Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yes, Herbert Hoover was a "government must do something" progressive

All the chatter that Herbert Hoover was a "hands off", "do nothing" kind of guy is simply false. Something that I've heard author Amity Shlaes repeately say about Hoover is that he liked to be the smartest guy in the room, and because he was an engineer, he might very well have been. This video explains some of this, but it goes into the depression itself which is not within the scope of what I'm focused in on.

Hoover, as an engineer, was a believer in 'scientific management', which has it's roots in the efficiency movement and Frederick Winslow Taylor. If you want to find the words of this kind of progressive, you have to look in engineering journals. Due to the timing of when Hoover came onto the scene in a major way, large portions of his words are behind a firewall of copyright, but not all.

In a publication called "Industrial Management", Hoover wrote the following:

Second: There was no advance planning to provide against this contingency, which it was obvious from the day of the armistice would be upon us in short order. We found it necessary to mobilize the whole energies of the Nation to meet the direct problems of the war, and it follows that we should have mobilized the energies of the Nation to meet this aftermath deliberately created by our war activities.

This is in reference to Wilson's efforts to centrally plan while WW1 was raging on. Keep in mind, this was written in 1920, right after the war and before the raging 20's. Instead of rejecting centralized planning, Hoover believes that the planning should continue, and housing should be the target. He continued:

I believe the Government has a part that it must play in this. While I have no belief in Government execution of such things I do believe we need some Federal authority empowered to undertake this movement of co-operation. Already many isolated Chambers of Commerce, building associations, and labor organizations have gotten together and are doing constructive work in remedying this situation. Their experience affords a sound basis upon which general steps can be taken. While I am no believer in extending the bureaucratic functions of the Government I am a strong believer in the Government intervening to induce active co operation in the community itself. Furthermore, I believe we must at least examine the question of governmental assistance in credits to home builders on some plan similar to the Farm Loan Board.

Yours faithfully,

Herbert Hoover

He's threading a very thin line here, but ultimately we know what ended up happening under his presidency. There was stimulus. There were public works projects. He did raise taxes and grow government. In a speech in 1924, he said the following:

I believe we now for the first time have the method at hand for voluntarily organized determination of standards and their adoption. I would go further; I believe we are in the presence of a new era in the organization of industry and commerce in which, if properly directed, lie forces pregnant with infinite possibilities of moral progress. I believe that we are, almost unnoticed, in the midst of a great revolution--or perhaps a better word, a transformation in the whole super-organization of our economic life. We are passing from a period of extremely individualistic action into a period of associational activities.

Organization? Revolution? Transformation? I've heard similar things to this in recent times. Calvin Coolidge, who was a conservative said of Hoover in 1928:

That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad!

No doubt why Coolidge considered the advice bad.


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