The New Deal
- A Little Astonishing Background - COMPARE
The New Deal in all its regulation, makework, micromanagement, bureaucracy, and ultimately, taxes -
In a letter to Arthur Schlesinger dated April 9, 1958, Leon Keyserling stressed that Roosevelt came to Washington without a "systematic economic program." The "highly experimental, improvised and inconsistent" programs of the first New Deal defy categorization. They were the products of "schools of reformers" that had been promoting diverse programs that Roosevelt, higgledy-piggledy, picked up. According to Keyserling, the PWA, CWA, NIRA, and the rest were not parts of any systematic plan or overall purpose. The only coherence given these events came from outside the administration. It was the "desire to get rid of the Black bill" that prompted the administration to draw up such things as the NRA, "to put in something to satisfy labor." This same point was made by other notables in Roosevelt's administration, among them Raymond Moley.
Throughout the depression, 30-hour legislation goaded Roosevelt to action. The Black-Connery bill, introduced in each depression Congress until passed in highly modified form as the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA] in 1938, with all the work-sharing teeth pulled, continued to function as a sort of reverse polestar, enabling Roosevelt to chart his course by the simple expedient of sailing in the opposite direction. Roosevelt's instinctive reaction against 30 hours matured to positive approaches to industrial stabilization and reemployment. They were built on work creation, not work spreading, founded on industrial growth and increased spending as the wellsprings of progress. In the process, he and his administration discarded the century-old notion that work reduction had the potential for social and individual advancement.
From the point of view of someone like Representative William Connery, who pushed for 30 hours from 1932 to 1937, the New Deal had a coherence, a reason for happening when and as it did, that was lost on others not so positioned. From Connery's perspective, the New Deal was what it was because of its opposition to 30 hours.
Keynes admitted we were waiting for something to enable us to quit the abnormal government expenditure. We've now been waiting 64 more years. Phil Hyde maintains that what we were waiting for was an idea that was already present in 1932 in a book and in 1930 in corporate practice. In 1932, Arthur Dahlberg recommended a 20-hour workweek in his book, Jobs, Machines, and Capitalism and in 1930, the Kellogg Co. of Battle Creek, Mich. instituted a 30-hour workweek. At first they cut pay to the 35-hour level but they had it back up to the 40-hour level by 1935. See Ben Hunnicutt, Kellogg's Six-Hour Day (Temple: Philadelphia, 1996).
All page numbers refer to Benjamin Hunnicutt's wonderful history of the Great Depression, Work Without End (still available in paperback from Temple U: Philadelphia, 1988). This was the first history of the Great Depression that Phil Hyde had ever seen that did not give him the impression that the author had failed to really get to the bottom of it and had instead gone into suspension at some shallower level and been bewitched by the chioscuro of FDR's charismatic head tossing and chin jutting against the spreading hopelessness and despair of the Depression, not to mention by the truly massive propaganda campaign that FDR's brainstrusters proceeded to unleash on the nation (pp.172, 174, 175, 189, 240, 241).
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