Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quotations from Modern Times by Paul Johnson

Leninism was not only a heresy [from Marxism]; it was exactly the same heresy which created fascism.
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Why did the normal recovery [from the start of the Great Depression] not take place?

To find the answer we must probe beneath the conventional view of Herbert Hoover and his successor as president, Franklin Roosevelt. The received view is that Hoover, because of his ideological attachment to laissez-faire, refused to use government money to reflate the economy and so prolonged and deepened the Depression until the election of Roosevelt, who then promptly reversed official policy, introducing the New Deal, a form of Keynesianism, and pulled America out of the trough. Hoover is presented as the symbol of the dead, discredited past, Roosevelt as the harbinger of the future and 1932-3 the watershed between old-style free market economics and the benevolent new managed economics and social welfare of Keynes. Such a version of events began as the quasi-journalistic propaganda of Roosevelt's colleagues and admirers and was then constructed into a solid historical matrix by two entire generations of liberal-democrat historians.

This most durable of historical myths has very little truth in it.
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On many issues he [Hoover] was a liberal. He wanted aid to flow to underdeveloped countries. He deplored the exclusion of Japanese from the 1924 immigration quotas. His wife entertained the ladies of black congressmen. He did not make anti-Semitic jokes, like Woodrow Wilson and his wife or Franklin Roosevelt.
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Indeed, in all essentials, Hoover's actions embodied what would later be called a "Keynesian" policy. He cut taxes heavily. Those of a family man with an income of $4,000 went down by two-thirds. He pushed up government spending, deliberately running up a huge government deficit of $2.2 billion in 1931, so that the government share of the Gross National Product went up from 16.4 per cent in 1930 to 21.5 per cent in 1931.
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The mutual antipathy [between Hoover and FDR] proved of great historical importance. Roosevelt seems to have been quite unaware that Hoover genuinely regarded him as a public menace; not taking politics too seriously himself, he dismissed Hoover's Cassandra-cries as partisan verbiage, the sort he might employ himself.
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Beyond generating the impression of furious movement, what his [FDR's] Treasury Secretary, William Woodin, called "swift and staccato action", there was no actual economic policy behind the programme [FDR's first hundred days]... While increasing federal spending in some directions he slashed it in others, cutting the pensions of totally disabled war-veterans, for instance, from $40 to $20 a month...
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When Roosevelt took over from Hoover he made matters worse. Hoover had helped to plan a world economic conference, to be held in London June-July 1933. It might have persuaded the "have-not" powers that there were alternatives to fighting for a living. On 3 July Roosevelt torpedoed it. Thereafter, no real effort was made to create a stable financial framework within which disputes could be settled by diplomacy. In the 1920s the world had been run by the power of money. In the 1930s it was subject to the arbitration of the sword.
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Right up to his death in 1945, there was an incorrigible element of frivolity in Roosevelt's handing of foreign policy. It was characteristic that one of his principal sources of information about Britain, and on European events generally, in the later 1930s was The Week, the ultra-Left conspiracy-theory bulletin put out by the Daily Worker journalist Claud Cockburn. Some of Roosevelt's ambassadorial appointments were exceptionally ill-judged. He sent the violently anti-British Joseph Kennedy to London, and the corrupt and gullible Joseph Davies to Moscow. The latter move was particularly destructive because the US Moscow embassy was well-staffed and superbly informed, backed by a highly professional division of Eastern European affairs in the State Department. The Soviet Foreign Minister, Litvinov, admitted that this division had better records on Soviet foreign policy than the Soviet government itself. Five months after Davies became ambassador in 1936, with instructions to win Stalin's friendship at all costs, the division was abolished, its library dispersed and its files destroyed.
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Communists had always been infuriated by the tendency of facts to get in the way of Marxist theses. One might say that the whole of Stalin's dictatorship had been a campaign against facts...

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Listening to: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - 01 - Love Struck Baby
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