History

Schnozzola Does His Part

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Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to gag?

Friday fun link: From 1933, a Bizarro-Keynesian promo film for the National Recovery Administration starring that master of propaganda, Jimmy Durante (and, if the comment thread on the site can be believed, Moe Howard of the 3 Stooges).

Elsewhere in Reason: In our March 2001 issue, I noted the NRA's role in the birth of the Motion Picture Code. In October 2004, Damon Root explained why the black press nicknamed the NRA the "Negro Removal Act."

[Via Lew Rockwell.]

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  1. keynesian econ
    not that valid any more
    tell that to our prez

  2. My favorite haiku of all time was written by Keith Wittenstein, a classmate of mine in high school:

    Five four three two one
    Counting back from seventeen
    That makes poetry?

  3. Road To Serfdom indeed.

  4. I hate to Godwinize this right off, but this isn’t in its own way too terribly different from Nazi propaganda films made at about the same time. Similar tactics in other words.

  5. Wow… Fascism is scary…

  6. Similar tactics? If he were singing/yelling in German, it would be indistinguishable!

  7. Wait! Hold it! You must be kidding me!

    FDR was not a freedom loving compassionate person who equalized all of the races?

    I am never believing that Hardball Peace Corps guy again!

  8. If you actually watch the clip, we see Durante urging employers to hire a worker, whether they need one or not. Ronald Reagan, believe it or not, made exactly this same pitch (knowing that no one would act on it), in the early years of his administration, when unemployment passed 10 percent. This ain’t Keynes, who urged massive government spending to create demand. This, in fact, was the solution to the Depression. The only problem was, Roosevelt lacked the nerve to spend massively until World War II.

    The NRA was a terrible idea, a complete flop, and the Supreme Court did FDR an enormous favor by tossing it out. The U.S. war on economic depression, like the war on terror, started out badly. Let’s hope we get lucky again.

  9. Of course, last time we got lucky by having a world war that devastated practically every industrialized nation and left us the “last economy standing”…

  10. Ah, PROMO film! For a second, I thought, “P0rn0 film? NRA = Nut Rangers of America??”

  11. Holy shit, that was creepy.

    What’s amazing to me is how common the opinion was in the ’30s that fascism was the future. And so it turned out to be, I guess.

  12. Alan: It’s Bizarro-Keynes.

    That out of the way: How do you define “massively”? FDR increased federal spending quite a bit in the ’30s, though yes, the ’40s increases were larger. As for whether they brought us out of the Depression, Robert Higgs has some interesting things to say.

  13. I enjoyed the plug for seeing medical specialists. Who knew that physicians were especially hard hit by the Great Depression? Oh, and the way Durante first refuses the banker’s offered cigar, then lectures him about hiring servants and then steals all his cigars anyway was lovely. Very New Deal.

  14. God damn… Maybe I need to reevaluate my opinion that the U.S. is becoming more and more facist. We still haven’t hit Roosevelt level of facism yet.

  15. Spending in 1932 was $4.6 billion, rising to $6.5 billion in 1934 and hitting a New Deal high of $8.2 billion in 1936, falling to $6.8 billion in 1938, which may be one reason why the Republicans did so well. Spending in 1941 was $13.7 billion, a “defense” rather than “war” budget. In 1942 it was over $36 billion, a rather large increase, and in 1945 it was close to $93 billion, more than ten times the 1936 figure.

    I suggest that if Roosevelt had instituted a truly massive public works program in 1934, with a budget of, say, $14 billion, essentially rebuilding the nation’s railways and creating an interstate highway system (and paving state and local roads, which were largely dirt and gravel at the time), he might have gotten somewhere. As for Higgs, sorry, I don’t find him interesting. Milton Friedman had 50 years to “prove” that government spending in WWII didn’t create prosperity, and he didn’t do it. You libertarian guys don’t got all the answers all the time.

  16. “Give a man a job” is fascism?
    Was this a government requirement of independent business owners?
    He isnt suggesting that the wealthy invest in labor to build a more robust economy?

    He isnt saying “Give the brother a check”

    maybe Im stupid, I just dont see it.

  17. We have a war now, hope you feel prosperous, only 3200 dead. Makes me feel darn right rich. On to Iran and rack up some real casualties, I need a raise.

  18. Alan,

    One big question whenever government spending is cited as a boost to any economy–present or historical–is whether that method is the most efficient method, given the alternatives. If the private sector and your average citizen had more money to spend, wouldn’t that sort of spending be a more effective way of stimulating growth? Obviously, there are massive inefficiencies and associated costs in the collection of tax revenues, not to mention the wasteful spending that comes when spending decisions are primarily politically, not economically, motivated, so whatever idiocy individuals and businesses are capable of would seem to pale in comparison.

  19. That’s possibly the last time “bear with the president” was uttered un-ironically.

  20. I remember WW2 quite well, thank you. No bubble gum for kids, 5 gallons of gas a week, black market butter and sugar,no cigarettes, ration books for even the most base items. Neighbor pitted against neighbor, looking for any violations of the wonderful economic system. Yeah, let the good times roll.!!

  21. I remember WW2 quite well, thank you. No bubble gum for kids, 5 gallons of gas a week, black market butter and sugar,no cigarettes, ration books for even the most base items. Neighbor pitted against neighbor, looking for any violations of the wonderful economic system. Yeah, let the good times roll.!!

    That is what Rangel and his buddies were advocating for this war, along with slavery.

