All Depression, All the Time
Russ Roberts interviews Amity Shlaes. From the notes:
NRA even ruled out a consumer’s picking out best chickens from a batch—just had to take first ones that came to hand. But consumer and business choice are very important. Concept was that middleman gets in the way—historical, medieval, possibly stemming from anti-semitism. Rule was purportedly to decrease inefficiency but haggling and picking matter for chicken business. Rule made market unable to weed out inefficient businesses that provided crummy chickens. Like Al Capone; clean people from Harvard and the Government attack dirty ethnic people. Schechters won, delegation, commerce clause. Communist Drew Pearson mocked the Schechters.
This refers to one of the best chapters in Shlaes’ book. It describes how the Roosevelt Administration decided to make an example of a family of kosher butchers who were allegedly not cooperating with the NRA, the Administration’s attempt at state-guided corporatist economics. Among other things, the butchers were accused of charging low prices.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the butchers and against he NRA. How is this period remembered? Historians generally talk about how extremely conservative and backward the Court was, in thwarting the “progressive” New Deal.
I am very pleased with all of the new material that is coming out these days concerning the Depression. A few years ago, I proposed a Liberty Fund seminar on the topic, but I had a difficult time coming up with reading materials for the seminar. Now, it would be much easier.