FDR as American Mugabe

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Bryan Caplan cites a 1997 piece by Robert Higgs that demonstrates just how uncertain our financial future was when FDR took over the economy with his New Deal:

In November 1941, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States into total war, the Fortune pollsters asked a sample of business executives a question that bears quite directly on the regime uncertainty at issue in this article. The question was “Which of the following comes closest to being your prediction of the kind of economic structure with which this country will emerge after the war?” The respondents were presented with four options, as follows (the percentage of respondents selecting that option as the closest to their own prediction is shown in brackets):

(1) A system of free enterprise restored very much along the prewar lines, with modifications to take care of conditions then current. [7.2 percent]

(2) An economic system in which government will take over many public services formerly under private management but still leave many opportunities for private enterprise. [52.4 percent]

(3) A semi-socialized society in which there will be very little room for the profit system to operate. [36.7 percent]

(4) A complete economic dictatorship along fascist or communist lines. [3.7 percent] (Cantril 1951, 175)

…If these poll data are even approximately indicative of the true expectations of American investors, then it is astonishing that the recovery of investment had proceeded as far as it had.

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