Hoover: Worse Than FDR

I was surprised to see that Scott Powell categorizes Herbert Hoover as a presidential “mixed bag,” while FDR is among the “unforgivables.” As I discuss for The Objective Standard in my review of Amity Shlaes’s book The Forgotten Man, Hoover helped cause the economic catastrophe that assured FDR’s election, and Hoover implemented many of the political economic controls that paved the way to FDR’s continued controls. So Hoover was at least as bad as FDR.

As Shlaes mentions (and I review), Hoover once said that concern with private property is a “fetich.” I was curious about this, so I looked up the passage in Hoover’s American Individualism:

But those are utterly wrong who say that individualism has as its only end the acquisition and preservation of private property — the selfish snatching and hoarding of the common product. Our American individualism, indeed, is only in part an economic creed. It aims to provide opportunity for self-expression, not merely economically, but spiritually as well. Private property is not a fetich in America. The crushing of the liquor trade without a cent of compensation, with scarcely even a discussion of it, does not bear out the notion that we give property rights any headway over human rights.

Notice how Hoover builds his collectivist edifice on grains of truth. He claims to endorse “individualism,” yet his sort of individualism sacrifices the individual to the collective, moderately, of course. It is true that authentic individualism is not concerned only with economic ends.

Hoover denigrates economic interests as “selfish snatching and hoarding,” something inherently suspect morally. Why “snatching,” rather than “earning?” Why “hoarding,” rather than “investing?” And what is this “common product?” Hoover here suggests that the wealth within a nation belongs to the nation, rather than to the individuals who earn it.

Notice the example Hoover gives of the “spiritual” dimension of “American individualism:” the “crushing” of an industry without compensation or even much discussion. Obliterating an entire industry through federal controls, subverting the choices and property rights of individuals to the will of the collective — that is what Hoover means by “human rights.”

Hoover was a dishonest snake who crushed the entire American economy beneath the boot of his collectivist “individualism.”