Friday, June 29, 2007

Confused intellectual

I have not read Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression but Bob Higgs had convinced me a long time ago that the New Deal and FDR did much more harm than good.

I also have profound admiration for John Updike. I think that I have read most of his novels and short stories and many have been enjoyable to the point of thrilling. Aside from his skills as a writer, Updike has shown remarkable range and has usually done his research. When he writes about golf, he knows golf; when he writes about Hollywood, he knows Hollywood; when he writes about scientific matters, he generally knows a good bit about the topics at hand.

Updike's review of the Schlaes book in the current New Yorker is sufficiently erudite and perceptive. But the man can not get beyond class warfare.

Policies cannot be pro growth or pro economy or pro prosperity; they are just "pro business". And that's just about profit and at the expense people, etc., etc.

Very smart people can be that thick. Consider how the review ends:

My father had been reared a Republican, but he switched
parties to vote for Roosevelt and never switched back. His memory of being
abandoned by society and big business never left him and, for all his paternal
kindness and humorousness, communicated itself to me, along with his preference
for the political party that offered “the forgotten man” the better break.
Roosevelt made such people feel less alone. The impression of recovery—the
impression that a President was bending the old rules and, drawing upon his own
courage and flamboyance in adversity and illness, stirring things up on behalf
of the down-and-out—mattered more than any miscalculations in the moot
mathematics of economics. Business, of which Shlaes is so solicitous, is
basically merciless, geared to maximize profit. Government is ultimately a human
transaction, and Roosevelt put a cheerful, defiant, caring face on government at
a time when faith in democracy was ebbing throughout the Western world. For this
inspirational feat he is the twentieth century’s greatest President, to rank
with Lincoln and Washington as symbolic figures for a nation to live