    Still trying to figure out what is so “progressive” about that. Perhaps they spell worse than I?

  22. Milton Friedman had 50 years to “prove” that government spending in WWII didn’t create prosperity, and he didn’t do it. You libertarian guys don’t got all the answers all the time.

    WWII did not create prosperity for the American on the street. WWII created “prosperity” for the military effort to win the war. The American at home went through privation and fewer goods and services.

    The key factor to recognize in the “WWII got the US out of the Depression” argument is that the vast majority of the US willingly accepted privation in order to produce goods and services for winning the war. Yes, the economy was very good at this single effort. Yes, production and employment numbers fabulously improved during the war. And, while people were not getting from the economy things they personally wanted, they were getting what they wanted more: the materiel required to win a world war.

    In that sense, the economy looked much like Germany’s “recovery” economy of the 1930’s, or the Soviet economy pre-Peristroika. When someone in the capital city decides such and such needs to be produced, and the people — willingly or not — produce it, the economy looks, in macroeconomic terms, good.

    But this doesn’t measure the goodness of an economy by the metric that really matters: How are limited resources allocated to satisfy the needs and wants of the people in the economy.

  23. “Give a man a job” is fascism?

    No, it’s Communism. I am reminded of a recent trip to China, where every restaurant, bar, and shop I entered had platoons of workers running around looking busy but not actually doing anything. My hotel bar had three bartenders behind the counter – I was the only customer during the 1/2 hour or so it took me to plow through a couple gin & tonics.

  24. “Give a man a job” is fascism?

    “‘Give a man a job’ because your president asked you to and got me a famous entertainer to cajole you to and we have this cool eagle that looks kind of like the fascist emblems of Germany and Italy and when the cool eagle is raised we have a worshipful picture at the front of the hall of your new president under flag bunting” is fascism.

  25. “Give a man a job” is fascism?

    If you are pointing a gun at the shopkeeper, yes. If not, no.

    And I would add that it would be National Socialism, not limited to one party’s symbol.

  26. If you want to see an unintentionally hilarious video, check this out:

    truths.treehugger.com/video/convenient_truths_climate_and.php

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find it incredibly funny.

    Yo!

  27. Well, it could have been far worse. When they were dreaming up the two major securities acts of the 1930s there were proposals to nationalize investments in the stock market, etc.

  28. I suggest that if Roosevelt had instituted a truly massive public works program in 1934, with a budget of, say, $14 billion, essentially rebuilding the nation’s railways and creating an interstate highway system (and paving state and local roads, which were largely dirt and gravel at the time), he might have gotten somewhere.

    To expand further on my prior comment, I notice that you don’t suggest that Roosevelt should have spent $14 billion in order to have the vast unemployed masses dig holes and refill them.

    Why did you choose things that are actually useful? And, more to the point, are you sure there really were 14 billion dollars of useful work that could have been done? I mean, the CCC painted murals all over the place! That ain’t highways or infrastructure that furthers productivity or trade.

    WWII worked as an impetus to get the economy to full employment because the results of the government spending were useful as measured by the wishes of the population. No matter how much money a government spends to try to get its economy out of depression, if the result is not useful, it is simply destroying the people’s wealth.

    In other words, the war transferred wealth from the home to the war effort. Arbitrary public works efforts more often than not move wealth from the home to the trash bin.

  29. oh, moe, oh, moe, what have you done?

  30. Isn’t tax and spend keynsian? ie wealth redistribution…

    While cut tax and spend is sort of weird bastard child….taxes came down we came out of a depression….arguably if we stopped spending along with that tax cut the result would have been the same…and perhaps a little better.

    And yes taking money from rich people then giving it right back to them in the form of war effort contracts is a tax cut…rather then taking their money and spending it on digging holes and filling holes which is what the new deal was.

  31. here are the three scenarios..

    1. Pre-war depression…the more i invest in capital facilities the more i will be taxed…strong incentive not to invest strong incentive not hire.

    2. War time…the more i invest in capital facilities the more money the government will give me…it was my money to begin with but what the hell at least i can build my factory…a better incentive to invest and hire then pre-war depression.

    3. now….after Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush tax cuts…the more i invest the more money I make with a little tax hit but bearable and capped at 15% …very strong incentive to invest and create jobs and with tax revenues above those before the tax cuts!!!!!

  32. At the start of the great depression the money supply fell, then it collapsed. As such, there was simply not enough cash in the economy to support the old wages and prices, so deflation was needed and was occuring. Regretfully, as milton pointed out, FDR instituted wage and price controls in various forms, such as through the NRA, which slowed down the adjustment. Tax and spend does nothing to resolve this imbalance: every dollar spent was a dollar taxed so no new cash is created in the exchange.

    Only two solutions exists: either the FDR needs to set interest rates at zero% and try to flood the capital markets with easy money and thus indirectly flood the goods/labor markets, fixing the imbalance. The second solution would be to just print money and drop it out of a helicopter, thus flooding the goods/labor markets directly, fixing the imbalance.

  33. I’d really rather not be subjected to shit like that…

  34. Jimmy Durante
    Proves scanty.
    If not probiscularly,
    Fiscularly.

  35. Some fascist rally
    Jimmy’s Roman salute makes
    Stooges of us all

  36. And they swiped the National Rifle Association’s initials.

  37. I thought it was hilarious. “I drive my own car. Get a chaffeur!” And his recommendation that the sick woman get a doctor for every disease that she might be facing was priceless.

  38. IMDB confirms Moe Howard’s appearance.

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