Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

3. Mr. Hoover's Economic Policy: 1928-1932

I

Tugwell's published comments on Hoover's policies began with his series of articles in the "New Republic" on the campaign of 1928. In these articles Tugwell questioned Hoovers' reputation as a practical man. The GOP candidate, he conceded, was a superb administrator as far as he went, but his schooling in the orthodox lessons of nineteenth-century laissez faire doctrines did not allow him to go far enough. According to Hoover's ideas in political economy, government was only to assist but in no way control business.1 Concerned about industrial weak spots and low farm income, Tugwell asserted that Hoover's views prevented him from detecting symptoms of sickness. Tugwell wondered whether Alfred E. Smith would sponsor "effective industrial control which might effect a cure, or will he offer the cheaper and easier way of meeting problems only in crisis and refusing to see them until the crisis arrives-- as Mr. Hoover [does]?"2

As election day neared in 1928, Tugwell's comments became harsher. In September he wrote, "One is forced to the conclusion that Mr. Hoover is either a very bad economist or that he is intellectually dishonest"--a difficult choice for intelligent people who had conceived Hoover as the engineer in politics. Tugwell thought it strange that Hoover's followers were disposed toward apology. They maintained, he noted, that it was not the real Hoover who, for example, advocated enlarged foreign commerce while outdoing Calvin Coolidge in supporting protective tariffs. Tugwell concluded, "If he believes the stuff he talks, there is nothing to be gained in electing him. If he does not believe it, when can we trust him?"3

In the early part of 1932 Tugwell reviewed the first three years of Hoover's administration in two addresses, an article, and a booklet:

"Responsibility and Economic Distress," National Advisory Council on Education, Economic Series, Lecture No. 14, National Broadcasting Co., January 30, 1932; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1932.

"Discourse in Depression," address, Columbia Teachers College, Tugwell Papers.

with A. T. Cutler and G. S. Mitchell, "Flaws in the Hoover Economic Plan," Current History, January, 1932.

Mr. Hoover's Economic Policy, New York: John Day, 1932.

-26-

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