Academic journal article The Historian

American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold

Academic journal article The Historian

American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold

Article excerpt

American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold. By Sebastian Edwards. (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2018. Pp. 252. $29.95.)

For readers who might shy away from a title dealing with economic history, either because of their limited knowledge of the subject or a suspicion that it is far more political than factual, this book by Sebastian Edwards, a professor of international economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, goes a long way to bridge those potential gaps. Moreover, it expands the topic from the Great Depression into more recent economic crises, from Argentina in 2001-2003 to Iceland in 2007.

Franklin Roosevelt's decision to take the United States off the Gold Standard has been covered less than most other aspects of FDR's lengthy presidency. Though Budget Director Lewis Douglas at least initially considered the decision "the end of Western civilization", the author emphasizes that FDR never feared to experiment with possible solutions until he found something that might work. This was an approach that he had likely picked up from his undergraduate days at Harvard University, after taking a class from philosopher William James, and it proved enormously helpful to him as a democratic politician, especially when facing both the Great Depression and World War II. It tended to reinforce his natural self-confidence, which had been inculcated in him during his exceptional childhood. …

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