Communism and Capitalism
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected as the president during the time when the United States of America was undergoing a myriad of economic challenges. In fact, President Roosevelt took office when the country faced a serious economic depression. Businesses shut down; the stock market crashed, and the unemployment rate was at its highest level (Smith 45). President Roosevelt commonly referred to as FDR was quite iconic in the history of the United States having led the country at a time when it faced economic depression and the Second World War. Roosevelt came up with the New Deal policy, a guide that he wanted to use in liberating the American people.
Many people loved Roosevelt, but there also were those who detested him and his administration. The main question is whether the New Deal policies by President Roosevelt meant to help the American people recover economically, or it was just a political gimmick that he wanted to use in advancing his political career by instilling hope and faith to the millions of people who were hopeless. Also, the question appears whether Roosevelt advanced the idea of democratic capitalism or he was advocating for socialism and communism indirectly. This paper aims to analyze Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and the ideas that were clearly brought out in the acceptance speech of 1936 in order to come to the conclusion that President Roosevelt succeeded in achieving economic recovery of the United States of America with the help of the New Deal policies.
In his acceptance speech of 1936, Roosevelt attacked a group of people whom he termed as the economic royalists. Then, he went ahead and compared those people with 1776 royalists. In his comparison, Roosevelt said “we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy – from the eighteenth century royalists who held special privileges from the crown” (Roosevelt). Therefore, Roosevelt made a clear reference to the desire of American people to get rid of tyranny and become free.
There is more than a century between 1936 and 1776. Roosevelts used this comparison to advance his agendas of the New Deal. He knew that this comparison would resonate well with the vast majority. However, 1776 and 1936 could not be compared since the situations were different. In 1776, the royalists were a result of colonialism where the masters accumulated wealth and oppressed their subordinates. In 1936, the situation was different as the economic royalists resulted from industrialization. Advancement in technology improved agriculture and infrastructure.
Using the term royalist, Roosevelt referred it to the few wealthy individuals who wanted to take control over everything and everyone to continue safeguarding what they had while suppressing the ordinary American citizens (Webb 313). The deeper analysis allows concluding that the people Roosevelt claimed about were not real royalists. The economic royalist took advantage of the new inventions in machinery, roads, rails and electricity. They set up businesses which perfectly operated thereby creating wealth for them. American dream was focused on free enterprise where people were allowed to do business freely and make profits without the intervention of anybody. Instead of praising royalists for their industrious achievements, Roosevelt called them the enemies of people.
The economic royalists argued that political freedom was the business of the government while economic freedom was nobody’s business. Roosevelt sharply disagreed with them saying that freedom was a no half-half affair (Smith 45). Equality had to be both in political space and the marketplace. This was not in line with the spirit of free enterprise where government should not interfere with human businesses as long as these businesses met their legal requirements of paying taxes among others.
According to Roosevelt, necessitous man was not a free man (Smith 45). It was a socialism statement where Roosevelt referred to the labor practices. Necessity is the mother of inventions and hard work always pays. Roosevelt wanted to support this idea by the introduction of the contradictory reform on national industrial recovery act. This reform advocated for the establishment of the minimum wage, minimum prices, and reviewed labor regulations (Rauchway 121). On one hand, these reforms aimed at increasing the minimum wage to help a laborer have greater purchasing power. However, on the other hand, it failed to realize that as the labor cost west up the cost of production was also affected, thus the prices of commodities also went up.
The reforms also led to the existence of legally sanctioned cartels who established standard wages and working hours. The minimum prices aimed at cushioning businesses from underselling (Rauchway 122). This policy failed terribly as it made things worse as the high wages increased the unemployment rate. This policy was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court arguing that the government had no power of regulating commerce.
The New Deal ideas and policies remains a contentious topic among critics and historians. Some critics argue that the New Deal policies were unrealistic while others agree that it helped the USA but only to a small extent. The reason why there are so many critics is because the New Deal encompassed many different programs which were all meant to address the same root problem and they were massive failures in the implementation of this policy. The New Deal, however, succeeded in providing immediate relief, but it failed to produce long-lasting effects. It is, therefore, true to say that Roosevelt made some significant minimal achievements, some of which are still in practice today, such as the issue of the minimum wage and the policies he instituted in the banking sectors. In equal measure, Roosevelt failed in tapping the talent of the industrialists who were entrepreneurs. If he had viewed these people differently at that time, he would have made tremendous achievements. It is, therefore, evident that Roosevelt tried to push the agenda of the communism, which failed miserably.
Rauchway, Eric. The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. “82 – Acceptance Speech for the Renomination for the Presidency, Philadelphia, Pa.” The American Presidency Project, 27 Jun. 1936, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15314. Accessed 19 April 2017.
Smith, Jason Scott. A Concise History of the New Deal. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Webb, Derek A. “The Natural Rights Liberalism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Economic Rights and the American Constitutional Tradition American Journal of Legal History, vol. 55, 2015, p. 313.