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FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression [Paperback]

by Jim Powell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 28, 2004 140005477X 978-1400054770
“Admirers of FDR credit his New Deal with restoring the American economy after the disastrous contraction of 1929—33. Truth to tell–as Powell demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt–the New Deal hampered recovery from the contraction, prolonged and added to unemployment, and set the stage for ever more intrusive and costly government. Powell’s analysis is thoroughly documented, relying on an impressive variety of popular and academic literature both contemporary and historical.”
Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate, Hoover Institution

“There is a critical and often forgotten difference between disaster and tragedy. Disasters happen to us all, no matter what we do. Tragedies are brought upon ourselves by hubris. The Depression of the 1930s would have been a brief disaster if it hadn’t been for the national tragedy of the New Deal. Jim Powell has proven this.”
P.J. O’Rourke, author of Parliament of Whores and Eat the Rich

“The material laid out in this book desperately needs to be available to a much wider audience than the ranks of professional economists and economic historians, if policy confusion similar to the New Deal is to be avoided in the future.”
James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate, George Mason University

“I found Jim Powell’s book fascinating. I think he has written an important story, one that definitely needs telling.”
Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers’ War

“Jim Powell is one tough-minded historian, willing to let the chips fall where they may. That’s a rare quality these days, hence more valuable than ever. He lets the history do the talking.”
–David Landes, Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

“Jim Powell draws together voluminous economic research on the effects of all of Roosevelt’s major policies. Along the way, Powell gives fascinating thumbnail sketches of the major players. The result is a devastating indictment, compellingly told. Those who think that government intervention helped get the U.S. economy out of the depression should read this book.”
David R. Henderson, editor of The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics and author of The Joy of Freedom


The Great Depression and the New Deal. For generations, the collective American consciousness has believed that the former ruined the country and the latter saved it. Endless praise has been heaped upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for masterfully reining in the Depression’s destructive effects and propping up the
country on his New Deal platform. In fact, FDR has achieved mythical status in American history and is considered to be, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of all time. But would the Great Depression have been so catastrophic had the New Deal never been implemented?

In FDR’s Folly, historian Jim Powell argues that it was in fact the New Deal itself, with its shortsighted programs, that deepened the Great Depression, swelled the federal government, and prevented the country from turning around quickly. You’ll discover in alarming detail how FDR’s federal programs hurt America more than helped it, with effects we still feel today, including:

• How Social Security actually increased unemployment
• How higher taxes undermined good businesses
• How new labor laws threw people out of work
• And much more

This groundbreaking book pulls back the shroud of awe and the cloak of time enveloping FDR to prove convincingly how flawed his economic policies actually were, despite his good intentions and the astounding intellect of his circle of advisers. In today’s turbulent domestic and global environment, eerily similar to that of the 1930s, it’s more important than ever before to uncover and understand the truth of our history, lest we be doomed to repeat it.


From the Hardcover edition.

Frequently Bought Together

FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression + The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America + New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America
Price for all three: $34.15

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Admirers of FDR credit his New Deal with restoring the American economy after the disastrous contraction of 1929—33. Truth to tell–as Powell demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt–the New Deal hampered recovery from the contraction, prolonged and added to unemployment, and set the stage for ever more intrusive and costly government. Powell's analysis is thoroughly documented, relying on an impressive variety of popular and academic literature both contemporary and historical."
Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate, Hoover Institution

"There is a critical and often forgotten difference between disaster and tragedy. Disasters happen to us all, no matter what we do. Tragedies are brought upon ourselves by hubris. The Depression of the 1930s would have been a brief disaster if it hadn't been for the national tragedy of the New Deal. Jim Powell has proven this."
P.J. O'Rourke, author of Parliament of Whores and Eat the Rich

"The material laid out in this book desperately needs to be available to a much wider audience than the ranks of professional economists and economic historians, if policy confusion similar to the New Deal is to be avoided in the future."
James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate, George Mason University

