Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941

By Broadus Mitchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
National Recovery Administration

IF we may speak of what was typical in the New Deal's shifting, improvised program, we may give that character to the National Industrial Recovery Act, including its administration. Not intended to be temporary, like the Banking Act of 1933 and the measures affecting currency, it was designed as a permanent bold improvement. It carried the confusion explicit in the New Deal—the purpose to bolster private enterprise through cooperation of government, business, and labor. It attacked the most conspicuous signs of the depression, industrial stagnation and unemployment. Thus it occupied the central position in New Deal plans. Finally, in colliding with the Supreme Court, it posed the conflict between tradition and experiment. Though abolished, it continued to have influence through certain schemes which it originally contained or helped inspire, such as public works, the National Labor Relations Act, the National Resources Planning Board, and a few specialized and voluntary survivors like the National Coat and Suit Industry Recovery Board. Its concept of the feasibility of increased wages, stable prices, and improved profits through full employment remained to animate future efforts of several sorts.

Like other features of the New Deal, the National Industrial Recovery Act was a composite and adaptation of earlier trends and proposals. In the emergency of depression, the last lingering opposition to collusive action by businessmen was abandoned. With failure of NRA, fear was to revive; the anachronism of laissez faire was paraded in concerted prosecutions by the Department of

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