Reply To: If they only increased wages…


You’re welcome and I hope they help. Two further avenues of approach:

First, since he sees FDR as the savior, mine this site’s lectures on both Hoover and the New Deal. Then check out for stuff on both Hoover & the New Deal. Check out the Mises Media Youtube channel for videos on both, also (there are several of them, since this is a perennial topic, and the “go-to” historical episode for American progressives of all varieties). There’s also Bob Murphy’s book, you can give it to him for Christmas. You can also give him Rothbard’s “America’s Great Depression” for free as a download.

When discussing this with him, start out by focusing on what Hoover actually did (you can get to the Federal Reserve later). Don’t go straight at talking about FDR. There are two reasons for this.

1) They often believe Hoover caused or at least exacerbated the Great Depression. This is true, but not in the way they think he did. Talk about his actual policies. IMO this is a great chart, of unemployment and events. Note that after the ’29 stock market crash, unemployment got almost to 10%. . .but then it started drifting lower, till it was back down to ~6%. Then Hoover’s interventionist policies started kicking in, and it soared.

2) Focusing on Hoover initially will help delay ideological defensiveness (if you focus primarily on FDR, even if he doesn’t say this he’ll probably be thinking “he’s just an FDR hater because he’s a right-winger”). Discuss Hoover’s policies as what they were: antecedents of the New Deal, FDR as a continuer and extender of those policies, rather than representing a break with them. (For bonus credit you can tie this into our contemporary experience, where Obama constantly says he wants “a sharp break with the failed policies of the past” but then, when questioned on any policy, always points out – accurately – that he’s not doing anything different from what his predecessor did, he’s just following through on the policies and enlarging their scope. I.E. Bush had his stimulus, and Obama turned his to 11. Bush had his bailouts, and Obama turned his to 11. Bush had his prescription drug benefit, and Obama turned Obamacare to 11. But keep the focus on the 20s/30s, just illustrating contemporary examples).

Now so far we’ve been focusing on the “these policies won’t have the intended effect” argument, which is a worthy one. But there’s also the argument “who decides what constitutes a ‘living wage,’ who decides how best to get it, and who decides who really needs one? For example, teenagers starting their first part-time job probably aren’t looking for a job that will feed a family of four, they need a job that will help them get some spending cash and acquire the job skills that will be useful to them in the future when, as adults, they want a job that will feed a family of four.”

To that end, I recommend Thomas Sowell’s books, especially “Basic Economics,” and also some of Tom Woods’ books. “The Church and the Market” covers this “living wage” argument in one of the early chapters, but I think he also brings it up in some of his more recent books. One of his favorite points is that “you don’t improve the lot of the poor by taking away the option they actually choose.”

So what does this guy want? Does he want a Federally mandated “living wage?” What will that level be? Will it vary by region, because cost of living varies by region? So will there be a whole schedule of wage minimums – perhaps one for each County in the U.S. – detailing this? Now, how will that improve the lot of, say, the poor immigrant. Noting that this is one instance where the experience of immigrants serve as a perfect example: over decades, generations, a century or more – going back to before there was any Federal minimum wage laws at all, much less “living wage” laws, and indeed from the present to the past where Federal Courts were striking down state minimum wage laws, immigrants have come into this country and started out by taking jobs at wages Americans consider low-paying. And not only did they live on those wages, but they often managed to send money home to their relatives on those wages. Not only did they manage to both live on those wages and send money home to their relatives on those wages, but they managed to save additional money, and eventually open their own business. Or they managed to live on those wages, send money home to relatives on those wages, but also get education or training despite working long hours so that they could get better jobs. (Thomas Sowell covers this quite well in a number of his books. I think – I’m pretty sure – he discusses it in “Basic Economics,” and I also think it’s in “Intellectuals and Society” – one of Sowell’s main points, repeated with example after example, is that “caring” progressives often favor policies that make them feel they are helping the poor/least well-off, but the main effects of those policies is to make the progressives feel good about themselves at the actual expense of the ostensible “beneficiaries,” who are not helped at all by the policies, and in many cases are actually hamstrung by them.

Note the word “hamstrung” – I use it because it illustrates the type of harm done: the policies hamper them from moving up on their own, long-term. Thus they remain in the condition of “needing” “help” – and progressives are happy to offer another policy in response to the ill-effects of the first one, then several other policies to counter the ill-effects of the second (none of which are directly connected, by progressives, to being the effects of their own policies), and so on.

Or, to quote apt turn of phrase by MoldbugThe general MO of the Progressive movement in attaining power was to cause problems, then appoint themselves to fix them. There is no better example than the Great Depression, which a few economists are starting to admit was the result of the bubble created by Progressive cheap-money policies under the early Federal Reserve.”

(Btw, that Moldbug post, while long, is a fun read – it rips Yglesias, and by extension, progressives as a whole, and their central fiction of being brave underdogs fighting against “The Man” and “Questioning Authoritah,” and it does it with both substance and style).