|The Forgotten Man
|List Price: $12.95
Our Price: $9.27
You Save: $3.68 (28%)
"It's difficult today to imagine how America survived the Great Depression. Only through the stories of the common people who struggled during that era can we really understand how the nation endured. These are the people at the heart of Amity Shlaes's insightful and inspiring history of one of the most crucial events of the twentieth century. In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes, one of the nation's most respected economic commentators, offers a striking reinterpretation of the Great Depression. Rejecting the old emphasis on the New Deal, she turns to the neglected and moving stories of individual Americans, and shows how through brave leadership they helped establish the steadfast character we developed as a nation. Some of those figures were well known, at least in their day--Andrew Mellon, the Greenspan of the era; Sam Insull of Chicago, hounded as a scapegoat. But there were also unknowns: the Schechters, a family of butchers in Brooklyn who dealt a stunning blow to the New Deal; Bill W., who founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the name of showing that small communities could help themselves; and Father Divine, a black charismatic who steered his thousands of followers through the Depression by preaching a Gospel of Plenty. Shlaes also traces the mounting agony of the New Dealers themselves as they discovered their errors. She shows how both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920s and heaped massive burdens on the country that more than offset the benefit of New Deal programs. The real question about the Depression, she argues, is not whether Roosevelt ended it with World War II. It is why the Depression lasted so long. From 1929 to 1940, federal intervention helped to make the Depression great-in part by forgetting the men and women who sought to help one another. Authoritative, original, and utterly engrossing, The Forgotten Man offers an entirely new look at one of the most important periods in our history. Only when we know this history can we understand the strength of American character today."
- A fairly modest critique of the New Deal
This book is a decent start for someone just starting to realize that the official received narrative of the Great Depression (ie, It was caused by laissez-faire economics, Hoover's staunch laissez-faireism made it worse, FDR's interventionist policies saved the country and made it a better place) is false and is the result of the earliest histories of the era having been written by partisan "court historians" (those who were enamored of FDR and, often times, had even worked for him in the New Deal years. Hardly unbiased sources, of course.)
However, THE FORGOTTEN MAN is really a fairly moderate critique of the received narrative and of Hoover and FDR's interventionist responses. (Yes, your high school history text wasn't being straight with you when it told you that Hoover was a strict free marketeer -- far from it. He was probably the most interventionist president we had had up till that point, though obviously FDR drastically upped the interventionist ante.)
I gave FORGOTTEN MAN three stars because it doesn't go far enough in its revisionism, it waters certain things down, and, worst of all for a book whose ostensible chief virtue is its readable, accessible, popular style, the narrative bogs down somewhere near the middle of the book and doesn't pick up again till near the end. I think part of that is due to the book's revisionism being so moderate -- this leads to a loss of focus. It doesn't have the razor-sharpness of more radical accounts. The perpsective of analysis in FORGOTTEN MAN is primarily the monetarist school, and as such it makes a decent starting point in getting a real education about the Depression (which naturally has lots of parallels to our current economic situation.) But just a starting point.
The monetarist-derived analysis has some flaws -- it fails to explain everything about the economics of the era adequately, and to get a complete picture I'd recommmend also some more radically free market and revisionist books such as Murray Rothbard's AMERICA'S GREAT DEPRESSION, Jim Powell's FDR'S FOLLY, and Burton Folsom's new release, NEW DEAL OR RAW DEAL?
By the way, President Obama's recent statement at his first press conference that he thought our understanding of the Depression and the New Deal had been "settled a long time ago" in favor of FDR's policies reveals that our new president is dangerously ignorant and arrogant on the topics of economics and history, considering how many top historians and economists (including at least 1 Nobel winner that I'm aware of) have busted the court historians' myths about the era. When Obama and his handlers intimate that they want to create a "New New Deal," those of us with genuine historical and economic knowledge cringe and brace ourselves for things to get worse rather than better. Santayana famously said "Those who forget the past are destined to repeat," but I personally prefer an old Russian proverb, which is even more cynical and accurate: "The only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."...more info
- The Forgotten Man
The Author gives a logical very well organized and extremely well written concise history of the Depression Years....more info
- Recession-Proof Reading
Although *The Forgotten Man* was first published in 2007, it is very apropos of the moment we are now living in. For that alone it is worthwhile reading. But what's really great about it is how Amity Shlaes brings the people, and indeed the whole era, so vividly to life. She gets you involved with what was going on and shows what was tried and did/didn't work to get the economy under control. The book is very readable, not dry in the least, but intelligently written and obviously well researched. If you have a basic (or even just a vague) knowledge of the Great Depression, you will be happy you bought this book as it will give you a whole new view and a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended....more info
- Fair Historic Account
The Forgotten Man is a great read for someone who wants to know what led to the Great Depression and what actions were taken to make the situation better. This fair account of history shows what Roosevelt and other leaders did at the time to try to combat the depression. It showcases both, actions that may have helped and other actions that may have prolonged the depression. It is interesting to compare these actions to what our leaders are doing today....more info
- Learn from history or be doomed to make the same mistakes
I felt it was important to revisit the Great Depression era of American history, as the mainstream media was comparing the current administration's situation to that of FDR's as he took office in 1932.
