The Case Against the New Deal


Writing in National Review, the Pacific Legal Foundation's Timothy Sandefur has a superb article explaining why the Supreme Court's "Four Horsemen of Reaction"—conservative Justices George Sutherland, Willis Van Devanter, Pierce Butler, and James McReynolds—were right to strike down portions of FDR's New Deal:

The Four Horsemen drew from a long line of precedent—some quite fresh—that correctly restrained government power and protected economic freedom in ways incompatible with Roosevelt's plans. Moreover, their forebodings proved justified: The theories the Court embraced in 1937 sapped state autonomy, fostered a federal bureaucracy totally alien to the Founders' vision, and abandoned individual liberty to the arbitrary will of legislatures. Today, government limits economic freedom in countless anti-competitive ways—requiring even florists and interior decorators to undergo years of expensive education and confiscating property virtually without restraint.

And for a closer look at one of the New Deal's many victims, in today's Washington Post George Will narrates the tale of Jacob Maged, who was jailed for violating FDR's National Industrial Recovery Act:

With his responsibilities as a father of four, Maged should have shunned a life of crime. Instead, he advertised his criminal activity with a placard in his shop window, promising to press men's suits for 35 cents. This he did, even though President Franklin Roosevelt's New Dealers, who knew an amazing number of things—his economic aides were not called a "Brains Trust" for nothing—knew that the proper price for pressing a man's suit was 40 cents.

For more New Deal villainy, see here and here.

NEXT: Rep. John Murtha Might Be Dead, But His Repulsive Earmark Legacy Lives On (So Does Ted Kennedy's)

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  1. The New Deal’s threat to true liberalism extends beyond economics:

    A commitment to greater statism begets more such commitments, and if what we may call the Ronald Dworkin generation pooh-poohed the “silly proposition that true liberals must respect economic as well as intellectual liberty,” the Cass Sunstein generation repudiates as even sillier the proposition that liberals cannot impose on the free market of ideas the same doctrines and controls they impose on the free market in widgets. (The esteemed professor has insisted that speech, like commerce, must have its own “New Deal.” With Sunstein as thought control’s FDR, who will be its LBJ?)

    What’s Sunstein doing these days?

  2. Jacob Maged, who was jailed for violating FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act

    Maged was a partisan obstructionist, a Tailor of No.

    1. I bet he discriminated against black people too. Racist!

  3. Looking back on the 20th century, have any of the large government projects achieved their goal? The New Deal lengthened the Great Depression, the War on Poverty has created a permanent underclass, the War on Drugs has resulted in a permanent criminal class with no effects on drug use. It’s fucking sickening.

    And a large number of people continue to support government programs without a second thought…

    1. Because it’s For The Children?, dickwad.


    2. The problem isn’t government, it’s dumbasses.

      1. That said, WWII was intended to kill a shitload of people, and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. And the Holocaust went about as well as any government program could be expected to do, in terms of meeting its stated goals. So, when it comes to murder on the scale of “fuckton” or “assload”, you have to admit that government can be pretty effective.

    3. It’s drilled into people’s heads form an early age that statists were the greatest leaders of this country. Ask any public school teacher who the greatest president was. She’ll tell you one of two people.

      Guess who they are.

  4. Of course the New Deal violated the right to contract, which is found plainly in the Constitution…in invisible ink…

    1. My copy of the Constitution has a Contract Clause. Doesn’t yours?

      Technically, of course, the Contract Clause restricts state action, not federal action.

      Leaving aside the well-rehearsed arguments over the Commerce Clause, though, is there any principled reason for arguing that the right of free association guaranteed in the First Amendment applies only to non-economic associations?

      1. “Technically, of course, the Contract Clause restricts state action, not federal action.”

        Not-so-minor technicality, huh?

        ” is there any principled reason for arguing that the right of free association guaranteed in the First Amendment applies only to non-economic associations?”

        Er, because no one at the time it was ratified thought it did?

    2. The Constitution doesn’t give you rights. It sets up boundaries for the Federal Government, and the Feds were not allowed to act outside of those boundaries. Obviously, things have changed and it is, as Spooner said, a Constitution of no authority.

      Your argument makes no sense from either a historical Originalist perspective or a living document perspective.

    3. The New Deal violated the 9th and 10th Amendments, which specified that the federal government has very limited, enumerated powers. Telling tailors what price they may charge for pressing suits not being one of said powers.

      1. The Four Horsemen used a mythical “right to contract” to strike down most of this, not the 9th Amendment. Hence the joke.

    4. Just like the right of privacy and substantive due process rights are explicitly granted? Or…

  5. Only 8 comments? You know what this story needs? A dead dog.

    1. Or someone like MNG commenting on how the awful court case in George Will’s column is somehow defensible.

      1. Sometimes you have to crush lemons to make lemonade!

  6. Today, government limits economic freedom in countless anti-competitive ways?requiring even florists and interior decorators to undergo years of expensive education and confiscating property virtually without restraint.

    Nitpick: a tremendous amount of that stuff (e.g. florist and interior decorator licensing) happens at the state and local level, not the federal level (so Supreme Court commerce clause decisions are irrelevant to it), and quite a bit of it was going on long before the New Deal. (The history of state occupational licensing schemes, for example, go back well into the 19th Century.)

  7. Roosevelt was a hero, and the New Deal kicked off the greatest period of prosperity the world has ever seen.

    1. Remember that Urkobold comic where I murdered you, Edward? That was nice.

    2. Wow Max. Other than the fact that you’re totally wrong, you’re absolutely right!

    3. Yawn. Come back when you can troll effectively.

  8. We need more of these New Deal Absurdities posts.

    Can we get more especially focusing on Wickard vs. Filburn?

    But don’t limit it to that. Nothing would delight me more than a continuous stream of posts about ridiculous new deal regulations that forbid people from selling products for too little, or from eating their own food, or growing their own crops.

  9. This is one of the reasons why I now find evolutionary biology so much more interesting than economics. There is the same (probably much greater, actually) spontaneous order, through which the biosphere naturally “progresses.” I put that in quotes because evolutionary biologists have respect for the fact that evolution is a process without a defined goal, and one that can carry itself on far better than any person (aka product of it) can. Economists, on the other hand, seem to think they know best. It is truly sickening.

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