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I'm for Roosevelt

Your Humble Blogger happened across a copy of I’m for Roosevelt, a campaign book by Joseph P. Kennedy from 1936. The Kennedy patriarch was the head of President Roosevelt’s Security and Exchange Commission, I believe, and was writing specifically about why he felt that Big Business should support the incumbent. He acknowledges that His Only President was decried everywhere as a socialist, except, he says, by the actual socialists of his acquaintance, who were outraged that the blue-blood of Hyde Park was actually rescuing capitalism from its so eagerly anticipated ashes.

I leave it to your imagination, Gentle Reader, to count up the Reds of Mr. Kennedy’s acquaintance. This was not a man noted for hobnobbing with artists and poets, you know.

At any rate, Mr. Kennedy posits that the choice in 1936 is between Roosevelt and Ruin. The mob is on the prowl; the wolf is at the door; the peasants have pitchforks. The nation cannot withstand another depression. It will take regulation, central planning and the New Deal to prevent mass unemployment—and mass unemployment is the greatest conceivable danger not only to Free Enterprise but to Democracy.

Again: Mass unemployment is the greatest conceivable danger to democracy.

It turns out, not quite four score years later, that the peasants have paper pitchforks. We did re-elect the President in 1936, and we did hold off the next depression (tho’ it was close). We instituted a safety net: unemployment insurance, social security, workmen’s compensation, Medicare and Medicaid. We insured the money in the banks, and of course we electrified the countryside, so that the poor would have electricity and eventually be on the information grid. And now, when we talk about mass unemployment, it’s as a problem among other problems, not as a sleeping giant of immense and indiscriminate destructive power.

So, Gentle Readers. Two questions come to mind immediately: first, is it still true (even if we don’t believe it or act like we believe it) that mass unemployment is the greatest conceivable danger to democracy? And second, if in fact it is no longer true that mass unemployment poses a serious not to say existential threat to democracy, is that a Good Thing?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,