The FDR lesson Obama should follow
Roosevelt reluctantly unleashed industry to win World War II, thereby laying the groundwork for America's economic recovery.

Samantha Appleton/White House

President Barack Obama closes his eyes before he tapes his weekly Radio Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on June 2, 2009.

  • Title:

    Freedom's Forge
  • Hardcover Price:

    28.00
  • Hardcover ISBN:

    9781400069644
  • Buy the Book

Article Highlights

  • If Obama still wants to turn our economy around, it's time for him to act more like FDR — but not in the way he might think

    Tweet This

  • It takes a special kind of courage for a president to abandon a failed economic policy and embrace then its opposite

    Tweet This

  • It was FDR who had the courage to make a call that sharply changed the direction of his administration — and the country

    Tweet This

If President Obama still wants to turn our economy around, it's time for him to act more like Franklin Roosevelt — but not in the way he might think. It takes a special kind of courage for a president to abandon a failed approach to economic policy and then embrace its opposite. Yet, faced in May 1940 with America's greatest foreign policy crisis since the nation's founding, that's exactly what Franklin D. Roosevelt did. FDR-architect of the New Deal and outspoken opponent of Big Business-was forced by the collapse of Europe's democracies under Hitler's blitzkrieg to turn to the corporate sector to prepare America for war.

Roosevelt had almost no choice. In 1940, the United States had the 18th-largest army in the world, right behind tiny Holland. While not so small, its Navy was totally unprepared to face a determined invader. Gen. George Marshall, Army chief of staff, warned Roosevelt that if Hitler landed five divisions on American soil, there was nothing he could do to stop them.

Neither the War nor Navy Departments had a clue how to mobilize a $100-billion civilian economy for war. Their joint "plan" ran to fewer than 20 typed pages. America's defense industry had been dismantled after World War I-"the war to end all wars."

Arthur Herman is a visiting scholar at AEI.

The full text of this article is available via subscription to The Wall Street Journal. It will be posted to AEI.org on Monday, April 14.

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Arthur
Herman
  • Arthur Herman is a historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age (Bantam, 2008), the Mountbatten Prize–nominated To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (HarperCollins, 2005), the New York Times bestseller How the Scots Invented the Modern World (Three Rivers Press, 2001), and many articles on foreign and military policy. At AEI, Dr. Herman authored a new book that traces the mobilization of American industry, technology, and material production over the course of World War II.
  • Email: arthur.herman@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Neil McCray
    Phone: 2028625826
    Email: neil.mccray@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.