The author, Amity Shlaes, presents a socio/economic/historical view of the period, covering roughly the time frame from 1927 through 1939.
Not being an economic wizard, I have found it a slow read, going back to certain passages to try to comprehend the feeling of the times. As a result, I am only halfway through the book as of this writing. I find it very enlightening.
Ms. Shlaes is a talented writer. She presents a difficult subject (for me) in such a way as to allow me to "time travel" to that period for a glimpse of what was really going on in America.
If you have ever had an independent thought, and are concerned about what is happening in our country today, I strongly suggest you read this book. Remember, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it....more info
- Didn't expose Roosevelt's marxist tendencies
If you are a conservative who is looking for truth, buy the book. If you are liberal looking for more revisionist history to support liberal propoganda, don't buy it because it will only upset you.
I gave this book 4 stars simply because Amity Shales did not drive the stake into the vampire and kill the propoganda of Roosevelts success (the New Deal was one of the biggest failures in the history of the world).
Ms. Shales does bring out that almost all of the socialist programs that Hoover started Roosevelt continued. Althought Ms. Shales does not come right out and say (she should have) it, she does draw a very good picture of the stark differences between the free American Capitalist and enslaving, tyrannical, narrow minded, innovation killing, policies of the marxist left. She does a good job of pointing out how many new inventions, the tremendous innovations, the prosperity that was being created pre-Roosevelt. And how much marxist union labor organizations and government programs stifle innovation and invention.
She also does a good job of pointing out how much freedom we have lost since March 1933. Although she does not point this out in her book but I will say it here, how much perversion and depravity have been created since socalism has been introduced.
And finally the picture is so well painted by Ms. Shales, that you can see the parallels between Bush and Hoover, Roosevelt and NObama. Which points to what our future holds, high unemployeement and more lose of freedom....more info
- Never Really Gets to the Point
I think, and this is to some extent based on the last 4 paragraphs of the book, that the thesis of "The Forgotten Man" was that the true forgotten man during the depression was the liberal ideal of the individual who produces all of the true "output" of this country. Indeed, it is possible that there was no thesis here, and that this was just a chronological narrative meandering through the 1930s. There are interesting facts here, but so many of them, and so poorly strung together, that I am sure I will have forgotten most of them by the time I finish this sentence. Indeed, I suspect that the reason for the afterward to the paperback edition is the fact that Shlaes realized that, in following 35 characters over an entire decade, she had never really gotten to her point.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Bill Wilson appears in this book. Was he the forgotten man? A ne'er do well alcoholic who finds himself during the depression? Up until he published the "Big Book" he seemed more forgettable than forgotten.
The presence of Willkie makes the book more interesting but it feels as though the time spent turning him from cautious New Deal supporter to its foe was detailed to the detriment of explaining how his platform differed from that of Roosevelt during the 1939 election.
The merit of this book is that it portrays the New Deal as a peripatetic effort that had no real guiding principal other than getting FDR re-elected. But I almost felt as though Shlaes was proving her point by making her own thinking muddled by a thousand little facts that never seemeed to coalesce into one coherent thought.
I went into this book wanting to understand more about the Great Depression and the New Deal so that I had a better understanding of what Obama et al. are going to drag this country through. I think I gained some insight, but all in all, this book just left me thirsting for something more coherent and authoritative. ...more info
- "The Forgotten Man"
Great read at a time when every American really needs to understand what is going on and what happened in the past. This book really straightened out some misinformation I had learned about Hoover, FDR, the "New Deal", and the "Great Depression". The book is written very well. Even though the subject is very serious, it is exciting reading....more info
- Obama Playbook
This book is amazing. Almost everything FDR did translates into what's happening today. I just hope Obama doesn't drag out the "recovery" as long as FDR did. FDR was a great war leader but was an amateur when it came to economics and capitalism. Sound familiar?
