The New Deal Reconsidered

Author(s): Bradford A. Lee
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Source: The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), Vol. 6, No. 2 (Spring, 1982), pp. 62-76
Published by: Wilson Quarterly
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FSA. and a host of other bills. Of his predecessor in the White House. and his "Brains Trust" advisers had been hard at work on a program ever since. the National Industrial Recovery Act. HOLC." Franklin D. at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. "Never was there such a change in the transfer of a government. NLRB. Lee "This nation asks for action.CAB. PWA.CWA.FDIC. SEC. the answer is "No.THE NEW DEAL THE NEW DEAL RECONSIDERED by BradfordA.FCC. "The President is the boss. The new government agencies created by Roosevelt strained the resources of the alphabet- AAA." The Wilson Quarterly /Spring 1982 62 . Even a cursory inspection of the New Deal shows that it reshaped American institutions and gave material suste- nance to millions of people who had been thrown out of jobs and into various states of misery by the Depression.WPA.REA." New York Times columnist Arthur Krock exclaimed a week after the inauguration. The greatest lift probably came from FDR himself. Roosevelt declared at his March 1933 inauguration. NRA. the Securities Exchange Act. TVA.some of them passed after only token debate. one observer remarked." Roosevelt. and action now. these would be followed by several major relief measures (including the $5 billion Emergency Re- lief Appropriation Act of 1935.FERA. and 13 other major laws. Over the next five years. radiated confidence.CCC. NYA. In the famous First Hundred Days of FDR's Presidency. the establishment of the Social Security system in 1935. it would wilt. "If you put a rose in Hoover's hand.FHA.FCA. the most expensive peacetime government program anywhere up to then). The results may have been mixed. which permitted industries to form cartels to limit output and fix prices. but the impact was un- mistakable. by contrast. he sent 15 major legislative proposals to Congress: the Agricultural Adjustment Act. the dynamo." Did any conscious grand design for American society under- lie Roosevelt's policies? Pretty clearly. Eight months earlier. he had confidently promised the American people a "New Deal" to fight the Great Depression. the works. which awarded subsidies to farmers who lim- ited their crops.

Raymond Moley hoped to revive industry by allowing companies. often at the same time. their first goal was to bring the economy out of the Depression. The CCCwas the inspiration for the Job Corpsin President Johnson's War on Poverty. and Felix Frankfurter. was the relatively small amount of purchasing power in the hands of farmers and workers.or. the New Dealers hoped to realign the groupings in American politics to keep the Democratic Party in power. for Ihe WPA Roosevelt's advisers were perpetually at odds among them- selves. for a historian simply to paint a picture of blooming. to form cartels. Rexford G. THE NEW DEAL Civilian Conservation Corpsworkersin the field. like Supreme Court Jus- tice Louis Brandeis. in Roosevelt's view." The major cause of the Depression. Yet. the cure was redistribution of income. Apart from keeping their countrymen alive. more "bal- anced. Finally. To what extent did Roosevelt succeed in his principal aim. advocated centralized govern- ment planning. The Wilson Quarterly /Spring 1982 63 . as they were wont to say. ' Helen West Heller. FDR flirted with all of these ideas. Tugwell. Their second objective was to make the distribution of wealth and especially income more equal. buzzing confusion would be to obscure three broad aims that Roosevelt and his advisers did share. his Columbia University colleague. wanted to break up big corporations and restore a bygone economy of small businesses. in effect.

