It's taking me longer than usual to get together my thoughts on Eric Rauchway's response; sorry for the delay. But there's sort of a side issue that's relevant to that, which is what to think of Amity Shlaes'a The Forgotten Man.
The thesis of the book, for those who don't know it, is that government intervention made the Depression worse by heightening uncertainty. Obviously, this is an explanation much in vogue with conservatives.
Nor do I think it entirely untrue. Certainly, the reports that I'm now hearing from Wall Street of firms sitting on the sidelines until they figure out what the *#&! the government is finally going to do, bolster the plausible belief that if
a) the government is flailing around doing a lot of stuff
b) all of that stuff has a major potential to affect your returns on investment
You will get less investment.
The problem is that Shlaes way, way, way overstates her case. There is an academic argument that the National Recovery Administration prolonged the Great Depression; I'm on the run right now, but will find the link later. But the Great Depression is complicated, and it's hard to make the case that government intervention was the main problem with the economy. As economic history, the book is interesting if one sided. But as an argument, it leaves a lot to be desired.
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