(p. C1) Despite the reputation of the New Deal, deep government interventions are unpredictable and sometimes harmful, reminds Amity Shlaes, who wrote a popular history of the Depression, “The Forgotten Man.”
Ms. Shlaes points to the period of 1936 and 1937, when the Federal Reserve used New Deal laws to tighten reserve requirements on the nation’s banks. The goal was to make the banks stronger, but the result was that banks tightened still further. That cut off credit to the economy at a sensitive period. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than a third between August 1937 and January 1938. Unemployment surged. It was the “depression within the Depression.”
It wasn’t the revival that FDR had predicted back in 1935, when he boasted: “Never since my inauguration in March 1933, have I felt so unmistakably the atmosphere of recovery.”
. . .
“When you’re in the expert business, after a while you realize there are no experts,” says Richard Sylla, New York University’s Henry Kaufman Professor of The History of Financial Institutions and Markets.
The important thing to know, it seems, is how little we know.
For the full commentary, see:
DENNIS K. BERMAN. “THE GAME; Tomorrow’s Recession Recovery Is Today’s History Lesson.” Wall Street Journal (Tues., MARCH 3, 2009): C1.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
The reference to the excellent Shlaes book, is:
Shlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.