Soon. is assistant professor of historyat HarvardUniversity.BetweenLaborDay 1937and New Year'sDay 1938. unfortunatelyfor Roosevelt's reputation as an eco- elec- tion year.Then. It plungedbetween the 1932 election and the 1933 inauguration and recoveredbriefly.two millionpeoplewere abruptlythrown out of work. the Gross NationalProductdid not surpassits 1929 level until 1941. which took it upon itself in 1936 and 1937to shrinkthe volumeof credit outstandingin the banking system. he was grad- uatedfrom Yale University(1970) and receivedhis Ph.a rate neverequalledin peacetimebeforeor the Republicanscalled it..he had attackedHerbertHooverfor heading"the greatest spending administration in peace times in all our history".the Americaneconomygrew by an averageof about 15 percentannually(in currentprices). 1937-1939 (1973) and is currentlyworkingon a comparativestudy of the crisis of the modernstate during the 1930s.Theother mistakewas committedby the independent FederalReserveBoard.33. a formerWilson CenterFellow. however. The Wilson Quarterly/Spring 1982 64 . fromlate 1934to mid-1937.coin- cided to producecalamitouseffects. inter- ruptedonly by a mild setbackin 1937-38. While almost all the major industrial countries (except France)enjoyeda fairly steady recoveryafter fact.Born in Charlottesville.Nevercomfortablewith defi- cit spending. from Cambridge University(1974).THE NEW DEAL the restorationof prosperity?The conventionalwisdom has it that only mobilizationfor war at the end of the 1930spulled the Americaneconomyout of the Depression. the Americanecon- omy (measured by GNP) took a wild roller coaster ride.though arrivedat separately.It fell again in the autumnof a surgeof defensespendingrolledthe countrytowarda wartimeboom. Coincidence and Calamity "Roosevelt'sdepression"of 1937. The major economic stimulus seems to have been an extraordinaryannualincreaseof more than 13 percent BradfordA. was the result of two mistakes.FDRcut backWashington'soutlayson reliefand pub- lic worksin a great show of budget balancingin 1936.the countrywas wrackedby an industrialdeclineeven steeperthan that in the initial post-1929crash.And.But therewere some remarkableups and downsalong the way. And. The economybegan to recoveronce more a year later. The two decisions. Lee.He is the authorof Britain and the Sino-Japanese War.Va.he cannottake muchcredit for the boom of the mid-1950s.

Roosevelt'sdeficits were unprecedented in peacetime.and the NationalIndus- trial RecoveryAct. When John MaynardKeynes himself had tried to tutor FDR in his theories in 1934. Indeed.The NRA'sfamous blue eagle symbol was *The dollar was then a gold-backedcurrency.Roosevelt's budgetsthroughoutthe '30sprovidedlittle stimulusin any year except 1936.6 billion duringhis first full year in office.The FederalReserve Board passively allowed the increase in gold reserves to be translated into an expansion of credit in the economy.and then only because Congresspassed a $2 bil- lion bonuspaymentfor war veteransover his veto.765 codes were drawn up to regulateout- put. the Presidentwas unimpressed. Economists today measurethe effectof a fiscal policyby calculatingthe size of the hypotheticalsurplusthat it would produceif the economywere at its full-employment level. By this standard. he had vieweddeficitsas a necessaryevil.Her- bert Hoover'sfiscal policy in 1930and 1931had about the same effectas any two consecutiveNew Deal budgets. in some cases. the lower the stimulus.the AgriculturalAd- justmentAct. they would buy more goods.This was the rationalebehind the two main ele- mentsof the New Dealeconomicprogram. due not to any calculatedpolicy but to an influxof gold frompoliti- cally unstableEurope. He must be a mathematicianrather than a political economist." Underthe NRA. eating. The higher the hypothetical surplus. and increase wages in various industries. if there were in- creased demand and higher prices. reduce working hours. It was not until 1938 that Roosevelt finally accepted the principles of Keynesian fiscal policy. tolerableonly becauseWash- ington had to finance programsto keep people workingor.* Federalfiscal policy did little to spur the economicexpan- sion of the mid-1930s.Keynes. "The aim of this whole effort. fix prices.administeredby the AAA. THE NEW DEAL (on average)in the money supply between 1934 and 1936. Rooseveltput his faith instead in "struc- tural"measuresthat would directlyraise prices and wages." Only Four Stripteases From the start. "is to restore our rich domestic marketby raisingits vast consumingcapacity. run by the NRA.he remarked. businessmen would earn greaterprofits.reaching$3. If farmersgot more money for their crops and workersgot more for their labor. But raw deficit figures are not a good indicatorof how much the economy is being stimulated. Up until then." Roosevelt declared."left a whole rigamaroleof figures. The WilsonQuarterly /Spring1982 65 .

