The New Deal and Its Legacy: Critique and Reappraisal

By Robert Eden | Go to book overview

11
The Regulatory Policy of the New Deal

John A. Wettergreen

My topic may properly be described as the regulatory policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. For I believe, apparently unlike many others, that Franklin Roosevelt was decisive for whatever success the New Deal had in the regulation of commerce. Now the regulation of commerce may not seem to be an exciting topic, and it is sometimes treated as a technical problem, as a problem for experts, as an economic problem, as a problem of administration. It is not my intention to treat it in that way. Let me begin by pointing out how difficult it is for Presidents to have an influence on the regulation of the economy.

Presidents have trouble even regulating their own families, as the following story ought to indicate. There was one black sheep in Franklin Roosevelt's family, Johnny. Johnny Roosevelt registered as a Republican, and the story of how he became one is instructive. Johnny wanted to go dancing at the Mayflower one night. His father said, "That's fine, but remember you must be in by one o'clock because after one o'clock they lock the gates of the White House and you're out." Well, Johnny stayed out late and didn't get back in time. When he came to the gate it was locked, so he went to the guard and said, "Let me in, I'm the son of the President." Of course the guard had heard many such stories and replied, "Sorry, buddy, you'll have to stay out. You can get in tomorrow with the rest of the folks." Johnny Roosevelt spent the night on the streets and he certainly didn't like it; he thought he deserved better. So the next morning he went out and registered Republican, saying, "What good was it to be a Democrat, if you couldn't even get into the White House."

Now, to appreciate how difficult Roosevelt's problem was, that story ought to be compared with a parallel story that took place almost exactly ten years earlier. The son of Calvin Coolidge spent the summer of 1924 hoeing cotton in South Carolina--of course he couldn't get to the Mayflower from there--and

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