American Anti-Statist Tradition
WITHIN A YEAR OF FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FIRST INAUGURATION AS president of the United States, a vociferous and apparently powerful conservative opposition had launched a vigorous assault on the new administration's programs. Though all kinds of charges were made against the New Deal from the right, one basic theme pervaded the rhetoric of conservatives during the 1930s and gave coherence to their indictment. The expansion of federal power under the auspices of the Roosevelt administration, they repeated endlessly, was undermining individual freedom and enterprise in the United States. Americans had enjoyed greater freedom and greater prosperity than any other people because in the United States men had been given the greatest possibile opportunity to work out their lives with a minimum of restraint and coercion. Freedom could be misused, and occasionally government, preferably at the state or local level, was required to step in and correct abuses. But the dead hand of government could never be a substitute for the hard work and individual initiative of free men. Prosperity would only return to the United States and freedom would only be preserved if the New Dealers would abandon their bureaucratic, socialistic, spendthrift schemes, which were shackling the energies and undermining the confidence of liberty-loving Americans.
It was not only Liberty Leaguers and business rhetoricians who based their critique of the New Deal on this anti-statist, individualistic credo. Even Republican politicians who were regarded as "moderate" or "lib-