If you want to know what's going to happen next to our country, read this book....more info
- History Explains Today
For any history buff or anyone that would like an easy education of the political periods from the beginning of the 20th century or referal of the late 1800's this is a great learning tool. right up to what makes this country
what it is today regarding politics.
The large print makes it even more a good read for all ages. I believe it should be a required book in all colleges and even in high schools around the country. It is exciting to see connections of families still in the political spectrum. the entanglements that caused our history to develop as it has, our foundation given reason why the Constitution must never be altered in any way....more info
- The Flaw of Big Government Revealed
Many politicians and citizenry of the liberal Left cite FDR's enormous government takeover and spending policies as the key to getting America out of the Great Depression. Amity Shlaes, visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and syndicated Bloomberg columnist has penned a fresh and critical appraisal on what the New Deal did and did not accomplish.
An explanation of who is the Forgotten Man has drawn much controversy. While some claim it is "X", the suffering citizen "A" and "B" politically try to help, Shlaes asserts it is "C", the man from whom "A" and "B" take in order to give to "X". Further, she claims with substantiating accounts that each of the four could benefit from a bolstering of free markets.
With a history of men who shaped policies before and during these difficult times and individual Americans of steadfast character-men such as Andrew Mellon, the Schechters, a family of butchers in Brooklyn, Father Divine-and including both Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt who failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920s and whose policies brought more burdens than the New Deal solved, she creates a saga of the agony of the era..
Shlaes asserts that the Great Depression was made "Great" by New Deal policies-government intervention. She believes and attempts to show that these same policies lengthened the period of depression that lasted from 1929 until 1940.
Shlaes is not alone in her feeling. Others have publicly stated that the recovery would have come sooner had the government not intervened.
The Forgotten Man is highly critical of big government, totally engrossing, original, and it belongs on every concerned American's bookshelf.
- Flaws keep it from making a strong case, but current events make this a timely read.
I was excited to read this book after hearing interviews with Amity Shlaes. But as I read, I found flaws that really bothered me. My overall criticism is that she tried to write the book as a narrative, rather than an academic piece (e.g. no footnotes), but that didn't work.
She includes a long bibliography, but I wished that there were footnotes so you could see more clearly where certain facts and events came from. The notes on the chapters in the back were too sparse. If the reader had questions or disagreed with her facts, anecdotes, or analysis, there was no way to find out more about what was supporting her text.
Other reviewers have commented on the unemployment numbers she cites and how they can be misleading. When I looked into that, I agree that she doesn't give you the whole picture with regard to unemployment during the 1930's. This also weakens her case.
Her portrayal of Roosevelt is consistently negative--even positive traits are spun to be negative. For example, his personal charm is cast as a tool for political manipulation. I think that Ms. Shlaes took a personal dislike to Roosevelt and let that color her analysis. However, she does flesh out the reasons why the anti-Roosevelt folks felt the way they did in the 1930s.
Despite its flaws in terms of assessing the New Deal and Great Depression, I found this book to be timely considering the election of Obama and the current economic crisis. I have also read Team of Rivals and so far I would say Obama is less like Lincoln in Team of Rivals than he is like Roosevelt in Forgotten Man.
Ms. Shlaes arguments against government attacks on business and the wealthy, as well as her portrayal of the negative effects of governmental indecision serve as important warnings to our current leaders.
Unfortunately, this book will end up "preaching to the choir," rather than convincing anyone to change their opinion of the New Deal or Rooseveltian Liberalism. ...more info
- The Anti-Keynesian Great Depression Book
Now that the economy has basically taken a nosedive, reading about the Great Depression was both enlightening, and, well, depressing. Amity Shale's new work on the era, which lasted from 1929 to 1940, tackles the subject from a different historical perspective: it's an economic history, rather than just a history of times, dates, and people.
Before you become instantly comatose at the thought of history paired up with economics--rightfully called "the dismal science"--it's not boring. The narrative follows the paths of several main characters. Some are well known and obligatory, like Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. Others are less well known: young New Dealers like Rex Tugwell and Harold Ickes, eventual FDR opponent and power company executive Wendell Willkie, and even odd flamboyants like the black New York evangelist Father Divine.