The NRA. or quantities of goods and servicesproduced(national income = prices x quantities). cottonfarmerscollected $100 million for taking 10 million acresout of production.But. There was a trend toward greater equalityof wealth as well: Theshareof the nationalwealth held by the richestone percentof adults fell from38 percentin 1929 to 22 percentin 1949. such as those encouragingcollective bargainingagree- ments. Soaking the Rich? Any economic stimulus will work itself out in a certain combinationof increasesin prices and increasesin output.The share of total national income receivedby families in the bottom two-fifths of the scale rose from out of six workers(about 17 percentof the labor force)remainedunemployed.New Deal policymakersinadvertentlyprolonged the agony of job- lessnessfor millions.By diverting so muchof the economy'supwardthrustinto higherprices.the shareof incomefor the top fifth fell 13 points to 41.and othergovernmentpro- grams. New York'sburlesquehouses even agreed in a code to allow no more than four stripteasesper show.In 1933alone.and businessmen.5 percentto 15. In 1936. workers.TheAAA was just as far-reaching. after two years of recovery.a perversedevelopmentat a time when millions of people were out of work and so many factorieswere operatingat reduced capacity.the effecton the economyas a whole was not so positive. The eagles disappearedabruptlyafter the SupremeCourtdeclared the act unconstitutionalin 1935 on the ground that Congress had delegatedtoo muchof its authorityto the agency. This brings us to the second question:How much did the distributionof incomeand wealthchangeduringthe New Deal? Between the onset of the Depressionin 1929 and the out- break of the Korean War in 1950.The two key questionsare:To what extent did these changestakeplace in 1933-38. especiallyin the case of the NRA. there was a shift toward greaterequalityof incomes in Americafor the first time in well over a century. Thus. ensuredthat the economicstimulus providedby an ex- panding money supply would express itself more in terms of higher prices and less in terms of increased output. Higher output would have produced more jobs.7percent.AAA.THE NEW DEAL seen everywhereas the most obscureindustrieswere urged to adopt special codes. the heydayof the New The Wilson Quarterly ISpring 1982 66 . wholesaleprices rose by 45 percentbetween 1933and 1937. TheAAAand NRAdid indeedimprovethe lot of manyfarm- ers.6 percent.

Federal HousingAdministration.FederalDepositInsuranceCorporation. CivilWorksAdministration(1933-34) Hiredjoblessworkers.fromdiggingditchesto painting muralsin governmentbuildings.Set up modelcampsformigrantlaborers. Farm CreditAdministration.Peakenrollment:four million.Spent some $6 billion.Federal Communica- tions Commission.Con- gress set up scores of new federalentities. to practicetheir crafts. Notable among them: Agricultural Adjustment Administration (1933-42) Raised farm pricesby subsidizingreducedcropproduction. CivilianConservationCorps(1933-42) Employeda total of three millionreliefrecipientsto reforestpubliclandandimprovenational parksunderArmysupervision. WorksProgressAdministration(1935-43) Spent $11 billion to em- ploy the joblesson small projects.Export- Import Bank. SurvivingNew Deal agenciesinclude:the CivilAeronauticsBoard (formerly Authority). National Recovery Administration (1933-35) Directed govern- ment-businesscooperationin cuttingproductionand raisingprices and wages. Rural Electrification Administration. Federal Emergency Relief Administration (1933-37) Financed state-runemploymentprojects.TennesseeValleyAuthority. Home OwnersLoanCorporation(1933-51) Refinancedmortgages for homeownersin distress.Social Secu- rity Administration(formerlyBoard).National Labor Relations Board.FederalSavingsand LoanInsuranceCor- poration.from carpentersto artists. THE NEW DEAL THE MAJORNEW DEALAGENCIES To cope with the Depressionand implementNew Deal programs. The Wilson Quarterly ISpring 1982 67 .Tookover morethanone millionloans by 1936.Spendingtotaled $1 billionby 1941. Farm Security Administration (1937-46) Granted low-interest loans for farm improvementsand for land purchasesby tenant farmers. Commodity Credit Corporation. Public WorksAdministration(1933-39) Providedjobs on major projects(highwaysand publicbuildings)for the unemployed. Securitiesand ExchangeCommission.Grantstotaled$3 billion.

