This essay will attempt to answer the question of whether or not the implementation of the many New Deal programs during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt actually contributed to the Great Depression. Hopefully this question can be done justice in the limited space here.
It is the view of Dr. Van Til that the New Deal actually continued the Great Depression instead of ameliorating it as intended.1 While the author of this paper does not believe Franklin Roosevelt to be the genius and liberal saint he is sometimes portrayed as, it nonetheless came as a surprise to him and to many others to hear the above view stated.2 It is in stark contrast to the heroism Roosevelt is acclaimed with in many grade and high school textbooks, and even to the accolades he continues to receive in today's popular media, as seen in his heroic Pearl Harbor speech in the movie of the same name. Some questions may come to mind - what do Paul Johnson and others have to say about this issue? What did FDR's programs actually do to the economy? Wouldn't their sheer enormity by itself have made them effective? How much impact could the president have had on the Depression? The answers to some of these questions will be explored here and will form a thesis on Roosevelt's Depression "interventionism.".
Paul Johnson asserts that "Roosevelt's legislation, for the most part, extended or tinkered with Hoover's policies" (Johnson 255.) He also points out that Roosevelt's agricultural policy in general "raised food prices for the consumer and so delayed general recovery" (Johnson 256, italics mine.) Further: "From the perspective of the 1980s it seems that [Hoover and Roosevelt] impeded a natural recovery brought about by deflation." In spite of all of Roosevelt's programs, 1937 was the only year for low unemployment: 14.3 percent, to be exact. From this it seems clear that Roosevelt did in fact hinder recovery and progress in favor of good politics.