REVIEWSrnIn Defense of Gravityrnby Thomas E. Woods, Jr.rnThe Roosevelt Mythrnby ]ohn T. FlynnrnSan Francisco: Fox & Wilkes;rn437 pp., $14.95rnI ohn T. Flynn had the distinction of be-rnI ing singled out by Franklin D. Rooseveltrnas a writer who “should be barredrnhereafter from the columns of any presentablerndaily paper, monthly magazine,rnor national quarterly.” Until the NewrnDeal came along, however, Flynn hadrnnever been known as a conservative.rnDuring the 1920’s, he served as a financialrnanalyst for the New York Globe, andrnthe following decade wrote a popular seriesrnof muckraking books and articlesrnwhile beginning a regular column withrnthe New Republic.rnIt was FDR’s political program thatrngot him thinking. The court-packingrnscheme, the increasing concentration ofrnpower in the hands of the President, andrnan economic regime bordering on fascismrn—all this was too much for Flynn,rnand he would go on to become one of thernmost dogged of the President’s opponents.rnThe Roosevelt Myth, when it wasrnfirst published in 1948, hit number twornon the New York Times best-seller list.rnNow, a 50th anniversary edition, with arnnew (and excellent) introduction by historianrnRalph Raico, brings this scathingrnand relentless indictment to a countryrnwhose leaders, of whatever politicalrnstripe, almost to a man treat FDR with arnreverence that more civilized men reservernfor things divine.rnFlynn, although possessing a reasonablerngrasp of market economics, neverrnfully managed to shed his progressivernpast. “Flynn was not a strict libertarian,”rnRaico notes in his introduction, “nor wasrnhis thinking on economics notably sophisticated.”rnBut no strictly economicrnanalysis of the Roosevelt years can matchrnthe color, verve, and compelling idiosyncrasyrnof Flynn’s pen or substitute for hisrnseemingly inexhaustible supply of anecdotalrnmaterial about Roosevelt and thernmen who surrounded him.rnIn any case, it takes little specializedrntraining to reach, as Flynn did, the centralrnpoint that FDR, for all his tinkeringrnand legislative innovation, utterly failedrnto correct the Depression. Flynn’s admirafionrnfor Herbert Hoover may have beenrnmisplaced, but it was based on his perceptionrnthat Hoover, unlike Roosevelt,rnsaw business recovery —not puerilernscapegoating of “economic royalists”—asrnthe key to lifting the nation out of its unprecedentedrnslump. Roosevelt himselfrnsaid that he had never read a book onrneconomics; as Flynn put it, “it is entirelyrnpossible that no one knew less about [it]rnthan Roosevelt.” Ignorance was indeedrnbliss for FDR, who seems to have heldrnthat no economic law was a match for hisrniron will. (Thus H.L. Mencken’s “Constitutionrnfor the New Deal,” which appearedrnin the June 1937 issue of thernAmerican Mercury, gave the Presidentrnthe power to “repeal or amend, in his discretion,rnany so-called natural law, includingrnGresham’s law, the law of diminishingrnreturns, and the law of gravitation.”)rnAt no time during the I930’s did thernpercentage of Americans unemployedrndrop below double digits. From 1933-rn1940, unemployment averaged a whoppingrn18 percent. FDR’s best year wasrn1937, when the rate dropped temporarilyrnto 14.3 percent, but by the end of the yearrnthe economy was nearly as bad as it hadrnbeen when he entered office. By therntime of America’s entry into World WarrnII, unemployment was still at 18 percentrn—the same rate that obtained duringrnRoosevelt’s first year as President! If thernwar relieved unemployment and restoredrn”prosperity,” it did so in ways that werernhardly ideal: Production, while high, wasrndiverted from consumer needs into warrnmateriel, and the 12 million men conscriptedrninto military service, while nornlonger showing up as “unemployed” inrnnational statistics, can hardly be said tornhave experienced an economic (or anyrnother) turn for the better.rnLike his predecessor, FDR and his advisorsrnbelieved that falling prices, likernfalling wages, were a principal cause ofrnthe Depression rather than a symptom ofrnit. The natural remedy, therefore, was tornincrease prices by any means necessary.rnHence the logic of the AgriculturalrnAdjustment Act, which paid farmers torndestroy enormous quantities of cropsrnand livestock and to take countiess thousandsrnof acres out of production entirely.rnFlynn’s description of Henry Wallace is arngood example both of the author’s prosernstyle and of his skill as a chronicler andrncritic of the inanities of the FDR years:rnHenry Wallace, as mild-manneredrna man and mystic as ever knelt on arnprayer rug or slit a pig’s throat orrnburned a field of corn, becamernSecretary of Agriculture and camernup with a plan that was supposed tornbe more effective and more orderlyrnthan cinch bugs, boll weevils orrndusts storms in providing our peoplernwith the scarcity that everybodyrnneeded.rnWliile this program was under way, thernDepartment of Agriculture released arnstudy regarding the American diet duringrnthese lean years. The Department constructedrnfour sample diets: liberal, moderate,rnminimum, and emergency (belowrnsubsistence). Its figures were sobering:rnAmerica was not producing enough foodrnto sustain its population at the minimumrn(subsistence) diet. “How to better thisrnmay be a problem,” Flynn observed, “butrnthe last course a government run by sanernmen would adopt to get it solved wouldrnbe to destroy a good part of what we dornproduce.”rnFlynn is equally withering on Roosevelt’srnconduct of foreign affairs. As arndiplomat, the President was at best incompetent,rnand as commander-in-chiefrnhe was an outright liar. That FDR at thernvery least deceived the American publicrnrepeatedly on matters of grave nationalrnconcern, especially regarding his intentionsrnfor the United States in World WarrnII, can no longer seriously be denied; andrnindeed the best the intelligentsia havernbeen able to do is to echo the bland, patricianrnassurances of William F. Buckley,rnJr., that, after all, the President was lyingrnto us for our own good. To which argumentrnFlynn replies: “[I]f Roosevelt hadrnthe right to do this, to whom is the rightrndenied? At what point are we to cease torndemand that our leaders deal honestlyrnand truthfully with us?”rn(iS’OOj iS’77-SU^(Jrn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn