Wednesday, January 7, 2009

“The New Deal Worked”: Why Do So Many People Accept that as Fact? (Jonathan Bean)

Jonathan Bean on the myth that the New Deal ended the Depression:

ost people, journalists included, accept the notion that the New Deal “worked” to shorten the Depression. Many economists, and to a lesser extent, historians, disagree. Why, then, do criticisms of the New Deal get met with a blank stare akin to stating that the world is flat? Recently, one pundit declared the New Deal success a fact; nay, an incontrovertible fact. To argue otherwise is “abject insanity.” Only dim-witted conservatives would believe such nonsense.

At the risk of being labeled “insane,” here goes. . .

In 1995, economic historian Robert Whaples published a survey in the Journal of Economic History asking “Where Is There Consensus Among American Economic Historians?” (Vol. 55, March 1995). Half of the economists and a third of historians agreed, in whole or in part, that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression.

Specialists of the period may come to this conclusion but most people get their history from textbooks.

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