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The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression Hardcover – June 12, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0066211701 ISBN-10: 0066211700 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066211700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066211701
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (578 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This breezy narrative comes from the pen of a veteran journalist and economics reporter. Rather than telling a new story, she tells an old one (scarcely lacking for historians) in a fresh way. Shlaes brings to the tale an emphasis on economic realities and consequences, especially when seen from the perspective of monetarist theory, and a focus on particular individuals and events, both celebrated and forgotten (at least relatively so). Thus the spotlight plays not only on Andrew Mellon, Wendell Wilkie and Rexford Tugwell but also on Father Divine and the Schechter brothers—kosher butcher wholesalers prosecuted by the federal National Recovery Administration for selling "sick chickens." As befits a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, Shlaes is sensitive to the dangers of government intervention in the economy—but also to the danger of the government's not intervening. In her telling, policymakers of the 1920s weren't so incompetent as they're often made out to be—everyone in the 1930s was floundering and all made errors—and WWII, not the New Deal, ended the Depression. This is plausible history, if not authoritative, novel or deeply analytical. It's also a thoughtful, even-tempered corrective to too often unbalanced celebrations of FDR and his administration's pathbreaking policies. 16 pages of b&w photos. (June 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Its duration and depth made the Depression "Great," and Shlaes, a prominent conservative economics journalist, considers why a decade of government intervention ameliorated but never tamed it. With vitality uncommon for an economics history, Shlaes chronicles the projects of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt as well as these projects' effect on those who paid for them. Reminding readers that the reputedly do-nothing Hoover pulled hard on the fiscal levers (raising tariffs, increasing government spending), Shlaes nevertheless emphasizes that his enthusiasm for intervention paled against the ebullient FDR's glee in experimentation. She focuses closely on the influence of his fabled Brain Trust, her narrative shifting among Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and other prominent New Dealers. Businesses that litigated their resistance to New Deal regulations attract Shlaes' attention, as do individuals who coped with the despair of the 1930s through self-help, such as Alcoholics Anonymous cofounder Bill Wilson. The book culminates in the rise of Wendell Willkie, and Shlaes' accent on personalities is an appealing avenue into her skeptical critique of the New Deal. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Amity Shlaes is proud to announce the publication of FORGOTTEN MAN GRAPHIC, a graphic version of her national bestseller about the 1930s, THE FORGOTTEN MAN. The artist for this 300-page treatment is the renowned cartoonist Paul Rivoche. Some samples of this cartoon book are on Miss Shlaes's facebook page. This is a book for thinkers and teachers, containing timelines and profiles of historic characters from the 1920s and 1930s.
Miss Shlaes is the author of three national bestsellers, COOLIDGE, THE FORGOTTEN MAN, and THE GREEDY HAND.
Miss Shlaes chairs the board of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. She is chairman of the Hayek Prize, a prize for free market books given by the Manhattan Institute.
She teaches economic history at New York University's Stern School of Business.
Miss Shlaes has been the recipient of the Frederic Bastiat Prize of the International Policy Network, the Warren Brookes Prize (2008) of the American Legislative Exchange Council, as well as a two-time finalist for the Loeb Prize (Anderson School/UCLA).
In 2009, "The Forgotten Man" won the Manhattan Institute's Hayek Prize. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale College and did graduate work at the Freie Universitaet Berlin on a DAAD fellowship. She and her husband, the editor and author Seth Lipsky, have four children.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting book and well written.
Joan
It should be noted while I agree with many of the points made, but wasn't too surprised by many of the statements, this book is damaged by its unevenness.
Paradise Lost
If you think that the New Deal solved the Great Depression this book will give you pause.
mtp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

980 of 1,105 people found the following review helpful By Arnold Kling on June 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Forgotten Man (TFM for short) is not a polemic. It is not an argument for a particular theory or economic interpretation of the Depression. Instead, the author steps back and lets the story tell itself. She has sifted through memoirs and contemporaneous accounts in order to carry the reader back into the mindset of the 1930's. She focuses on a diverse selection of protagonists from that period, including opponents of Roosevelt like Andrew Mellon and Wendell Wilkie as well as members of Roosevelt's "brain trust" like Paul Douglas and Rexford Tugwell. Note that in the context of that time, "trust" meant the same thing as cartel (as in anti-trust laws). Roosevelt was claiming that with his advisers he had cornered the market on brains. If so, then after reading TFM, my sense is that there was not much value in this particular monopoly.

I came away with three major conclusions.