Shales' supposed Forgotten Man harkens back to the original provenance of the term--the forgotten taxpayer. Shales states in the introduction that this is to be the focus of her work. However, I felt that her Forgotten Man actually gets forgotten farily soon in the work. The story is not particularly told from that perspective, although the reader is treated to the viewpoint from figures like Willkie and former Secretary of the Treasurer and millionaire Andrew Mellon.
The book is mostly a critique of the New Deal and Roosevelt's programs. Specifically, Shales asks why the Depression lasted so long, and why, after 7 years of the New Deal, did it ultimately take World War II to pull us out of it. It's an interesting diversion from "the New Deal saved America" viewpoint.
Shales' point, made explicitly in the afterward, is that the New Deal simply didn't work. As a former writer for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the National Review, it's hardly surprising that she wouldn't be a fan of FDR's Keynesian economics. She makes her strongest arguments--probably a winner--that the Depression worsened under both Hoover and to a lesser degree FDR because neither they, nor the relatively new Federal Reserve, had a good understanding of money policy and basically took every wrong step possible with regard to it. Some of FDR's biggest programs, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), on top of being unconstitutional, really didn't work well.
The entire New Deal doesn't come under attack, but most of it does, including programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Shales claim that they didn't do much for the country may hold in Manhattan, but through most of rural America, the CCC and WPA worked wonders, building schools, libraries, parks, courthouses and other municipal buildings, telephone and electric lines, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that brought those areas fully into the 20th century. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) comes in for close scrutiny, but history has borne witness to its success. Plus, in FDR's defense, the Depression had been going for nearly 4 years before he had a chance to do anything; maybe things were simply too far gone by that point.
FDR isn't bashed here, but critiqued, and not he alone: Hoover, and at long last, Calvin Coolidge, come in for criticism as well. Coolidge, especially, should be considered the father of the Republican viewpoint on how government should (or more accurately, should not) manage the economy. Hoover may have failed on his own, but Coolidge--who never liked Hoover--left him in position to hold the bag.
Shales' anti-Keynesian viewpoint, in my opinion, doesn't hold as well as her critiques of FDR's constant experimentation, although her points about monetary policy were great. Keynes believed that you could manage an economy through taxes and government spending--a viewpoint shared by the Obama administration. A counterpoint to Shales' thesis is that spending only got high enough to stimulate the economy out of the Depression after the government began major military investments, a point perhaps illustrated in remilitarization in Germany as well as the United States. So perhaps Keynes is right after all.
At any rate, Shales is a good read, and the topic couldn't be more relevant. For a great look at the historical basis for the economic debates we're having now, give this one a look.
- Untaught History
This book looks at the Depression and gives the history of that period that is not taught in schools. Going behind the screen, she exposes the actual results of the government actions and shows what were the results of the actions taken by the government to "solve" the problems of the Depression. Roosevelt just continued the failed policies of Hoover; he did not change them, just changed the name. Too similar to our government policies of today....more info
- History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as...
Amity Shlaes is a journalist writing about economics and as such is a compelling teller of stories; and this is a big one. Let me set the stage: When Warren Harding died in August of 1923 the Dow Jones Industrial Average (the stock market-DJIN) stood at 93. By the time of the great stock market crash circa October of 1929 it had exceeded 340. After the crash it rose and fell several times, but by January of 1940 it was only 151. Government spending had more than tripled (from 1929 at less than 3% of GDP to more than 10% of GDP by 1941), but unemployment (3.3% in January 1927 with the DJIN at 151) was still at 14% remaining stubbornly resistant to improvement (15%-25%) lo those Depression years. To top that off GDP went sideways from 1929 to 1941; but when consideration is taken for the millions more in population at the end it becomes clear that GDP per capita had suffered a prolonged decline.
Most new jobs today (over 70%) are created by small business and it was no different then, but capital went on strike because of government competition not to mention investor uncertainty over FDR's changing policies. Financing of small businesses fell by 96% and initial public offerings (IPO's) went in the tank. This created an uphill fight for FDR in his pursuit to right the economy.
Does this sound like what's happening today? Where government takes money from one pocket and puts it into another while running up huge debts at excessive cost to the economy? And did not George W. Bush set the stage for Obama just as Herbert Hoover did for FDR? In Both Hoover/FDR's case and Bush/Obama's they and their administration's are seeking to right a typical financial bust by using Keynesian methods which will over time make it worse for everyone. Utopian socialism won't work if history is any guide.