000 pop.2 College degrees 55 57 63 61 63 72 81 238 (per 1..7I 10.31 10. old) | | | | | | [ | Source: AmericanTelephone & TelegraphCo.6 134.U.4 16. Departmentof Agriculture. 1980).2 70.4 19.000 persons 23 yrs.9 33.! I .6 36.1 34.2 21.9 118. U. Yet by some measures America's 130 million peoplewerebetteroff by 1940.) 22.S.6 65.8 60.S.5 19.Bureauof the Census. TheWilsonQuarterly/Spring1982 68 .0 6.9 40.2 19. u\^ with^lcpho.0 18. despitenaggingpovertyand unemployment.9 96.9 (p^Toropop.5 31.0.5 8.2 81.8 40.S.4!! service) Annual meat consumption (lbs.) Birth rate (per 1.) 8-6 8.000 pop.8 9.THE NEW DEAL FEDERAL SPENDING DURING THE DEPRESSION Federal deficits were relativelysmall during the 1930s and did little to stimulate the economy. Departmentof Commerce.U. SOCIAL INDICATORS i928 1930 1932 1934 1936 1938 1940 1980 1 98 I " I ™ I 10.3 (% oltuhouseholds te.5 79.Merchandising(Mar.1 120.8 6.S.3 11.0 9. Departmentof Education. per capita) 1243 '2' 7 124-2 '34.3 (% of householdf wUh) 27-S 45.3 19.U.2 687 64"6 57"6 60A 571 5L0 47° 12? (peM^iivc'birthlo 13-S 156 174 149 143 153 144 127 (per 1W Homicide rate (per 100. Departmentof Health and Human Services.3I .1 99.1 157.2.

(William Randolph Hearst.war was the greatequalizer. Otherfac- tors. and to what extent were shifts within that period due to New Deal policies? In the case of wealth. Since there are adequate income statistics for only one interveningpoint. THE NEW DEAL Deal.the answersare simple:TheNew Deal had no effect. Benefitsfor Big Business What.) Yet the share of wealth held by the richest one percent of the population actuallyrose from30 to 33 percentbetween 1933and 1939.Rooseveltpushed stiffer taxes on gifts and estates through Congress in 1935. but one point is quite clear:Abouttwo-thirdsof the shift toward more equality came in just three years. the newspaper mogul."SenatorHueyLong. the overalltax structure did not become much moreprogressiveduringthe 1930s.One can make an edu- cated guessthat the steep economicdeclinein 1929-32hit those at the upperand lower ends of the income laddermuch harder than those in the middle and that the net overall effect was a small increasein inequalityof earnings.If so. The answers are more complicatedin the case of income. But we cannot assume that New Deal policies were responsiblefor the shift.But it is easy to overstate what can be achieved by "soakingthe rich. then.also contributed. ordered his editors to call Roosevelt'spoliciesthe "RawDeal"fromthenon. can we say about the role of federal policy? Highertaxes after 1935did takea bite out of is difficultto pin downwhen much of this more modest change occurred.thoughhardly spectacular.000).But the sums expendedon public works and relief were never enough (even allowing for a generous"multiplier" The Wilson Quarterly ISpring 1982 69 . Therest of the shift tookplace sometimebetween 1929and 1941.Spurredon by the growingpopularityof the flam- boyantLouisiana"Kingfish.1935. As in other countriesduringthe 20th century.000in 1970 and distributedit to those below the povertyline. each familywouldhave receivedjust $350. we can infer that there must have been a significant.In fact.And Rooseveltnever contemplatedso confiscatorya tax (thoughhe once remarkedduring World War II that no one needed an after-taxincomeover $25. such as the recoveryitself and normalchangeswithin the economy." Wesleyan University economist Stanley Lebergotthas pointed out that if Washingtonhad taxed away all personal income over $20. 1941-44.and his Share the Wealth movement. Roosevelt was rather more adventurouswhen it came to spending. increase in income equality after that.

