Monday, December 17, 2012

Bennett's New Deal -- A Conservative move?

As a member of the Conservative party, RB Bennett was meant to embrace small government, support laissez faire capitalism, and take a general hands-off approach towards the economy.  By 1935, however, deep into the Depression, Bennett stresses the need for a Canadian New Deal--calling for an end to laissez faire and the importance of government regulation of the economy.  Bennett was defeated in the election later than year, and William Lyon Mackenzie King served as Canada's prime minister from 1935 to 1948.

Is there any way to see Bennett's speech as more than just a political Hail Mary?  By 1935, Bennett's popularity was already declining, and Mackenzie King was looking increasingly likely to replace him as prime minister.  Should we put much weight on the idea that Bennett's New Deal program contradicted his party's wishes, or should we just see this as a last-ditch effort by a politician who saw little recourse?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The leader in public and in private

The story of William Lyon Mackenzie King demonstrates how important historigraphy can be.  As time has passed, and younger historians evaluate him, he is regarded in an increasingly positive light.  At the same time, the publications of his diaries reveal his arguably bizarre relationships with his family (particularly his mother) from beyond the grave.  How is his diary significant to our understanding of King?  What, according to historians, made King so successful?  What distinguished him from other politicians?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Canadian Experience

No country was immune to the Great Depression, but each country certainly had its own unique experience with the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s.  Canada's geography made it an interesting case--while it was immediately involved in World War I because of its political connections to Great Britain, it was immune to the physical calamities of the war.

Based on your perception of the reading, how are Canada's experiences with the Great Depression different?  What does it have to do with Canada's political structure?  How about geography?  How effectively does William Lloyd Mackenzie King address the early problems of the economic downturn prior to losing the election in 1930?

(as for the picture above, I just couldn't help myself...)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Critiquing the New Deal

While the New Deal was certainly a period of action marked by a series of government experiments, we still disagree on whether or not it was a success. The recession of 1937 proves that the programs were not resistant to economic decline, and the unemployment rate was still high by the late 1930s, despite the steady growth of the GDP over the decade.

Which criticisms of the New Deal do you find most convincing?  Are they at all reminiscent to economic or political rhetoric that we still use today?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moving forward no matter what

These sources indicate the importance of action in New Deal programs.  The piece about the Dust Bowl shows us the sense of desperation in those that have not moved forward.  The Oklahoma and pandhandle of Texas suffered so much from environmental destruction that many people found it necessary to leave the region entirely. 

The New Deal programs demonstrate that not only is it important for people to get back to work, but also to utilize natural resources in a more efficient and productive manner.  FDR stresses that rebuilding the country also means improving it for the future and ensuring that it would continue to grow. In addition to the Hoover dam, the Chrystler building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller center and Mount Rushmore (to name a few) were all completed in the midst of the Great Depression.  Clearly these were all very expensive projects, and they all epitomize America today.  The old adage, "you have to spend money to make money" resonates with me as I imagine the country in crisis continuing to build rather than recoil in fear.

What, in your mind, did these New Deal programs accomplish?  What impact did they have on how the United States imagined itself?

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 6, 2012

FDR -- Leader or Shrink?

FDR's New Deal programs marked action rather than Hoover's inaction, and his ability to restore confidence in the American people is credited to pulling the nation out of the Depression.  To what extent was FDR acting as a psychological therapist to a very depressed United States?  Was his success more ideological than it was physical?  Or was only seeing believing for the very disillusioned public?

Consider how some sick patients treated with placebos often are cured from their ailments even if they are not given any actual medication.  Did the United States simply need a more positive outlook?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It is no system of laissez faire...

While President Hoover was heavily criticized for not doing enough to alleviate the initial problems of the Great Depression, he had already gained a reputation as a great provider of relief.  Hoover also seems critical of absolute capitalism and the potential dangers of large businesses holding monopolies ("it is no system of laissez faire").

What is, then, Hoover's ideal imagination of the government and the economy?  How does it manifest itself in his initial relief programs?  Why doesn't it work?

And then, the inevitable question--what do you make of the repatriation of Mexican Americans?  Why did the Hoover administration approve this?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Alright, we’ve had our fun, now let’s get back to business

The Progressive Era is regarded by many as a temporary social, economic, and political experiment.  The Middle Class, and eventually governments themselves saw it as their responsibility to fix the problems brought about by massive industrialization and urbanization.  This reading portrays some of the agendas of postwar America as continually forward thinking, and that “welfare capitalism” was seen as the avenue for businesses to support continued economic prosperity. The image of capitalists as the new source of progress was both convincing and appealing, as their “free will” seemed enough to propel them to employ many, pay good wages, keep costs low, and thus encourage spending.  While this may have worked temporarily, it provided no protection to employees during the next inevitable economic slump.  It also made it appear that the new enemies of progress were not the corrupt practices of business but rather the continued vice and inability to assimilate among the poorest immigrant classes and ethnic minorities.  Perhaps this is why a candidate like Hoover was considered ‘normal’—not because he actually fit any previous standard, but he represented the old-stock Protestant American, and thus the best protector against the dangers of a “big-city” driven government. 

Sounds convincing, right?  In many ways it does, but to me, the paradox still seems unsettling.  Why were Americans so quick to blame outsiders yet again for the limits to the American dream?  Do you think Americans were duped by welfare capitalism, or was there some merit to this way of thinking?  And finally, do you think these thoughts still occur today, when immigration reform is a recurring (and seemingly unsolvable) problem?