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POLITICS

On Presidents' Day, recall FDR's victims

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

The most revered former president today is probably FDR. He supposedly battled against Big Business, fought for the little guy, and ended the depression. As with much of modern history, FDR's legend is wildly inflated by a fawning liberal academia and media.

FDR did plenty of good things, like leading us through the War, and ending Prohibition. But he rapidly and ruthlessly grew government. As government grows, liberty shrinks. Specifically, government growth takes liberty away from those who lack political power.

Here, as a little Presidents' Day item (still legally "Washington's Birthday" on the federal level), are a few of FDR's victims.

Innocent Japanese Americans: Government, ultimately, is force and the threat of force. This is most in view when it comes to imprisonment.

Certainly one of the very worst sins of the U.S. Government was FDR's creation of internment camps. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, none of whom had ever been accused of a crime, along with Italian- and German-Americans, were packed off to prison camps. Think about it this way: FDR's internment of a hundred thousand Americans was closer in time to today than it was to the Emanicipation Proclamation.

Roscoe Filburn, who dared farm for himself: The sphere of individual liberty – the freedom to mind your own business – is a rival to government power.

Roscoe Filburn wanted to grow some wheat for himself and his family. FDR’s administration said that was illegal. The Filburn Foundation explains:

 In 1941, he grew twelve acres of wheat beyond what was permitted under a Department of Agriculture directive - The Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 - which set his quota at 11.1 acres with a normal yield of 20.1 bushels per acre.

The extra planting yielded 249 bushels of wheat and he was fined 49 cents per bushel ($122.01).

The Roosevelt administration won in court, and that case, Wickard v. Filburn, is the precedent by which ObamaCare defenders say they can force you to buy insurance. After all, if government can prohibit you from growing your own wheat in your own back yard for you to feed to your own children, what can’t government do.

The Schechter Brothers, who dared compete against a government-backed Big-Business cartel: The National Recovery Act was a Depression-era government-sponsored cartelization and subsidy program supported by and to the benefit of Big Business. Some small businessmen didn’t like being told that they couldn’t compete. For instance, there were the Schechter brothers, who ran a Kosher butchershop.

Amity Shlaes, whose book The Forgotten Man, chronicles many of FDR’s victims, tells the story:

The Schechters were prosecuted very nastily, for a lot of sins. Lowering prices, that was illegal. Working too many hours, that was bad, bad. Competing. What I liked about them was that they were furious. They realized that what the government was saying was wrong. To them it seemed probably like the czar’s Russia, where their family had come from.

The government’s lawyers talked down to them. The lawyers kept saying things like, “You’re not an economist; you don’t have any agricultural economics.” And they would say, “No, I don’t have much school; I barely speak English”—their English was mocked. But when they got to the Supreme Court, their argument won because of the logic.

Their lawyer said, “One of the rules of the NRA is that the customer may not pick his chicken. America’s about customer choice.” This was a time when there was still tuberculosis and no antibiotics. Picking your own chicken was important for health reasons. You didn’t want a sick chicken—their case is known as the “Sick Chicken Case”—and the justices sided with the Schechters. They said, “This is delegation run riot, what about the Commerce Clause,” and so on.

Many people were helped by FDR, but let’s never forget the families, businesses, and cultures he trampled on in his effort to use government to reshape America.

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P.S. Obviously, other Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush trampled on people's lives. But FDR is so deified, I figured he was most in need of a critique. Remind me, and next year I'll pick a Republican.

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