Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

II. The Two New Deals: 1933-1938

I

Historians customarily relate the collectivism-Progressivism conflict to the concept of two New Deals, which Basil Rauch first popularized. They have called the transition from the First New Deal of 1933-1934 to the Second New Deal of 1935-1938 a shift from the New Nationalism to the New Freedom, from a planned economy to a compensated economy, from a managed economy to a mixed economy. We should note, however, that in detail this division of the New Deal was not so clearcut. Historians, especially those concerned with the history of ideas, run the risk of imposing on events a neat pattern that was not necessarily there at the time. James M. Burns pointed out the fluidity of the transition from the First to the Second New Deal. He indicated the inadequacy of ideological explanations of the shift, he denied that there was a "consciously planned, grandly executed deployment to the left," and he remarked that "events have ways of committing leaders to new positions."1

Certainly the two New Deals overlapped. Professor Eugene O. Golub listed objectives common to both: economic security, a higher standard of living, aid to underprivileged groups, and orthodox Progressive reforms to make the capitalists play fairly.2 Professor Eric F. Goldman identified security as a theme common to both.3 Professor Daniel R. Fusfeld described the philosophy running through the two New Deals as economic interventionism (governmental responsibility for prosperity) based on a new view of the place of the individual in society (security) and a new position on the social responsibilities of the businessman (the belief that individual gain was not always synonymous with the social good).4

Thus, we find Tugwell supporting part of the Second New Deal during the First as he called for action to assure economic security and a higher standard of living for the underprivileged non-staple farmers. He finally obtained the establishment of the Resettlement Administration in 1935. When the Second New Deal got under way, he recalled, he urged that the Food and Drug Bill, which he had also supported during the First New Deal, was "strictly in the line of the new philosophy--to regulate industry, but not to require of it planning or performance. If manufacturers were to be required to conform to wages-and-hours requirements and to treat each other fairly, they ought also to be asked to treat their consumers fairly."5

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