Does the Council on Foreign
Relations Depredations merit another name change, i.e. the Council on Foreign Federal Depredations? To judge by Patricia Cohen’s report on its recent conference about the Great Depression, I think so.
She writes that New Deal critics like the author and syndicated columnist Amity Shlaes, a senior fellow at the council who helped organize the conference, regard Roosevelt as “a well-meaning but misguided dupe,” although they “credit him with some [italics added] important innovations, like restoring confidence in banks and establishing social insurance.”
Most of Roosevelt’s “mucking about in the economy,” as Cohen summarized their argument, “not only prolonged the Depression but also exacerbated it.”
We’ve all heard about this, uhm, theory. It’s been so loudly bruited of late — not only at the council’s posh headquarters on Manhattan’s Upper East Side but by rightwingnuts everywhere — that even the penguins at the Central Park Zoo can repeat it.
Unemployment remained high throughout the decade until World War II, Ms. Shlaes told conference attendees, because the uncertainty created by Roosevelt’s continual tinkering paralyzed private investors. …
Many of the economists who were invited to speak were similarly skeptical of the New Deal, even if they disagreed on the Depression’s causes. …
Anna Schwartz, who collaborated with Milton Friedman on a classic study of the Depression, and the Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas Jr. argued that the idea of stimulating the economy with federal spending is a fairy tale.
Did the council present an opposing point of view? Non-panelists were able to question the rightwingnuts. But, as Cohen noted, “To Roosevelt’s defenders, the speaker list seemed stacked with attackers.”