs for men and women. Women could get jobs that men usually had since the men had left to go fight overseas. And we all know jobs help the economy. Without the war we would have had a ton of aid from the government but then the government would have been a ton in debt. But thanks to the war things kind of worked out. So things might have gone differently if these two events had not occurred at the times in which they did. But they didn’t so we’re good.

  4. Anne Kozak

    Classes in America grew farther and farther apart during the Depression, as the rich stayed rich and the poor grew poorer. As time went on it would be more difficult for Roosevelt to please both parts of the nation. On one side, the poor (as well as those appealing to the poor, such as Huey Long) called for socialistic measures; on the other side, the rich considered any redistribution of wealth Roosevelt did as a traitorous move. Hard decisions such as this one, which involved moral decisions in addition to economic decisions, invited a lot of controversy on what to do. Some of the measures FDR took were not democratic, for example—as when he tried to add new Supreme Court justices—even if these extreme measures can still be explained away as necessary for the situation. However, there were checks and balances to prevent Roosevelt from overstepping his boundaries, and still he succeeded in lessening the weight of the Depression.
    While there might have been another New Deal in different conditions as well, it is incorrect to say that there was little connection between the reform movement and the Depression. As it was, several years passed without anyone doing anything about it, while it kept getting worse. If it took so long for a reaction even in a crisis, how long would it have taken to reform corruption and poverty if it slowly crept up on the United States? Human nature as well as political systems require some sudden and powerful event to occur in order to persuade people to take action. Otherwise, nationwide disgust would have to build up to a high enough point that politicians would need to address the issue. Often, even, reform is set in motion by a book, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin or The Jungle. However, reform does follow events such as the Depression; thus the cycle of reform is less important, because reform is a reaction to the cycle of motion-setting events.
    In all, like many others as well as historians from the 40s through the 60s, I believe that only the expanding of the economy to other countries and the creation of jobs jumpstarted by World War II could have pulled the nation out of the depression. Attempting to spread the nation’s money could only be a temporary solution, and would not be able to pull the nation up: it is more important to address the root of the problem, after all, then to continually solve the immediate consequences. Joining World War II solved the root problems by both the creation of jobs and the market spreading overseas.

  5. Amanda Burcroff

    I agree with the premise of the first analysis, that a reform movement to lessen the gap between the rich and poor was inevitable, and its conclusion that more reform was needed that in the Progressive Era. The Great Depression encouraged the social and economic reform movement at the time, but it was not the sole reason for the reform and just made the underlying problems in the American system more apparent. The Great Depression may have seen sudden and unexpected, but the problems that lead to it had been going on for ages. Once the people saw the despairing state the country was in, it allowed for our leader, FDR, to create much-needed reform that previously would have seemed to drastic. For example, the Social Security Act was in no way a direct result of the stock market crash, but the crash was the catalyst for this long-awaited legislation. In my opinion, the New Deal was just radical enough, and maybe could have afforded to be even more radical. Because all this reform came at once and after a national crisis, it appeared to be more radical than it actually was. Hour and wage regulation, old-age pensions, bank security, and more were all going to have to be instituted eventually for our nation to continue. Like in every situation, there may have been some unnecessarily extravagant measures taken, but overall the New Deal was necessary and a long time coming. The Great Depression did not cause the ideas of reform in the New Deal, but it forced the American public to accept that reform was needed so that the legislation could pass.

  6. Connor P.

    I agree with the historians from the 402,50s, and 60s. I believe what they said was right because I don’t think there was any other way to get out of the depression but WW2. I believe that the new deal was still successful in helping get rid of it and helping living standards before WW2 started. I believe that there is no reason people should be criticizing the New Deal because it is probably the best possible solution that anyone could have thought up at the time and I believe that since war was the only way to stop it that this was probably the next best choice to stop it. I believe that the New Deal was radical enough because it did its job and served its purpose without any long term problems. It helped not only fix the economy at the time but it also helped set up future economy helping programs and some of which are even used today! I don’t believe it was too radical because I feel that when such a bad depression is happening nothing is too radical. I believe that if the government decided to follow old rules and act less radical less would have gotten fixed and more problems would have occurred. I also believe that since the new deal went this radical (unlike old ways) it helped us not only help the economy but also the war effort. And that is why I believe that the new deal was a complete success and had almost no flaws at all.

