From Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch (subscription highly recommended) The Old Deal:
It’s also deeply and richly ironic that the new pro-life New Dealers are constantly parroting left-wing radical talking points about “empire” and the “military industrial complex” while at the same time yearning for a new New Deal with them at the helm. The New Deal was wildly militaristic—philosophically, politically, and rhetorically. From the consciously paramilitary Civilian Conservation Corps to the “industrial armies” that marched in military-style parades under the banner of the Blue Eagle and the watchful eye of General Hugh “Iron Pants” Johnson. And it all stood on the foundation of Woodrow Wilson’s “war socialism” that fueled his “war for democracy” and, ultimately, the American liberal “empire” that the “new right” despises. They’re all gorging themselves on the poisoned fruit of war and liberal empire and they think it’s delicious.
I should back up. There are few topics I’ve written more about than the cargo cult idolatry progressives have for the New Deal. I’ll very briefly summarize my view. During World War I, big business and the federal government got in bed together to mobilize a war economy and enforce compliance to Woodrow Wilson’s political aims. It was a time of outrageous violations of civil liberties and economic command-and-control. When the war ended, Republicans vowed a “return to normalcy,” released the political prisoners, and dismantled the political controls of the economy. And progressives hated it. They spent the 1920s pounding the table that “we planned in war” and we should plan the peacetime economy, too. Seizing the political opportunity of a depression—which was not yet “Great”—FDR, a Wilson administration retread, vowed to use Wilson’s wartime techniques to fight the economic crisis. And he did. Nearly all of the early New Deal/NRA agencies were modeled on WWI precursors. Broadly speaking, the New Deal itself was conceived, framed, and defended as the ultimate expression of William James’ idea of reorienting American politics and life as a “moral equivalent of war” and the fulfillment of John Dewey’s “social possibilities of war.”
Some New Deal policies were good, or at least defensible, and others were outrageously stupid, economically counterproductive, and despotic. That’s in part because there was no ideologically and politically coherent thing called the New Deal. It was a mishmash of policies, some considered entirely ad hoc. All of which were justified by the idea that the government should have a free hand to preempt a free economy. That’s what FDR meant by “bold, persistent, experimentation.”
But one thing is generally agreed-upon by most economic historians—none of these policies actually ended the Great Depression. Even Paul Krugman eventually had to concede that World War II is what did it. In other words, only when FDR abandoned the New Deal did the Depression end (or as FDR put it, when he stopped being “Dr. New Deal” and became “Dr. Win-the-War”). But even here, Krugman’s analysis is … debatable. He argues WWII was just another giant government program and that the deficit spending of the war pulled America out. But the more plausible argument was that the aforementioned conditions in the global economy after the war—combined with the massive pent-up demand of millions of soldiers and families after the war—is what ushered in the long American boom.
Regardless, measured against the intended point of the New Deal—getting us out of the Great Depression—the New Deal was a failure. Indeed, many people—I’m one of them—would argue that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression. But while the New Deal was a policy failure, it was a huge political success. It made FDR president-for-life (a fact that generated a bipartisan consensus to amend the Constitution to keep that from happening again). It made the Democrats the majority party for generations. And the Democratic Party has been obsessed with getting the New Deal band back together ever since. Liberal intellectuals, likewise, have been convinced that re-creating the New Deal is the best way to achieve the kind of socialist or social democratic system they’ve always dreamed of. “There seems no inherent obstacle,” Arthur Schlesinger wrote in 1947, “to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”
Still seems ironic to me that Progressives keep returning to policies that are 90 years old.
Reform was seductive when we could not see the results but thanks to history we can see the results of excessive faith in government to solve all the tears in our social fabric; based on reason misapplied to social and economic problems. We have replaced a philosophical understanding of risk with a delusional mathematical certainty.
The genius of the founders was the understanding that all of the human shortcomings in social and market settings also exist in political and government settings. (Federalist #51). Dispersed political power works because all knowledge is also dispersed. Capitalism works when power and knowledge converge. Some one may know more than any of us, but they NEVER know more than all of us.
A few quotes:
“Conservatism” as a conscious political doctrine emerged after Burke. Yet the core tenets of his criticism of the French Revolution — the dangers of abstract reason, the fallible nature of man, the distilled wisdom of the ages, the perils of leveling society, the menace of social engineering, the virtue of prudence, the complexity of circumstance, the sanctity of property, the hazards of fiat money, the balance between conservation and reform, the limits of voluntary contracts, and the intergenerational responsibilities of civil society — have all settled as guiding principles of conservative thought in its various intellectual strands. While conservatism in the 20th century splintered into factions representing, for example, traditional conservatism, classical liberalism, libertarianism, national conservatism, and southern agrarianism, it is difficult to pinpoint one such contingent that would repudiate most of these precepts.”
-Gregory Collins, Bipartisan Burke, National Review, December 3, 2020
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
― Louis D. Brandeis
[Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928) (dissenting)]”