"I found Jim Powell's book fascinating. I think he has written an important story, one that definitely needs telling."
Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers' War

"Jim Powell is one tough-minded historian, willing to let the chips fall where they may. That's a rare quality these days, hence more valuable than ever. He lets the history do the talking."
–David Landes, Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

"Jim Powell draws together voluminous economic research on the effects of all of Roosevelt's major policies. Along the way, Powell gives fascinating thumbnail sketches of the major players. The result is a devastating indictment, compellingly told. Those who think that government intervention helped get the U.S. economy out of the depression should read this book."
David R. Henderson, editor of The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics and author of The Joy of Freedom


The Great Depression and the New Deal. For generations, the collective American consciousness has believed that the former ruined the country and the latter saved it. Endless praise has been heaped upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for masterfully reining in the Depression's destructive effects and propping up the
country on his New Deal platform. In fact, FDR has achieved mythical status in American history and is considered to be, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of all time. But would the Great Depression have been so catastrophic had the New Deal never been implemented?

In FDR's Folly, historian Jim Powell argues that it was in fact the New Deal itself, with its shortsighted programs, that deepened the Great Depression, swelled the federal government, and prevented the country from turning around quickly. You'll discover in alarming detail how FDR's federal programs hurt America more than helped it, with effects we still feel today, including:

• How Social Security actually increased unemployment
• How higher taxes undermined good businesses
• How new labor laws threw people out of work
• And much more

This groundbreaking book pulls back the shroud of awe and the cloak of time enveloping FDR to prove convincingly how flawed his economic policies actually were, despite his good intentions and the astounding intellect of his circle of advisers. In today's turbulent domestic and global environment, eerily similar to that of the 1930s, it's more important than ever before to uncover and understand the truth of our history, lest we be doomed to repeat it.


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

JIM POWELL, editor of Laissez Faire Books, has been a senior fellow at the Cato Institute since 1988. He is the author of the bestselling book The Triumph of Liberty, which the Wall Street Journal called “a literary achievement,” and he has written more than 400 articles for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Money magazine, Reason, and numerous other national publications. A world-renowned historian, Mr. Powell studied under Daniel Boorstin and William McNeill at the University of Chicago, and he has lectured across the United States as well as in England, Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Argentina. He lives in Connecticut.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140005477X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400054770
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Resource on the Great Depression May 12, 2008
By Doug
Format:Paperback
A common historical misconception is that FDR's New Deal rescued the United States from the Great Depression. However, Cato Institute Historian Jim Powell argues that the New Deal exacerbated and elongated the Great Depression. With impressive attention to detail, Powell examines the long-term results of the New Deal and persuasively argues that they crippled the U.S. economy.

In this detailed book, you will learn about the numerous programs the FDR administration brought about, including the following:

* Programs that inundated private businesses with unprecedented waves of regulations, such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

* Programs that redistributed wealth from producers to consumers, such as the Federal Emergency Relief Act and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

* Programs that nationalized industries, centrally planned infrastructure or created make-work projects to increase employment such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Powell argues that these programs typically led to poorly planned infrastructure that was more expensive than what could have been acquired in a free market.

The economic results of FDR's programs were devastating. For example, consider the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The price and production controls of the AAA led to perverse practices such as millions of tons of domestic oat and corn being burned while the U.S. simultaneously imported oat and corn, millions of peaches being left to rot and millions of "excess" pigs being needlessly slaughtered while lard was being imported from overseas.
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54 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heavy read, but well worth the effort January 10, 2009
Format:Paperback
(Note: I own and have READ all of this book) (...)
Short review:
A heavy read for us simple bears, written by an accomplished academic. It's bursting full of information, and very thought provoking. I like the lay out of the contents, where each of the 19 chapters asks a question, so you know what you are getting into. A must read for anybody willing to seriously set aside prejudices, and look at the underlying facts of FDR's often bizarre and haphazard "experimenting" with the US economy. I urgently need to go read an admiring book (any suggestions?) written by somebody who thinks FDR was a great president, because the more I read about him, I increasingly get the impression he was somewhat of an "economically uninformed klutz" and basically just a shrewd and manipulative bluffer. Who,behind the rhetoric and the "fireside chats" didn't give a hoot about anybody except (votes for) himself. Who only got saved by the distraction of the "crisis" (he provoked?)of Pearl Harbor and WW2. And whose policies and shadow haunt us to this day.
(Sorry, apologies to FDR lovers; I have looked at the dissenters' comments, who absolutely hated this book, and I AM shopping around for some PRO-FDR books. Let's check out the opposition's story...) (Bernanke's essays?)

