The Great Depression of the 1930’s tested America’s political institutions like no other event in our history except the Civil War. Much as Lincoln saved the Union and established the symbols of American nationalism, so Franklin Delano Roosevelt (it is said) saved capitalism from itself and laid the framework for the American welfare state.Roosevelt experimented with economics to fix the crisis, imposing government programs which in the end, extended the misery level of the people and sapped wealth from the country. Perhaps "the forgotten man," as Piereson implies, was Wendell Willkie.
If there is a hero in Shlaes’s account, it is Wendell Willkie, who supported FDR in 1932 but emerged later in the decade as the most articulate critic of the New Deal. As the president of Commonwealth and Southern, a large utilities holding company, Willkie clashed with David Lilienthal, FDR’s hand-picked director of the newly created Tennessee Valley Authority, over the extent to which the new entity would compete with private companies in the distribution and sale of electric power. Lilienthal eventually got the better of Willkie, who was forced in 1939 to sell Commonwealth and Southern to the government.Today we have another anti-capitalist, unquestionably Marxist, President in Barack Obama. With the economy on its heels again, solutions tried have only exacerbated the problems, despite increased government spending. Ineffective economic stimulus was followed by the take-over of private-sector financial markets, mortgage businesses, banking industry, automobile manufacturing, energy providers and now the health care segment. Incredible record deficits, expanded money supply, caused a devaluation of the dollar, and now newly-passed legislation nationalizes health care and imposes Marxist control over the population will most likely end America as we have known it to be. American Exceptionism is dead!
Having seen at first hand the danger posed by federal intervention in the economy, Willkie won a large following with books, articles, and speeches challenging the anti-business premises of the New Deal and arguing that production and growth fit the needs and wishes of Americans far better than did redistribution. The idea of America, Willkie argued, was to encourage private enterprise, not to make war on it. So compelling was his case that he persuaded the Republican convention to nominate him in 1940 to run against Roosevelt on the issue of the government’s proper role in the economy.
With Hitler on the march in Europe, however, and Britain under siege, voters were preoccupied with issues of war and peace—on which Willkie differed very little from FDR. Though unsuccessful in dislodging the President, Willkie’s campaign suggested that, in its domestic interventionism and its animus against business, the New Deal had gone too far.
In the latest reincarnatation of Roosevelt's New Deal is another "forgotten man." Interestingly, Ayn Rand identified this professional in her 1957 blockbuster novel Atlas Shrugged where she wrote:
“I quit when medicine was placed under state control, some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything — except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only ‘to serve.’ That a man who’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards — never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind — yet what is it that they expect to depend upon, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it — and still elss safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.When fiction becomes fact, the life and times of Americans gets pretty scary. Chris Muir illustrates the coming crisis at the top of the page.