FDR on a President’s Priorities in a Democracy

FDR Presidential Library & Museum photograph by Margaret Suckley [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

I haven’t added a new post to this site in a long time, and I’m not going to promise to be consistent about adding posts now. But I’ve started working on a new project, centered in the first decades of the 20th century, and some of what I’m reading for it is worth posting about because it relates to what we’re living through in the US today.

I’ll try to say more about what I mean by that in future entries, but for now, just to get started, I’m going to simply post a quote about FDR from a book published in 1937, when his policies were showing some signs of working but the Depression was far from over. The book deals primarily with his policy toward electricity and public utilities in general.

Here’s the quote:

“The President’s thinking goes first to government–democratic government–and after that to economics…In the prodigies of effort he put forth to lead the country out of the bogs of depression he therefore sought, and seeks still, more than what he has termed ‘a purposeless whirring of machinery.’ It is important that every man have a job, that every factory have orders to fill and that business as a whole earn profits. ‘But,’ as he said in his annual message to Congress in January, 1937, ‘government in a democratic nation does not exist solely, or even primarily, for that purpose.’ The factory wheels ‘must carry us in the direction of a greater satisfaction in life for the average man. The deeper purpose of democratic government is to assist as many of its citizens as possible–especially those who need it most–to improve their conditions of life, to retain all personal liberty which does not adversely affect their neighbors, and to pursue the happiness which comes with security and an opportunity for recreation and culture.'”

pp. 292-293, Pyramids of Power, M. L. Ramsay

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