Will Byrnes's Reviews > The Great Depression & the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction

The Great Depression & the New Deal by Eric Rauchway
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's review
Aug 21, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction, economics
Read in August, 2011

When George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it," he must have been thinking about the sorts of political leaders we have today (2011) as Republicans and some Democrats seem determined to repeat the errors of that earlier time. Those who espouse looking forward only, it can usually be seen, are eager to avoid responsibility for what lies behind. And so it is today. Looking backward, or learning from experience, is what intelligent people do, in order to attempt to better understand extant conditions, and better evaluate ways of overcoming difficulties. In the current economic climate, what better place to cast one’s rearward gaze than the Great Depression.

The Great Depression & The New Deal is hardly a comprehensive look at one of the darkest episodes in American history, but it offers a very nice summary indeed. It tells of various New Deal programs, their derivations, their purposes and some of the political wrangling and compromises that were infused into ther DNA. There were things in the book that I found fascinating, if a bit alarming. FDR, this icon of 20th century liberalism, began with a fairly conservative perspective. I was not aware that many local governments delayed or even repudiated their debt obligations. The way we’re going these days, with demand-free, cut-only recovery programs, it would not surprise me to see that happen again.

The intention of the book is fairly straight ahead information provision, with no obvious partisan view in evidence. And it does a pretty good job of not only covering the broad strokes of what was going on during this time, but offering a look at underlying issues, and some of the history of what brought on the madness. Good stuff, and a definite spur for further investigation. It abets this by providing a considerable bibliography of recommended reading.

Failure to cast a glance into the rear-view mirror could be fatal, if one cannot be bothered keeping track of the semi that is barreling down one’s lane with dark intent. This small volume gives readers a small mirror to help stave off disaster.
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