Long review:
I put the book down a few times, and read other stuff. I went back to it again, and eventually finished it. That tells you either that I'm a dimwit who struggles with words with more than two syllables, or that it's just highly concentrated, heavy-heavy-heavy, with constant new names, dates and places, and lots of leafing back and forwards to follow the plot. Well worth it though.
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26 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MOM & DAD WERE RIGHT February 21, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I was in high school I told my parents that we were being taught that Franklin Roosevelt rescued this country from the depression. They scoffed and said World War II was what got this country out of the depression, not Roosevelt. Although Jim Powell seems to concur with my parents he also believes it did not have to be that way.

Several years ago I attempted to read a book about Herbert Hoover and how his efforts to ease the pain and suffering from a recession in 1929 actually resulted in the depression. The book was written by some economist in the late 50s or early 60s and, for a non-economist, was virtually unreadable. It was around 5 - 600 pages and I struggled through the first 100 pages before tossing the book. But the gist of his argument was that prior to Hoover the nation went through a recession maybe once every ten years. Although unpleasant the market forces eventually worked itself out and the recession would end. Contrary to popular belief, Hoover was not a passive president and when things started to slip in 1929 and 1930 his administration became very proactive to the point that his policies actually did far more harm than good. Franklin Roosevelt actually inherited and adopted many of his predecessor's policies and that kept the depression going until a little adventure called World War 2 happened and the US build up in preparation actually revived the economy.

Unlike the book about Hoover, though, Powell's book was readable and easy to understand. He explains the bank failures and the Roosevelt administration's gold policy, how his policies increased inflation and taxes that took money out of circulation that may have been used to rebuild economy and increase employment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone needs to read this
Everyone needs to understand how FDR made the Great Depression so depressing for so many people. Understand so it never happens again. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Pam Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Relevant to the New New Deal of Today
Powell assembles a collection of New Deal programs with great detail. He has the ideas, all the players and the outcomes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas J Diem, CFP, ChFC
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary
I only gave a 4 though the book is excellent. I remember my Dad's comments about him and some of the things he mentioned were not in the book though they were topical. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dave Betker
5.0 out of 5 stars Socialism gets more than its turn at bat,
It was indeed a folly and I had no idea how much so. FDR used his position to become a dictator with the stroke of a pen with his presidential edicts. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gary L. Brownfield
4.0 out of 5 stars The side of the story you don't hear
FDR has always been perceived as this great historical leader. More people need to know this side of the story, especially given the current situation in Washington.
Published 6 months ago by Michael Mandichak
5.0 out of 5 stars Pulls Back the Curtain and Reveals the Wizard Called FDR
The only President to ever hold four terms in office, in spite of all others honoring the two term tradition set by our very first President George Washington. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Christian Vaughn
5.0 out of 5 stars suprising information
Don't read it if you are a liberal. I can see why people thought less of FDR. Some surprising parallels with today's Presidential administration.
Published 11 months ago by Daddio C6
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll never look at FDR the same after this book.
After reading this book you won't look at the Great Depression the same way again. FDR was a masterful politician but a complete idiot in economics. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history
As is obvious from the title, this book strongly criticizes FDR and his team for doing terrible damage to the country, and maybe even to the world. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Kirin
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for todays issues!
FDR is often viewed as a great president who saved us in the Great Depression. My father who was a blue collar machinist, often said so. Read more
Published 13 months ago by jared stubbs
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