Monday, November 28, 2011

The New Deal and Enterprising Americans

One central theme behind Roosevelt's stimulus policies, like today, was that business was sitting on their hands and the government had to tax and spend to get things going and regulate to keep them going and prevent the next downturn. But as Chamberlain pointed out in his book Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States-

"the magnitude of the response of U.S. business to the war is in itself refutation of the thesis that in the thirties businessmen simply sat on thier hands…it simply would not have been able to produce the new type of goods when the war button was pressed"

While it was true that total investment was low, investment opportunities were proliferant. He points out the infinite number of industries ready to bust out with thier innovations, including such leaders as du Pont, Dow Chemical, American Cyanamid, and Monsanto that many in the ag industry would be familiar with. During this time GE was ready to go with flourescent lighting and Kodak with color photography and commercial air travel was in the making.

But these great ideas were suppressed and kept on the back burner under the massive interventions of Roosevelt's expanding government.

"Businessmen came to ask themseleves whether Roosevelt really understood a system where the hope of profit sparks expansion and investment. Or did he believe simply in centralizing decision and authority in boards and "planners" along the Potomac?"

The Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States

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