NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Did FDR Campaign on Central Planning?

November 25, 2014

President Franklin Roosevelt greatly expanded the role of the federal government in the economy when he set out to end the Great Depression. What he really did, according to economists Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian of UCLA, was extend the length of the Great Depression by seven years.

Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education, writes that there are many myths surrounding FDR's time in office, including the claim that he lifted the country out of the Great Depression. Another involves his campaign for office: while many would say that Roosevelt was elected on a platform of central planning, Reed says that Roosevelt's campaign tells another story. In 1930, while serving as Governor of New York, Roosevelt said that the last decade in Washington had involved too much "regulation and legislation by 'master minds,'" saying, "Were it possible to find 'master minds' so unselfish, so willing to decide unhesitatingly against their own personal interests or private prejudices, men almost godlike in their ability to hold the scales of justice with an even hand, such a government might be to the interests of the country; but there are none such on our political horizon, and we cannot expect a complete reversal of all the teachings of history."

He continued these sentiments when campaigning for President, says Reed:

  • Roosevelt called for reducing federal spending by 25 percent and balancing the budget.
  • He said that the government needed to be less involved in agriculture.
  • He criticized President Herbert Hoover for spending, raising taxes and increasing tariffs.
  • Roosevelt's running mate said that Hoover was leading America down the road to socialism.

Despite what he said to voters on the campaign trail, Reed writes that when Roosevelt took office, he raised taxes, increased spending and engaged in a great deal of central planning.

Source: Lawrence W. Reed, "Cliches of Progressivism No. 32: FDR Was Elected in 1932 on a Progressive Platform to Plan the Economy," Foundation for Economic Education, November 21, 2014. 


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