An analysis of the representation of a great deal of things to a great deal of people in the late 19

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An analysis of the representation of a great deal of things to a great deal of people in the late 19

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An analysis of the representation of a great deal of things to a great deal of people in the late 19

Fishback, Department of Economics, University of Arizona. The New Deal is certainly one of the most dramatic peace-time expansions of government activity in recorded history.

As a result, numerous social scientists and historians have tried to understand the political economy of the New Deal. In particular, a great deal of effort has been devoted to trying to explain the dramatic differences in per capita New Deal spending across states that were first mentioned prominently by Leonard Arrington Jim Couch and Bill Shughart offer a book-length study that is devoted to explaining those differences using public choice theory.

There was substantial variation in the distribution of New Deal funds per capita across the states; the West fared well, while the South fared poorly. This has led a number of economists to perform econometric studies of the New Deal.

Donald Reading found that the distribution of funds seem to be associated with improving federal land, building highways, and helping to promote recovery. However, there was little sign that the New Deal money was designed to reform society because money was not being distributed disproportionately to poorer areas.

Gavin Wright then added the issue of presidential politics to the analysis. His results show that the primary goal in distributing New Deal funds was to ensure the reelection of Roosevelt, as money was primarily distributed to swing states and to areas where the money could be used most productively to increase presidential electoral votes.

John Wallis then expanded the sample by obtaining information on New Deal spending from year to year and obtaining more information on the movement of the economic variables over the course of the decade. Wallis emphasized that Congress had structured the New Deal so that state and local governments played a role in determining how much they would receive from the federal government.

Wallis also worried about problems of simultaneity bias arising in the coefficients on the unemployment variables. Gary Anderson and Robert Tollison then added Congressional politics to the mix. The focus of the book is on developing a public choice analysis of the New Deal.

This is not really a new emphasis because all of the previous work has used the same notion that people in government were acting in a self-interested manner.

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What is new in the book is the combining of the econometric analyses with extensive descriptive material and a very strong negative tone about the motives of the Roosevelt administration.

The econometric results from nearly all the studies generally imply that a focus on reelection by political leaders and pressures from interest groups did a great deal to shape the New Deal. To supplement the econometric results, Couch and Shughart, offer numerous tales of malfeasance in the book, which offer a counterpoint to many books that heap unadulterated praise on the New Deal programs.

People interested in the distribution of New Deal funds should read the book in conjunction with a recent paper by John Wallis in Explorations in Economic History. Wallis also offers some new insights that are not in this volume because the book was in press at the time that the Wallis article appeared.

Couch and Shughart expand on the earlier econometric work by offering additional material and by dissaggregating and examining some of the specific programs. One of the central issues that Walliswas trying to do in his analysis was take into account the impact on New Deal spending of the matching features that were included in some programs, as well as differences in the attitudes of state and local governments toward seeking and obtaining New Deal funds.

His technique involved using a lagged value of grants in the New Deal distribution equation in a panel data set. In addition for the period through Wallis has tried to directly examine the impact of state spending on New Deal distributions.

Couch and Shughart challenge the notion that matching institutions and local attitudes had much impact on New Deal spending. They found evidence from the Congressional Record on the share of WPA projects funded by local sponsors.

I tend to agree that there was no mechanical relationship, but it is likely that the attitudes and activities of the state and local governments did influence how much effort they devoted to obtaining New Deal funds.

Couch and Shughart really do not address this issue well because they do not try to take into account the issues of simultaneity bias in their regression equations. Wallis has already made the theoretic al case that federal government spending and state and local spending are endogenous and that there are feedbacks between the two.

Thus, it is somewhat surprising that Couch and Shughart ignore the issue by running simple OLS regressions that ignore the endogeneity issues. They do offer some criticisms of some of the work Wallis has done on the impact of state spending on New Deal funds, but it would seem very important to test the issue directly in their regression analysis.

Couch and Shughart press their argument that state and local activity was relatively unimportant further by claiming that leaders in the South, which received less than other regions, did not oppose New Deal programs.

They claim that southerners only opposed the Roosevelt administration late in the s p. They argue that nearly all of the southern congressmen voted for the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, and that most of the southern opposition came about in response to the court-packing plan in Their claims of la ck of southern opposition to the New Deal are not very convincing.

The vote for the enabling legislation was not even remotely close, suggesting that everybody expected that the legislation would go through because it was just continuing the programs already in existence.

Further, they appear to have missed the work of Lee Alston and Joseph Ferrie, who have articles in the Journal of Economic History and in the American Economic Review that show that southern planters were strongly opposed to many New Deal programs, particularly Social Security.

I was surprised by another omission. In their concise history of the Great Depression, they do not mention the work on the impact of the gold standard on the depression by Barry Eichengreen Golden Fetters, So, what can we learn from the analysis in this book, which also summarizes most of the literature on the issue?

Couch and Shughart give strong emphasis to the notion that politics and interest groups were the primary factors shaping the New Deal. Their regression analysis finds little evidence that the distribution of funds matched the noble rhetorical goals of reform, recovery, and relief motives.In spite of the New Deal and the “Indian New Deal” of , most Native Americans remained bitterly poor during the Great Depression.

The “Indian New Deal” (which was also called the Indian Reorganization Act) was a complex and multi-faceted legislation which reversed the Dawes Severalty Act of and granted tribes more autonomy.

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