The title "The Forgotten Man" is a phrase taken from a piece penned by William Graham Sumner of Yale in 1881, one which alludes to the common taxpayer who is coerced defacto into financing utopian political dreams . In the end result stock and real estate prices did not recover for 25 years after the Crash, but targeted political constituencies? They continued to vote Democratic in House and Senate races for decades. In short FDR's was a successful political power grab at the cost of socializing the economy. The seeds of today's economic problem were sewn in the 1930's and this is the tale Amity Shlaes tells so well.
The book begins with a description of its "cast of characters" and follows with a coda describing their lives post the Depression years: Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU; Father Devine, Harlem preacher of black self-sufficiency and leader of thousands; Harold Ickes, FDR's Secretary of the Interior and key reformer with the TVA; Samuel Insull, Chicago electrical utility magnate; Cordell Hull, FDR's Secretary of State; Herbert Hoover, President from 1929 to 1933; John L. Lewis, Labor leader and head of the United Mine Workers and founder of the CIO; Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury under three presidents (Harding, Coolidge and Hoover); Rex Tugwell, an advisor and member of FDR's brain trust; Wendel Wilkie, head of Commonwealth & Southern, a new utility; plus David Lilienthal, Ray Moley and many others. Some stay true to Roosevelt and his utopian dreams while others leave the fold after seeing the futility of his efforts to grow GDP and concomitantly lower unemployment.
The stock market crash of black October, 1929; the Disastrous effect on world trade created by the Smoot-Harley tariff under Hoover; the tsunami of bank insolvencies; the building of the TVA (a government run utility under FDR); the alphabet agencies overseeing labor, housing, banking, securities trading, and trade of every type; FDR's attempt to pack the Supreme Court; his punitive pursuit of the rich centering on Andrew Mellon (who gratis gave the country his fabulous art collection); the rise of Wilkie to 1940 presidential candidate; it's all there and it's a great story that reads like today. But as Henry Morgenthau, FDR's treasury head, said "after eight years of trying and more than tripling government spending, we still haven't lowered unemployment" (or words to that effect.) Keynesian demand-side economics didn't work. It's multiplier effect a sophist mythology.
World War II made the unemployed into soldiers subsequently solving the unemployment problem during the war years, but only pent up demand and the passing of FDR and his crazyquilt pursuit of utopia brought the economy slowly back into balance. To my view this story is a blueprint of what's to come in the next eight years. Hopefully it isn't, but where there's hope, there's hope, and that's that.
A very good and timely read!
- History repeats itself...
This book is one of many in what is now a growing list of publications that have taken a more detailed look at the Great Depression and the fiscal policies instituted to combat the crisis. The thorough analysis told through the author's narrative writing style provides a very captivating and in-depth analysis of the federal government's fiscal policy mistakes during the Depression.
The analysis of the political environment during this time also provides some striking parallels to what's happening in 2009. The Obama administration playbook is not so much Lincoln (a la "Team Of Rivals"), but more FDR and 1930's "Brain Trust".
Whichever side of the economic fence one may sit on debating the fiscal success or failure of New Deal policies, it is irrefutable that this era of US history produced an enormous expansion of government powers that we have not seen since.
With just enough statistics to not overwhelm the average reader, I would highly recommend "The Forgotten Man" for the same reason I recommended "The Ascent Of Money" (N. Ferguson)-- it offers an illuminating insight into things that are/will directly affect everyone's lives without the overload of spin-masters and buzz-words that continually bombard us through the daily dose of cable and print media....more info
- The Forgotten Man
I think that everyone in the work force should read this to get an idea of what happened during the 1930's and then see how we are making the same mistakes....more info
Be warned, Amity Shales "Forgotten Man" is Andrew Mellon and the wealthy. The cover of this book is VERY misleading, even the reviews on the dust jacket have been cherry picked to make it appear as a well rounded account. It is not at all balanced. This is a great volume for one who wants to know of the greed and selfishness of the wealthy class. It fails to address the genuine forgotten people....more info
- A dissenting look at the New Deal and what it did (and did not) do
H.L. Mencken once said, "When A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel." Amity Shlaes uses a more philosophical version of this argument (from a Yale academic) as the basis for her history of the New Deal and who really was forgotten by those in power.
Shlaes criticizes Herbert Hoover's protectionist policies and tax increases, arguing that these measures helped turn a recession into the Great Depression (she compares his actions with the laissez-faire approaches of Harding and Coolidge during what turned out to be a brief, uneventful recession in the mid 1920s). In short, Hoover is still not an especially good President, but was hardly the hard-nosed right-wing capitalist the Left tends to paint him as.
Roosevelt's New Deal is criticized mainly for the "make-work" jobs it produced that failed to lower unemployment significantly (Shlaes's economic data has proved to be a point of contention in this regard). She does give credit for some New Deal measures that she views as ultimately beneficial, such as the creation of Social Security. And, finally, she devotes a considerable amount of text to Roosevelt's unsuccessful 1940 opponent Wendell Willkie, a man who is largely forgotten in the history of 20th century American politics.
Throughout the book, she refers back to the men who created what would become Alcoholics Anonymous, as an ill-connected example of how Americans, through free and private association, formed support networks free of government involvement.
The Forgotten Man is not an economics text and should not be treated as such; it is economic history at best. Shlaes herself (who is a journalist by training) has conceded this. While Republican attempts to turn the book into a basis for some policy response to Barack Obama are inappropriate, Shlaes has assembled a book that puts the true legacy of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt into perspective and given credit where credit is due to a man who arguably did more to defend the "Forgotten Man" than any other public figure of this time, Wendell Willkie (who is, ironically, a "forgotten man" to history). ...more info
If you change tha names from fdr to bho it looks like a pregview of the same socialism that we are experiencing today....more info
- should be a `must read' in America's schools
Hide the truth! That was core and essence of the FDR admnistration. 'Keep them off balance' so they'll never know what you're really up to. Even today, liberalism has to steep their agenda with lies and use tricks and gimmicks to promote their sickness which oddly enough parallels the `denial' of alcoholism. I would not be surprised if FDR himself was an alkie.
Amity Shlaes boldly flies truth in the face of modern socialism. Nice shot!...more info
- clearly biased and unqualified to comment on the subject matter
author is clearly biased and unqualified enough on subject matter. this almost sounds like a propaganda.
all she said. who believed in what. instead of who did what. now how on earth would she know what these people thought what. was she a worm in their brain? a good factual and unbiased book would say what someone has done. instead of so full of what someone "believed" what.
just listen to her first 2 chapters was enough. and she couldnt interview them could she. they are all dead. how convinenient. she didnt even quote letters or review from newspaper for example.
just loads of bull this book. yes, one of the worst i have come across.
if i could. she gets 0 star from me
btw i didnt buy the book. i just borrowed it. luckily.
- This Book is a MUST READ for our current ecomic state!
This book should be read by everyone who votes in this country. The march toward socialism in the 1930's prolonged the depression by ten years. As our current government marches toward socialism they are making the same mistakes made by Rosevelt! Remember, "Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it"!...more info
- Do not recommend for Depression newbies seeking balanced view
Like many people, I have a newfound interest in the Great Depression, in particular in my case since I am investment analyst and the historical context is helpful for my job.
The Forgotten Man was the first book I read, and have since read David Kennedy's Freedom From Fear. I found Freedom From Fear to be a much more comprehensive and detailed description of what happened during the depression, and a better read to boot (caution: it is much longer than Shales' book).
This is not to say that TFM is not worth a read, nor does it aim to be as comprehensive a history as Freedom From Fear. But I think TFM has more of an agenda (gov't intervention is bad) while Freedom From Fear was more balanced but also gives you a lot more information to chew on.
Clearly if you are very interested in The Great Depression one book will not do. My point is don't start with Shales' book. ...more info
- The Finest Book on the New Deal!
This is by far the finest book I've read on the New Deal and its actual impact on the Great Depression. Amity Shlaes delivers a very fair and balanced read - giving credit where it is due to Roosevelt. However, Shlaes shines in her objectivity and presentation of facts regarding the New Deal, smashing the many myths surrounding the growth of the federal government in the 1930's. While the New Deal had its advantages, it largely failed in its every objective to stimulate the economy, create long-term jobs and improve both Main Street and Wall Street. In fact, what it truly managed to do was stifle the growth of businesses. Many countries around the globe, who all suffered the initial sting of the Depression, managed to climb out of the depression within only a few years. In the United States in 1937, nine years after the crash of 1929, the jobless rate was worse than ever. The New Deal did not solve these problems. In fact, Wall Street did not manage to make it back to 1929 levels until the mid-1950's.
