Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

5. Nationalism versus Internationalism

During the period of Hoover's lame-duck presidency--from the election of November 8, 1932, until the inauguration of March 4, 1933--he offered several policy proposals to the President-elect. Then and later Hoover condemned Roosevelt's reaction to his suggestions, maintaining that the President-elect's attitude torpedoed a recovery that had begun in July, 1932. Ernest K. Lindley, Moley, and Tugwell, among others, have defended Roosevelt's conduct in the lame-duck interregnum. This controversy, the subject of the next chapter, requires a preliminary discussion of trade, intergovernmental debts, and currency in the context of the differences between the President-elect and the Brain Trusters on the one hand and Hoover on the other with respect to their ideas on international economics. The conflict between these two positions became strikingly apparent during the lame-duck interval.


I

Roosevelt accepted the explanation of the depression in terms of domestic maladjustments which Berle, Moley, and Tugwell--whom we may call the "nationalists"--presented to him. Moley listed the three distinctive features of the nationalists' thought: (1) they assumed that the causes of our economic illness were internal, and internal remedies were called for; (2) they believed that government, in addition to extending its regulatory power to prevent abuses, also had to develop controls for stimulating and stabilizing economic activity; (3) they rejected the atomistic, trustbusting Wilson-Brandeis philosophy, believing in "concentration and control"; they agreed on the preservation of equality of opportunity, but recognized that competition, as such, was not inherently virtuous.1

A letter of 1934 to Tugwell from Gardiner C. Means, a Columbia colleague whose research Tugwell encouraged and whose views he respected, indicated the importance which the two economists placed on restoring and increasing domestic purchasing power as the way to recovery. Means suggested the possibility of a study by the Bureau of Home Economics, USDA, of consumer demand for nonagricultural products--assuming that average family income could be raised, for example, to $3,000. "If such a study were made," Means wrote, "I believe that much of the talk of the importance of foreign markets for manufactured goods would disappear."2

A number of Roosevelt's subordinates were not nationalists. They maintained that increased international trade was vital to recovery. Sec

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