  7. Seth Rosen

    I agree with the historians from 1940-1960 on the fact that the New Deal was needed if the United States wanted to get out of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s actions, along with the labor and product demands of World War II, were needed to bring us out of the depression. Roosevelt’s actions were indeed radical, but just the right amount of radical. Just like the perfect sandwich, not too pastrami and not too little, just the right amount. It is crazy to believe that the organizations Roosevelt created would still exist if the depression did not happen. If there was no depression, our country would not change a thing. We would not change a thing because we believe in the “If it aint broken, don’t fix it” system. This same mentality is used a lot in sports. When a baseball team has a great pitcher in the bullpen, they might not want to make him a starter because he is doing fine out of the pen. The depression was unavoidable because of the corrupt people on Wall St and the creation of store credit. The depression ended because of World War II. The United States exiting the Great Depression is probably the only good thing to come from the war. Total War grasped our country by the hand, and pulled us out of the deep dark waters known as the Great Depression. If the United States stayed in isolation, the country would go deeper and deeper into debt.

  8. Zach Resnick

    I very much agree with the historians of the 40’s- 60’s and that the New Deal was a great revolutionary program. Without the revolutionary systems that FDR set up I do not think that the U.S. would have ended their struggles with the Depression. With the help of World War II, along with the labor and products, FDR’s New Deal made huge strides towards properity. I would agree to the fact that his decisions might have been radical but I think that most people would. The country needed this radicalness and a sense of hope. People needed to see changes and that the country had not given up yet, otherwise the country would have never recovered. With the creation of new acts like the Fair Labor Standards Act, which gave employees benifits like creating a minumum wage, 8 hour workdays, and 40 hour work weeks. Acts like these reassured the people of America that the government had not given up on them and let them out to dry. In my opinion, if the government had decided to continue on with their old habits and not have created such a radicalness, the country’s problems would have never been solved. Intead, it would have created more issues and caused people to act out of impulsivness. We don’t know what would have happened if the changes created by the New Deal were not put in place. Maybe it would have caused poeple to act more out of desperation and increased the crime rate dramatically. Fortunately, just the right amount of radicalness and change helped the country avoid issues like that.

  9. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I agree with the contemporary historians during the 1940s to the 1960s. They thought that the New Deal was a “revolutionary response to a revolutionary situation”. They also believed that World War II would be the only way to pull the U.S out of the Great Depression. The New Deal program created many programs that have been successful and still are to this day. Social Security established a pension system for elderly Americans by using money from payroll deductions and matching their employer contributions. The FDIC was made to insure bank deposits up to $5,000 and eliminate possible bank failures. The SEC was created to regulate/ reform financial practices, such as buying stocks on credit. The Tennessee Valley Authority provided funding for the the Tennessee River Valley and taught farmers better techniques. I think that these changes made by president FDR were important to America at this time period and very necessary. These acts were necessary for the success of our nation during the war and also created future success for our nation. FDR’s reforms and actions were radical, effective, and successful.


  10. Aliyah McIlwain

    I mostly agree with the fourth assessment that the New Deal was within its means politically and economically at the time. I don’t believe the New Deal was too radical because it worked, if it was too radical the people would have been upset and it would have failed. It didn’t fail, because we still use parts and principles of the New Deal today like social security and conservation groups whether it be for businesses or land. I don’t think it wasn’t radical enough because for that time period what was done was necessary, and for different time different measures would call. The New Deal and any reform movement really, weren’t set up to take away balance, but rather even out lopsidedness. I think if it became more radical it would have eventually become more socialist. I also agree with assessment number one that a reform like the New Deal was inevitable. I think reform is always inevitable because perfection doesn’t exist. Things may run smoothly for a while until people get tired of the same old thing and want something new, but then there are those who like it the way it is and then you need a reform or compromise in the way things are done.

  11. gideon bush

    I think that during the time period with all the chaos and the depression becoming worse and worse, the only course of action was a radical one as FDR did. Although he was expecting too much when he wanted to add 6 more Supreme Court judges, it was in an attempt to speed up the process of rebuilding and reforming the nation. The actions which FDR took were definitely radical ones, but extreme time’s calls for extreme measures, which was what Roosevelt attempted to provide through the use of radical change in policy. I agree with the Historians between the 40’s and 60’s in the fact that Roosevelt’s actions were revolutionary reforms put into effect during a revolutionary situation. Just like the historians during the 40’s and 60’s I think it was a great plan set in motion by FDR in an attempt to fix the nation and ended with great success and was a prestigious accomplishment. For Roosevelt to be more radical he would have had to throw out the old political system entirely and any less action and the depression would have intensified with no end in sight. FDR did break away from the old system and overstepped his bounds quite a bit, but the ends justified the means in the sense that he was able to put reforms into affect that are still used to this day. I could slightly agree with modern historians but overall I believe the correct answer was with the historians between the 40’s and 60’s.

  12. Sydney Alexander

    Taking into consideration the chaotic times that the New Deal policies were established for, I believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt created these policies to help the American economy and people. I believe that the American government needed to step in in order to save the country, as well as pull America together, and out of The Great Depression.