In this new era of depression-like economics and big government "stimulus" spending, it is imperative that the myths of the Great Depression and the New Deal are smashed. Government spending is not the only answer, and is likely to fail, as was demonstrated in the 1930's. Only this morning I heard Senator Chuck Schumer from the State of New York plainly state that President Hoover ran on a policy of small government, and letting big business handle the economy. This is utter nonsense! As Shlaes properly documents, Hoover was a believer in big government plans and spending long before Roosevelt. As a Republican, he completely separated himself from Coolidge. Hoover failed, and subsequently so did Roosevelt's New Deal. Today, we repeat ourselves. The previous Republican administration under George W. Bush opened the new era of government spending with TARP I. Now, Obama takes the reigns with even bigger New-Deal-Like spending. We should learn our lessons, but seldom do....more info
- Lies, damn lies, and statistics
This book buttresses an ideological viewpoint with false data. The unemployment numbers from the 1930's are wrong. But I guess some folks would rather lie than to admit that the New Deal actually helped. Here's the correct data on unemployment:
Read it and judge for yourself....more info
- The Forgotten Man
Excellant read, this book brings the real History of the great Depression that is not taught in our schools. I wonder why?...more info
- Nice to have a myth-breaker (mostly), like this one...
"Mostly," because the author could have leaned a little harder on President Herbert Hoover. In fairness, the focus of the book was on the Depression years themselves, rather than very much on the lead-up years. Since the focus of "Forgotten Man" deals with the government's tampering with the economy, Mr. Hoover would have shared the title of king-tamperer along with Mr. Roosevelt. Of course, the book title would then have to be something like, "The Forgotten Tamperer"!
Indeed, Ms. Shlaes' intention was to show that the forgotten man was not the notorious down-&-out guy living on handouts, but the average citizen-taxpayer who had to bear the terrible cost of badly-managed government. Amen. Much of this book tells stories about selected persons of power during the years 1932-1939, and how their interactions weave through those trouble (and troublesome) times. Those interactions, in most cases, made the Depression "Great." The author clearly researched extensively to come up with such a large amount of connected information.
The style of "Forgotten Man" flows well, making the whole book easy to read. Too, most of the book can be read out of order, if there are certain parts which look interesting to go through out of turn. The exception here would be Wendell Wilkie. Because this particular personage plays such an important counterweight to FDR, his part should probably be taken from the beginning. The slow onset of WWII in the U.S. clearly favored FDR coming out ahead of his rival, and the author tells the denouement skillfully. Get this book.
- Very timely
There is no one more knowledgeable than Amity Shales, and this book shares her depth of knowledge. It there is a problem, it's that the detail is so very thick that at times one feels immersed in molasses. Very hard to keep moving. Still, given the times we're in, and the apparent incapacity of the present administration to figure out what to do, it's worth at least learning what has failed in the past, in hopes of avoiding repeating it....more info
- The Forgotten Man...a story for today!
This book describes the policies and projects of the great depression of the 1930's. I, and my son in law who also read this book, find this story to be a description of our current financial mess and the downward spiriling economic conditions in our country and the world today. Amazing that so many of the good ideas and mistakes of the FDR administration are being repeated today. If a person is interested in knowing more about, not only the depression, but the current financial/economic mess and how the same speculative mistakes of the late '20's have been repeated with the same results, grab a copy of this very well written book and catch up on todays events through eyes of the 1930's; amazing similarities between these two periods. Great book!...more info
- A Great History Resource
Amity Shlaes give an excellent history of the Depression from many different angles. I found the information at the beginning extremely helpful in understanding just how robust the economy of the United States was prior to 1929. She also gives excellent political biographies of FDR, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover that shows how each one handled the economy and why. I also found her chapter dealing with the influence of the fledgling Soviet Union on American academics and how these academics influenced the 1930's. Mrs. Shlaes also makes a great case in how protectionism and deflation made things much worse. In reading this, I came to understand how FDR allowed academics with little business experience to influence policy. School textbooks give much of the credit to John Maynard Keynes' theories for sustaining America during the 30's, but in fact The Forgotten Man gives evidence to the contrary. You will definitely learn a lot from this resource on the Depression. It will also help you see how we may be making the same mistakes now during this economic downturn....more info
- Revisionism for a cause ($$$)
This is a book marked by a preconceived idea, and to support it the author distorts at will. This book, although it has some decent passages is the historical and research equivalence of trying to fit by all means a square peg in a round hole....more info