Drawing h\ (. The states in the richest region of the country. < /^«V /s>M Ihc \t-\\ Yurkci \1axu. the West. wages as low as $19 per month. for all their limitations. Indeed. perhaps e\}en a villa i)i Newport. Such programs did not. for in- The Wilson Quarterly/Spring 1982 70 . The Western states did well because their political loyalties were up for grabs. got 75 percent more federal relief and public works money per capita than those of the poorest region. Anyone with a modicum of cyni- cism will (rightly) sense politics at work: The "Solid South" fared badly because the Democrats were sure of its electoral support. have much effect on income distribution. Other policies.THE NEW DEAL "A)id if Roosevelt is not reelec ted. established in 1935 with a budget of $1 . provided work for only three mil- lion of the estimated 10 million unemployed .4 billion. the taxing and spending policies of the New Deal did at least slightly narrow the gap between those at the very top and those at the very bottom. my dearest sweet" was the caption of this 1936 car tooii. the South. This was by far the most ambitious New Deal relief effort. hit effect) to support more than a fraction of the vast numbers of jobless and destitute at anything but a minimum level. The AAA'scrop-restriction and subsidy program. Harry Hopkins's Works Progress Administration.i>ic. Still.alhtmlh. pushed the people in between further apart. it is not at all clear that the government's money went to those whose absolute need was greatest. however.

helped big farmers more than smaller ones. so far as both recoveryand redistributionare con- cerned. After the Supreme Courtput the NRA out of business in 1935." Contradictions Even among workers.they showed no great concernfor the interestsof the "little guy.costs could be cut in many ways when the pay- ments for curtailing acreage began.the mostdramaticdividingline was not between the skilled and the unskilled. meant fewer jobs would be createdfor the unemployed. but between those with jobs and those without them. On large farms.there was a tendency for the most vulnerableto be left behind. The sharecropperswere entitled to a correspondingportion of the AAApayments.fuel.and wantedto play on.Big business was generally able to control the formulationand administrationof the NRA codes that fixed prices and output. But smaller farmerswho relied on the laborof their familieshad few extraneouscosts to cut. But the pro- gram was implemented at the local level by farmer committees dominated by landlords. The WilsonQuarterlyISpring1982 71 . higher wages. and. especially in cotton-growingareas. Whenone looks over at the political side of the pic- ture. and fertilizer.* Large-scaleoperationsand influentialproducersin indus- try also enjoyed an advantage under the shortlived National RecoveryAdministration. with hired labor and large amounts of machinery.The NRApushedemployersto pay higher wages. The subsidieswere worthcomparativelyless to them. for instance)and al- lowed them to press wage demandsmore successfullythan be- fore. and unskilled workersgained even more than theirskilledcounterparts. All this.Thus. labor got a new boost from Washington. it appearsthat a distinct majorityof the Americanpeople at the time seemed quite satisfied with the New Deal. much clearerin hindsightthan it was back then. like higher prices. FDR's"structural"measuresoffset much of whatever uplift effect his fiscal policy may have had. where there were many sharecroppers who customarily received from the landlord only a share of the crop they grew on his land. the sharecroppersdid not get their due. again. THE NEW DEAL stance. Ordid they? Roosevelt'svictory in the 1932election with more than 57 *There was another problem in the South. There was some progressduringthe New Deal.but government'scontributionto it was scant. of course.The landmark National Labor RelationsAct of 1935 gave labor unions even morehelp in their effortsto organizeworkers(by guaranteeing secret ballots in representationelections. Theunavoidableconclusionabout New Deal economicpol- icy is that.

