Thursday, March 12, 2009


I've been falling behind in today's movement conservative craziness. We all know how Megan and everyone else on the right have been claiming the New Deal failed, of course. What I hadn't been directly clued into was where they're getting it from. Now I know who Amity Shlaes is. For those who didn't see it at Digby's or know already, here's Jon Chait on Amity Shlaes and The Forgotten Man.
Shlaes is Megan's long lost sister. An English major in college, Shlaes... I'll let Chait say it;

Now here is the extremely strange thing about The Forgotten Man: it does not really argue that the New Deal failed. In fact, Shlaes does not make any actual argument at all, though she does venture some bold claims, which she both fails to substantiate and contradicts elsewhere. Reviewing her book in The New York Times, David Leonhardt noted that Shlaes makes her arguments "mostly by implication." This is putting it kindly. Shlaes introduces the book by asserting her thesis, but she barely even tries to demonstrate it. Instead she chooses to fill nearly four hundred pages with stories that mostly go nowhere. The experience of reading The Forgotten Man is more like talking to an old person who lived through the Depression than it is like reading an actual history of the Depression.
Many of Shlaes's stories do have an ideological point, but the point is usually made in a novelistic way rather than a scholarly one. She tends to depict the New Dealers as vain, confused, or otherwise unsympathetic. She depicts business owners as heroic and noble.
Good beach reading for Megan, sounds like. But I'm fairly confident she's already read it. Why?
... as the historian Eric Rauchway has pointed out, her unemployment figures exclude those employed by the Works Progress Administration and other workrelief agencies. Shlaes has explained in an op-ed piece that she did this because "to count a short-term, make-work project as a real job was to mask the anxiety of one who really didn't have regular work with long-term prospects." So, if you worked twelve hours per day in a coal mine hoping not to contract black lung or suffer an injury that would render you useless, you were employed. But if you constructed the Lincoln Tunnel, you had an anxiety-inducing make-work job.
I had to leave Chait's snark in. Read the whole thing, you'll learn something. Also, as Digby said, check out the comments. Lew Rockwell comes up at least once, that I noticed. Good fun for all.


Roy is a braver man than I, but he draws some minor compensation for it, and he finds Megan confirming her new found fealty to the Shlaes cult.

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