1. For better or worse, much of the country saw the Depression as something akin to a natural disaster, and people accordingly lowered their expectations for their standard of living.

2. Economic ignorance among policymakers was much worse than I had realized. I was steeped in the myth that the reason the Depression was so bad was that only Keynes had the answer, and he had to overcome the resistance of "the classical economists," such as Irving Fisher. But the differences between Fisher and Keynes seem small when compared to the differences between the policymakers and both economists. In physics, it would be like watching an academic debate over the meaning of quantum mechanics while policymakers are unable to grasp the simple concept of gravity.

3.
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273 of 327 people found the following review helpful By Jim Powell on June 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For offering a critical view of FDR's policies in her terrific new book THE FORGOTTEN MAN, Amity Shlaes has been taken to task by those who say that his charisma helped lift American spirits and get us through the Great Depression. FDR certainly had charisma, but what were the effects of his New Deal policies?

Dozens of economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, have evaluated the consequences of New Deal policies. Empirical research at many universities raises suggests that the New Deal actually prolonged the Great Depression. Consider some key questions like these:

1. Why did FDR triple federal taxes during the Great Depression? Federal tax revenues more than tripled, from $1.6 billion in 1933 to $5.3 billion in 1940. Excise taxes, personal income taxes, inheritance taxes, corporate income taxes, holding company taxes and "excess profits" taxes all went up. FDR introduced an undistributed profits tax. Consumers had less money to spend, and employers had less money for growth and jobs.

2. How much net benefit did the New Deal provide ordinary people who paid most of the costs of the New Deal? For instance, the biggest New Deal welfare programs were funded before 1936, when federal excise taxes on beer, wine, cigarettes, soft drinks, chewing gum, radios and other things purchased by millions of ordinary people, generated more revenue than the federal personal income tax and the federal corporate income tax combined. According to the standard reference work HISTORICAL STATISTICS OF THE UNITED STATES FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT, in 1936 the federal government collected $674.4 million from the personal income tax, $753 million from the corporate income tax and $1.5 billion from excise taxes.
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101 of 120 people found the following review helpful By J. Aubrey on August 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tariffs, tax rate increases, wage and price controls and tight money. Government vacillation and unpredictibility. That these policies undermined business confidence and blocked economic recovery was lost on Hoover, FDR and their elite advisors. Ms. Shlaes makes a compelling case that but for those policies the 1929 downturn would have self-corrected by the early 30s, rather than drag on through the remander of the decade and into the next.

Another major theme of the book is the vast growth of government under FDR, including goverment subsidized and controlled projects (mostly utilities) that unfairly competed with the private sector. She also discusses FDR's successful (and cynical) strategy for the 1936 campaign, including persecution and condemnation of big business and catering to various targeted voting blocks (farmers, big labor, pensioners, women and blacks). Sound familiar?

The book is generally well written, although the focus drifts from time to time and more analysis would have been welcome. She also includes too many names and mini-resumes of peripheral players.

The Forgotten Man (a term that morphed under FDR from the taxpayer to the unemployed) is recommended for those who want a better understanding of the economics and politics of the 30s to correct some long standing myths (e.g. depression a failure of capitalism, FDR "brought us out" of the depression) and better understand today's economic and political issues.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Kamp on October 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book back in 2008 as a requisite for better understanding the Great Recession that was just getting started. Prior to this, my thinking was primarily influenced by what I had learned in high school and college history classes. Our school learning basically tells us that despite the great and noble effort by FDR, the depression was so bad that it defied any cure, and the only thing that could cure it was a world conflagration. So the question on my mind in '08 was, is it necessary to repeat this same history? Are we destined to suffer a full decade of miserable economic performance and to have it capped by a world on fire? Wouldn't it be better if we all took a more exhaustive look at history in order to avoid a foolish repeat? This book takes an unvarnished look at the Great Depression an uncovers a multitude of bungling and missteps our leaders made during this era. It's a must-read for anyone with a discerning spirit.

The book starts with a cameo story about a young man who commits suicide. The note he leaves behind reveals the despairing mood of the time. The reader fully expects (like we learned in our sugar-coated stories in history classes) that this story will be contrasted with the story about having a brave and heart-lifting man elected as the US president, and he is soon revelling the masses with hope and optimism and heartwarming fireside chats. The shocking truth is the setting is not in 1932, it's 1939! The brutal truth is that the late 30's was even worse than the early 30's. During the late 30's the US suffered a recession within a depression. FDR had been the champion for the Forgotten Man for nearly a full decade, but things only got worse.
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