since the Civil War. the other was a surge of new participants into the electorate.) But large numbers of white The Wilson Quarterly /Spring 1982 72 .7 percent of the blacks polled supported Roosevelt. were the critical points in a massive electoral realignment. The realign- ment in the 1930s was the product of two phenomena. al- though the 1980 elections may have changed that. (A 1938 Fortune survey showed that 84. and his even more spectacular triumph four years later with more than 60 percent. the party of Lincoln. ECONOMY. He put together a political coalition that has dominated American politics ever since.S. who had been attached to the GOP. includingthe NEW DEALPERIOD percent of the vote.1925-45. One was a switch-over among some Republicans to Roosevelt.THE NEW DEAL THE U. Prominent among the converts were blacks.

Southerners no doubt continued to vote for The Wilson Quarterly/Spring 1982 73 . It is easier to identify who voted for Roosevelt than to be sure precisely why they did so.they nad a kind of Hoover hangover.) The new voters included most of the young and many women. (Later. The upshot was an incon- gruous coalition whose staunchest elements were "minorities" of all sorts and white Southerners with racist and nativist views. they tended to gravitate back toward the Republican fold. THE NEW DEAL middle-class progressives and farmers switched as well. and other recent immigrants in the big Northern cities. Italians. they came above all from enclaves of Poles. The farmers and middle-class "swing" voters were probably spurning the Republican Party for its mishandling of the Depression .

4percentof the popu- lar Congress. Yet the bond between New Dealprogramsand the general public was never as strong and far-reachingas many people have since assumed.56 percentwere againstrevivingthe NRA.")It would be more than a quarterof a centurybeforeanotherreform-mindedDemocratic President.LyndonB. One Congressmancomplained in mid-1937 that "unlessan applicantcan murderthe broad'a' and presenta Harvardsheepskinhe is definitelyout. Rooseveltwas much more popular than were his programs..59 percentopposedthe AAA."Theold Rooseveltmagichas lost its September1936. "As Maine goes. so goes Vermont. The messagewas clear. takenin September1935. .In 1937.mostly from the South. whom Roosevelt had fired from his job as head of the NRA. The first Galluppoll. It was during the 1930s that "scientific" public opinion surveysmade their debut. wrote.(Hisadvisersjoked. . Roosevelt'scongressionalcoalitioncrumbled. This happeneddespite the fact that Roosevelthimself had car- ried everystate but two in the 1936election.By the end of the 1930s.In 1938.even his per- sonal popularitywas in doubt. Sheepskins from Harvard Thelackof widespreadideologicalsupportfor the New Deal was soon reflected.7and 53.joined with the Republicansto oppose almost all furtherNew Deal legislation.a bitter HughJohnson.again.and a bloc of con- servative Democrats.could overcomethat stalemate on 1944(garnering54.Theywere also repelledby the growingpowerof the new bureaucraticbreed who were intellectualsfirst and party operatorssecond. Johnson. respectively)." In December1935.revealedthat 60 percentof a national cross-sectionthought governmentexpendituresfor relief and recoverywere "too great"while only nine percentdeemedthem "too little. His Falstaf- fian armycan no longerbe kept togetherand led by a melodious whinny and a winning smile." Another development that stymied FDR during the late 1930swas the growthin the powerof interestgroups. The basic animus of these conservativeDemocratswas di- rectedagainstthe rapidgrowthof the federalgovernmentunder Roosevelt." The Gallup polls suggest that only the war made it possible for FDR to run and win in 1940 and. The ethnic groups were mobilizing to preservethe relief and public-worksjobs that they gainedunderthe New Deal.THE NEW DEAL the DemocraticPartylargelybecauseit was part of their tradi- tion.indeed magnified.Since the /Spring1982 TheWilsonQuarterly 74 .

