Key points of the essay FDR: Advocate for the American People by David M. Kennedy
This essay was obviously written by a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policy who presents the New Deal as a great success and FDR as a great politician. David M. Kennedy starts with the description of Roosevelt’s personal qualities that helped him become a prominent politician. The author’s point is that Roosevelt had some inborn as well as acquired qualities that stipulated his political success, and contrasts him with Hoover who was a financier rather than a politician. According to Kennedy, even Roosevelt’s disability had played a positive role in his formation as a politician as during the time of enforced idleness his political philosophy was coined.
Kennedy underlines the importance of the mission of Lorena Hickok who had to see the life of ordinary people with her own eyes, and her observations led her to the discovery of the chronic poverty. Thus the government became closer to the understanding of the real needs of the real people, who always lived in poverty and whose situation worsened a bit more during the depression. It is implied that Kennedy gives much importance to this understanding, as the relatively rich people who the politicians were could not address the problem appropriately until they understood the nature of the problem.
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The author is convinced that the New Deal had a significant historical meaning, and he emphasizes its social importance. According to Kennedy, the aim of the New Deal was to ensure more just distribution of wealth, and he cites Roosevelt as a proof: “We are going to make a country in which no one is left out” (Hoffman and Gjerde 214). The author believes that the benefits for the poorest strata of society were apparent; and he assigns to Roosevelt the value of the “shift in perception”, as he calls it, or the formation of the idea that the government does not only play a certain role in nation’s life but also has a major responsibility for it. Kennedy believes Roosevelt to be the father of the American social insurance system.
Key points of the essay FDR: Opportunistic Architect of Big Government by Robert Higgs
This essay was written by a critic of the New Deal and Roosevelt’s reforms. Higgs notes the overall positive assessment of Roosevelt’s policies by historians but completely disagrees with this view and believes it to be a myth and a great misunderstanding potentially caused by predisposition. According to Higgs, Franklin D. Roosevelt prolonged the depression rather than helped the country get over it. The author introduces this point at the beginning of the essay and then develops it and provides arguments.
To him, Roosevelt was simply a political opportunist who used the situation to win votes and who actually understood nothing in the situation and even less in possible ways out of it. Higgs calls the New Deal “a vote-building scheme” (Hoffman and Gjerde 217) and accuses Roosevelt in demagogy. According to him, it was a program of channeling money to the groups whose political support FDR wanted to gain.
Higgs believes Roosevelt and his advisers to be absolutely incompetent, and their inclination to blame investors for all evils seems to be a nonsense to Higgs. He states that the expansion of government regulation introduced by Roosevelt was in fact a threat to capitalism and free market, and led to a dangerous ideological change that undermined the values of market economy and made the succeeding generations live with the abundance of state agencies unnecessarily propagated by Roosevelt.
As an evidence of FDR’s incompetence, Higgs also refers to the methods used by Roosevelt’s administration to cope with the crisis. He finds these methods to be very similar to those used earlier to deal with the war issues, and argues that a war has little in common with an economic crisis, and therefore the methods used to deal with both situations should differ. Overall, Higgs comes out with the relentless criticism of Roosevelt’s activities.
Historical significance of the article Business Leader Henry Ford Advocates Self-Help
The author of the text is Henry Ford, a successful inventor and businessman who managed to turn his intellect into money and was one of the significant industrial leaders during the Great Depression. He speaks from the position of a person who has the right to teach because he himself achieved his life goals and can thus give a piece of advice to others. There is no doubt that the opinion of such person had some weight in public mind.
The article was written in 1932, the year when Franklin D. Roosevelt won the elections but did not took the office yet. It was a period of change from Hoover’s financially oriented administration to Roosevelt’s socially oriented administration. 1932 was the worst year of the Depression when unemployment rates rose up to almost 24 percent, and this problem troubled society the most. Since nothing specific was proposed by the government, people had to do something on their own to deal with the troubles, and Ford proposed his own vision of the situation and his solution.
As for the intended audience, the article seems to be meant for two different groups. On the one hand, Ford’s words are addressed to ordinary people who suffer from the crisis and give a practical advice on how they can cope with the task of surviving during hard times. On the other hand, the solution proposed by the author implies that it was also written for policy makers, since only the executive power could turn into practice some of the steps prescribed by Ford, like to permit the use of “vacant space” by the groups of men.
The purpose of the article is to give a practical advice to those suffering most from the shortcomings of the crisis. No jobs meant no money for many people, and no money meant no food. Ford simply reminded that the land could feed many for no cost at all; the only thing it needs is work. So, he offers the unemployed to employ themselves without waiting for the government to find the jobs for them. Besides, he offers the government a solution that he finds the most appropriate.
The article gives understanding of what were the most striking problems in the list of troubles the nation had to deal with, and presents an opinion of an influential businessman that undoubtedly has a significant historical meaning. Of course, Ford would not speak out on the problems of minor social and economic importance, and the fact that unemployment and the methods of fighting it are the major motif of his writing gives evidence that it was the most troublesome issue. Indeed, what could trouble ordinary people more than the lack of job and therefore the lack of money? The article also represents the common view characteristic of those times that there is no point in waiting for somebody to do something for you, it is better to take your life into your own hands and act for your benefit. Indeed, in the early thirties there were no social guarantees that all of us are accustomed to today; many of the social agencies that exist today were created by Roosevelt.
It is obvious that Henry Ford was not very enthusiastic about the changes proposed by the new administration. At the time when the article was written, the New Deal was not formulated yet, but Ford’s advice is completely different from what the government later proposed. Roosevelt expanded governmental involvement in public life whereas Ford’s proposition was the opposite – he insisted on the concept of self-help, and, thus, the values of individualism. Anticipating the reforms later introduced by Roosevelt, Ford insists that “no unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between a man and a plot of land” (Hoffman and Gjerde 198). This represents the author as the opponent to the left-winged political philosophy of social insurance, and indicates that many of the influential men in the country were indeed against Roosevelt’s reforms.
The tone of the article is rather confident and convincing. The author uses his own example to persuade the readers that self-help is the best choice they can make. However, the overuse of preposition “I” and the shift of responsibility for the situation on the shoulders of an average citizen could distract many of his readers from his point of view. Finally, not every man who tried to turn the American dream into reality had achieved his goals, and the example of Ford can be encouraging but cannot be universal. Indeed, Ford seems to be overconfident. Overall, his words are a criticism of both the government and the ordinary people. Some of them could feel offended by the blame put on them for no direct fault of theirs; however, others could turn their ear to Ford’s words and start doing at least something to help themselves overcome the difficulties associated with the economic crisis. In this relation, the article had a significant importance, as an action was something the nation desperately needed.
In sum, this article has a definite historical value as it represents the opinion of one of the most influential persons of that time, whose viewpoint had a direct influence on public mind. It helps understand the major troubles faced by the nation during the Great Depression and presents an example of public debates characteristic of the period. The article mirrors the main political dilemma of those years: individualism versus collectivism. Franklin D. Roosevelt chose the latter, whereas Ford propagated the first.