When there is no vision the people perish
Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
FDR’s First Presidential Inauguration
On March 4, 1933, deep into the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his first inaugural address to offer comfort to a financially crushed nation and outline what would be the most expensive programs our country had ever known. His optimistic and pragmatic leadership united us, from his inaugural speech until his death in office at the start of his fourth term as President. It took chutzpah, charisma and a sure hand to say “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” under those circumstances, and come off as a leader, not a fool.
Roosevelt’s predecessor Herbert Hoover was a Republican proponent of the Efficiency Movement. He believed the government was crippled by waste. His reputation as a president was crippled by The Great Depression. By the time he’d been in office eight months, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 shook the confidence of the nation, setting the stage for the Depression to follow in the US and much of the world. After first making deep tax cuts, Hoover reversed the cuts and instituted new taxes to pay for programs to support recovery from the Crash and later to combat the Depression. This boomerang effect contributed to a lack of faith in our financial stability. Without faith, spending slowed and the Depression deepened.
Hoover’s Failure, Roosevelt’s Success
Roosevelt mistrusted Hoover’s programs and accused Hoover and other Republicans of supporting Socialism. Though some claimed later that Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was only an extension of Hoover’s programs, during Hoover’s presidency nothing seemed to work. “Hooverville” became a name for makeshift shantytowns constructed by the homeless, and Roosevelt and other Democrats claimed Republicans had contributed to the Depression with tax-and-spend tactics.
After Roosevelt’s election, Republicans would mistrust Roosevelt’s expensive tax-and-spend “New Deal.” To be fair, Roosevelt campaigned on cutting spending and waste, with the added attraction of repealing prohibition, and then gave way to financial realities after his election. Hoover himself declined to protest, defining himself as having joined the “loyal opposition.”
The parallels between then and now fascinate me. Without the FDIC, a Roosevelt-initiated program, we’d be in worse shape during the current downturn.
More Quotes from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inauguration
- The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
- Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort
- We now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other