    The tradition of laissez faire was not working. The Americans needed help, and they were not receiving any with President Hoover. If the American government (FDR mainly) had not strayed from the path, America would have considered on a downward spiral and would have been in big trouble during World War II. In the past, government intervention had not always been the best choice. But Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plans and policies were meant to help Americans survive; and they did. The New Deal, and Franklin D. Roosevelt as president should not be criticized because there was no better solution in escaping The Great Depression. The New Deal should not be considered as too radical because drastic times call for drastic measures.

    The New Deal policies were radical enough because they did what they were supposed to do without effecting the future in a negative way. The New Deal mended the very broken American economy and set up programs to help the economy in the future–crisis or not. Many of these programs are still used today. The New Deal was extremely successful because it accomplished the goal of having the American economy and the America people survive.

  13. Cameron S.

    I most closely agree with the contemporary historians on their opinions regarding the New Deal, however I agree on certain aspects stated by the groups above. I do think that the New Deal is socialist, and I think that is against our capitalist system, although I think the times did call for “revolutionary action”. I consider the new deal very successful, and a necessity for its time. The New deal is a great example of how governments shouldn’t be stubborn when trying to reform. Roosevelt took a huge risk, for its time the new deal was very radical. On a digression, I think that FDR did an amazing job keeping his legislation capitalist or at least considered capitalist. The New Deal has faced tremendous criticism over the years, and it differs from person to person. A successful wealthy businessman would most likely oppose it, while a middle class worker might like its benefits, and this is the problem with legislation like the new deal, the average person loves it, however the “economic bosses” of the country oppose it. FDR addressed this issue and wasn’t too radical for the wealthy and helped the struggling enough to make them happy, although some wanted more. The new deal was desperately needed in that time of tremendous suffering and toil, and it needed to be just as powerful as the times, if not more. FDR’s administration entered into a tough America, which needed to be in touch with America and do with any means necessary fix the situation.

  14. Ariel Boston

    The first set of historians and also the contemporary 40’s and 50’s historians’ evaluations were correct in combination. The historians who thought the New Deal would’ve happened no matter what were right because the growing gap between the classes did need to be dealt with and a solution to this class division was inevitable. The depression was however, a big push toward the New Deal. It’s kind of like the phrase ‘Drastic times call for drastic measures’. The solution in the New Deal was fitting for the issue that needed action. The New Deal was radical, but it was radical for a good reason. The government needed this extension of power over the economy for the time being to get it back on a decent level. I can see how it could be taken as radical back then because of all the new things FDR was proposing such as the CCC which gave people jobs as federal government workers and builders, and Social Security that gave benefits to elderly citizens that were age sixty five and up. Another things about this time was that people from the 20s/ 30s were skeptical of the government and didn’t trust it (Especially after all the corruption surrounding an earlier president *cough cough Coolidge* . It wasn’t on the conservative side because conservatives believe in minimal government with a laissez faire attitude towards individual citizens and the New Deal was very much hands on and in the faces of people living in the time period, they probably weren’t used to it after the government left them alone all that time. You know , now that I think about it the government treated them the way Great Britain used to treat the colonists back before the revolution.

  15. Matt Gallo

    I agree that the New Deal would’ve happened anyway. The idea of Laissez faire wasnt working, and that was shown in a least three occaisions: the crisis of 1893, the crisis of 1907 and the Great Depression; now those three dont all show that the Lassiez faire wasn’t working but they show a type of prequil and forshadowed the Great Depression. When the Government is so desperate they need JP Morgan to bail them out twice in 20 years, they should have puzzled out that they needed to change. The differences between the rich and the poor were growing even farther apart in the Twenties and wouldn’t of stopped if the Stock Market didn’t crash, the gap would have just kept growing exponentially. That alone was a huge reason why the New Deal or at least a few of their Acts would have been created either way; for example the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the National Industry Recovery Act (NIRC), Social Security (SS) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Recovery Administration (PWA) and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) are all prime examples of Acts and laws that would have been passed no matter what because of the way that the Country was trending. And even though World War II was by far the largest reason for us getting out of the Depression and stimulated the economy, the New Deal was in my mind was fundemental building block to getting us out. We would’ve gotten out of the Depression in time without World War II but it would have taken way longer and not of created an economic boom.