one reason why he put so few major New Deal measuresbefore Congress after 1935. The Wilson QuarterlyISpring 1982 75 . however. The Roosevelt administration worked with the AmericanFarm Bureau Federation. for instance. could benefit from crop subsidies whether he belonged to an organization that helped win them or not.and even moreunderthe NationalLaborRelationsAct.Business. By bringing such groups directly into the policymaking process.partly in hopes of defusingcriticism of the increas- ingly powerfulbureaucracyhe presidedover and partly to line up support for the New Deal.the New Deal lacks the epic quality that it has for many who lived throughit.led by the fieryJohn L.Big Business. Lewisof the new Con- gress of IndustrialOrganizations(CIO). THE NEW DEAL late the FarmBureaudid later on. soon turned against Roosevelt.that won the groups new members. To a historian born after Roosevelt's death and writing almosthalf a centuryafterhis first term in office.they had made theirvoices heardin Washing- ton on moreand moreissues.Futureoccupantsof the WhiteHousewould face the same arrayof powerfulinterestsin and out of Congress.he himselfendedup being immobilizedby it.Union membershipsoaredunder the NRA. and business groups by provid- ing an easy solution to what Universityof Marylandeconomist MancurOlson has described as the "free rider problem": No individual has a great incentive to join such a group if he can reap the benefits it wins without paying the costs of designingand runningthe AAA. had failed to get from the Republican administrationsof the 1920s what it most wanted.but seldom triumphedon mattersof principle.a drastic relaxationof the antitrustlaws.for instance.Theyhad won many"porkbarrel" concessions. Part of the labor movement.* But the strategybackfired. But my purposeis not to rewrite the New Deal as a tragedyof missedopportunities.TheNRAnot only allowed Big Business most of what it had wanted but also en- couragedthe growthof morepowerfultradeassociations.for in- stance.a sense of "collective efficacy".it is difficultfor any governmentto bringaboutsuddenbut endur- *The New Deal fostered the explosive growth of farm. labor. A New Power Structure Roosevelthimself promotedthe growth of interest groups after 1933.In countrieswith pluralisticpolitical sys- tems and marketeconomies.Thus.The result:The Farm Bureau'smembershipincreasedby 150 percent between 1933 and 1937.while the creationof a new powerstructurein Washingtonwas probably Roosevelt's most lasting achieve- ment.brokewith FDR in the late 1930s.disillusionedwith the NRA and outraged by New Deal fiscal policy. the Roosevelt administration helped promote the impression that they were at the center of the action and winning battles.and not just in thosecountries.A farmer.

The independent movements. it is much easier to see this in retrospect than from the eye of the storm. FDR could have achieved far more with more thought and less action. the same inattention to unintended consequences. the democratic state must reach deep into the pockets of taxpayers far down the middle tax brackets. could have his heirs of the Johnson years. and the same unrealistic inflation of hopes. It is simply to say that in complex. governments are most effective when they pursue sharply de- fined ends through consistent. it is likely to get its hand bitten. No President of the United States has been able to get his own way for long.and. no doubt.S. It may be possible to concentrate political power early in a President's term. So. a reaction is inevitable. but in a political system whose constitutional underpinnings encourage fragmentation. The U. carefully designed means. for its efforts. advanced societies such as the United States. government's share of GNP in the 1930s was still so small that even relatively large increases in spending would not have had decisive results. however. And those who would repudiate the spirit of the New Deal today are prone to the same incoherence of means. As any historian knows. more than a match for the flow of paper from the top. and mentalities of millions of people are. decisions. To revitalize an economy from above is no easy matter either. in other words. Even to begin to alter the existing distribution of income. The Wilson Quarterly ISpring 1982 76 . This is not to endorse the new conventional wisdom that governments can do nothing constructive.THE NEW DEAL ing transformations in the structure of society.