John Maynard Keynes met Franklin Roosevelt on Monday, May 28, 1934. Both afterward said polite things to Felix Frankfurter, who had urged the two to confer: Keynes described the conversation was “fascinating and illuminating,” while Roosevelt wrote that “I had a grand talk and liked him immensely.”

But the best-known account is probably that of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, who wrote in her memoir, The Roosevelt I Knew,

Keynes visited Roosevelt in 1934 rather briefly, and talked lofty economic theory.

Roosevelt told me afterward, “I saw your friend Keynes. He left a whole rigmarole of figures. He must be a mathematician rather than a political economist.”

It was true that Keynes had delivered himself of a mathematical approach to the problems of national income, public and private expenditure, purchasing power, and the fine points of his formula. Coming to my office after his interview with Roosevelt, Keynes repeated his admiration for the actions Roosevelt had taken, but said cautiously that he had “supposed the President was more literate, economically speaking.” He pointed out once more that a dollar spent on relief by the government was a dollar given to the grocer, by the grocer to the wholesaler, and by the wholesaler to the farmer, in payment of supplies. With one dollar paid out for relief or public works or anything else, you have created four dollars’ worth of national income.

I wish he had been as concrete when he talked to Roosevelt, instead of treating him as though he belonged to the higher echelons of economic knowledge.

In Perkins’s story, Roosevelt did not grasp economic theory, and would have done better with a less figure-laden account of Keynes’s prescriptions. Historians often recycle her description as evidence of Roosevelt’s “limited understanding of some of the matters he had to deal with as president,” as Adam Cohen writes.

And yet we have evidence that Roosevelt was quite happy dealing with economic theory and a rigmarole of figures.

[click to continue…]


by Jon Mandle on June 17, 2013

Several years ago, I was at a conference in Krakow. The organizers put together a couple of excursions for the participants. One was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and one was to Auschwitz. I was with my wife and daughter who was 6 at the time, so we went to the salt mine. It was pretty spectacular, much better than in pictures, and I didn’t regret the decision. Several friends who went to Auschwitz described the experience in pretty much the same terms: they were glad that they had gone, but never wanted to go back. I recently was in Krakow again, and this time I took the drive – about an hour – out to the camp.
[click to continue…]

Rights of Labor < Tyranny of Capital

by Corey Robin on June 17, 2013

Remember that National Labor Relations Board regulation instructing employers to post notices in their workplaces informing workers of their right to organize under the law? I described this regulation last year:

This is just a requirement that employees be informed of their rights. It doesn’t impose costs on employers, restrict their profits, regulate their operations: it just requires that working men and women be informed of their rights.

The business lobby, led by the Chamber of Commerce, has been challenging this regulation in court. Last year, it persuaded a Republican-appointed federal judge to strike it down. Last week, it had more success, persuading an even higher level of the judiciary—a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals—to strike down the regulation as an unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of employers. And it turns out that last month another court of appeals panel, made up entirely of Republican appointees, ruled even more expansively, claiming the same way.) that the provision violated employer free-speech rights as they are said to be protected by § 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act. [click to continue…]