  16. Monique H.

    with assessment number one, because: reform movements happen a lot, even without depressions. Things are always changing, like people, the economy, and jobs. For example, there wasn’t really a depression when people built skyscrapers and industrialization sort of replaced agriculture. Without reforms, then the country wouldn’t advance, and it wouldn’t be good for the economy. So even if there hadn’t been a depression, a reform would have had to happen before people got angry about the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the business’ controlling ways on the American government, and the stock market. I do think that the New Deal was not radical enough, but I also think that it happened all at once, and F. D. R. should have made some reforms before the depression, because too many reforms at once make people feel controlled, and almost as if some of their freedom is being taken away. Also, it’s not as likely that Congress will pass them. If one or two reforms are passed at a time as opposed to many being passed, then Congress is more likely to pass them because there’s more time to think about them, and not think about whether or not the new reforms will affect the old ones. I also agree with assessment number four, because F. D. R. did act within the American political and economic system to fix the country, he just tried to make too many reforms at once. I think that most of his proposals were okay, and they would’ve helped. For example, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was a good idea, so that farmers wouldn’t overproduce crops, which would cause inflation and then they wouldn’t be able to sell their crops at a normal price. So I think that assessments number one and four are the ones I agree with because F. D. R. did act within the American system to fix the country, but he just did the New Deal too fast which made it seem more radical and should’ve slowed it down a little.

  17. Becky Simonov

    The Great Depression was an economic calamity unlike the United States had ever experienced before. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected presented, he embarked on his New Deal to fix the economy and rebuild the nation. Historians of the 1940s, 50s and 60s believe that the New Deal was a revolutionary response to a revolutionary situation, and they are mostly correct. The United States prior to the Great Depression functioned under a laissez faire political system, which not only separated most of the economy from government, but also left the average citizen mostly unprotected and their economic futures uncertain. With the Great Depression came a level of unemployment and poverty higher then ever before seen in the history of the United States. There were no programs to help citizens economically, as it was previously believed that the government should not be involved in the personal economics of the people. Such conservative ideals could not function in a drastically changing world, and it would require a new take to the role of the Federal Government to transition the United States in to the country known today. Roosevelt’s New Deal was the catalyst needed to set America on the path towards a stronger economy and government. While the New Deal did bring many new and revolutionary programs (social security being a very important one), the economy did not truly begin to recover until the outbreak of World War II. Despite this, the New Deal provided the foundation to allow the United States to prosper after the war. If the nation had continued with its laissez faire past, the United States would be much worse off in the modern world.

  18. Sofia Capito

    I agree with the first statement that is about how a reform movement like the new deal would have taken place no matter whether there was a depression or not. Throughout the course of American History, there have been multiple instances where there has been a reform movement that was similar to the New Deal. The Depression helped get things done, but without it some kind of reform still would have occurred. The Depression aided the reform though. It made people of all classes realize that something had to be done and that something about the economy and society was not right. It made the main problems come to the surface, and attempting to solve those brought up more problems. But even without that, the problems within American society would have surfaced at some point in time, and something would have to be done. If no reform movement had occurred, the rich poor gap would have increased, and after a while that could lead to more and more problems needing to be solved. So, I believe that either way some kind of reform movement would have occurred, and that the depression just caused many of the existing problems to surface. I also agree with the fourth statement about how the FDR acted within the political and economic system to fix the country. Everything he did was intended to help the American public rather than to hurt it. Not everything worked the way he would have liked it to, but then he would try again. He did everything for the good of the people. What he did wasn’t necessarily radical or conservative. As a whole it stood somewhere in the middle. Some things were more radical than others, but he did what the American people wanted. He did it for the good of the people.

  19. Ryan Jezierski

    I thought that it was easier to agree with the contemporary guys that talked about the 1940-1960’s that thought that it was WWII and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that helped get America out of the Depression that we were in. Basically, a bunch of things events occurred that brought us full circle from prosperity of the 1920’s to prosperity and good times during the 1950’s. The Great Depression took America by storm and when Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1932 he was given pretty much an impossible job, and a lot of people expected a lot out of him to help out the country. I think that the New Deal wasn’t too much or not enough. It was good and helped the economy as well as the people of the United States through many policies and gave chances to things. During his first 100 days he set up the Emergency Banking Relief Act which reopened 75% of banks, created the AAA and CCC, and repealed the 18th Amendment, plus many more things. Although FDR did the best that he could, I wouldn’t say that he was the reason that the Great Depression ended. A lot of it should be credited to WWII because many places wanted what we had and began to buy them. It also gave many people jobs. sent people who were in the military home money to help things out at home.

    P.S Sorry about it being late, I thought it was due Tuesday and I had stuff going on.

  20. Ethan Webster

    I agree with the fourth assessment of the New Deal. It wasn’t radical or conservative, it was the right blend of the two that America needed at the time. It wasn’t too radical because it still conformed to what the American people expected out of the government and what they believed the government could do. If the New Deal had been too radical, then the American people wouldn’t have accepted it and it wouldn’t have done as much good as it should have. It also was not too conservative, because the tradition among recent presidents was to step back and let the economy fix itself. Roosevelt and the New Deal were the first to get the government actively involved in the economy. This was the first time that the people saw what the government could do for them, and so they embraced the possibility of having a government that took care of them. This is why I agree with the fourth idea of the New Deal.

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