I heartily second Bryan Caplan’s endorsement of the Canadian TV show on the New Deal.

Bryan focused on the economic content and I want to add my own thoughts to that, but beyond that is the amazing tone of the discussion. The host, Steve Paikin, has obviously done his homework and read at least some of the articles he asks about. He doesn’t play “gotcha” but, instead, is trying to find answers to key questions about the New Deal, fiscal policy, etc. He also keeps it moving. On the other side are five informed people who all, at least apparently, respect each other. All five also wait their turn and don’t interrupt. They take each other on but do so using the standard rules of decorum. I started listening to this at the end of the day in my office and found it so compelling that I called my wife and told her I would be late because I was just hooked and had to finish it.

I know and respect two of the players–Russ Roberts and David Kennedy–and know and respect the work of Lee Ohanian. I don’t know the two Canadians, economist Eric Lacelles and historian Joe Martin–but they had none of the anti-American prejudice that I experienced as an undergrad in Canada. And Martin was absolutely charming–both in the way he stated his knowledge of the Canadian economy and his story about being unable to find Coke due to rationing in World War II. (He grew up in Saskatchewan, the province next door to Manitoba, where I was raised.) If your idea of controversial shows is Hannity and Colmes with one or the other or usually both insulting, interrupting, and disrespecting their guests, and if you don’t like that, you will find this show a breath of fresh air.

Now to some of the specifics. The number at the start of each is the approximate time at which it takes place on the show.

7:00 Joe Martin makes the point that from 1933 to 1940, Canada had two non-activist Prime Ministers, R.B. Bennett and William Lyon Mackenzie King, and Canada’s economy outperformed the U.S. economy.

8:00 After Martin mentioned FDR’s leadership style, as opposed to his economic policies, as being positive, Paikin said tersely but politely, “Let’s leave leadership aside,” and got back to the economic issues.

17:00 Martin makes the point that the Depression hit North America harder than it hit Europe and that it hit Canada harder than the U.S. From peak to trough, Canada’s GNP fell 35% while the U.S. GNP fell by 30%.

18:00 David Kennedy makes the claim that rationing was not used extensively in the United States during World War II. I think he’s wrong. Read sometime about how people couldn’t drive their cars due to gas rationing.

22:00 Kennedy makes the point that in his second inaugural address, in 1937, FDR worried that coming out of the Depression would make it harder for him to achieve his “progressive purpose.”

31:00 Russ Roberts asserted that politicians such as Obama are under tremendous pressure to do something about the economy. I disagree. I think if Obama shut down Gitmo, got the troops out of Iraq by next December, and got rid of some of the U.S. government’s surveillance, and didn’t do much else about the economy other than fire Paulsen and ratchet back the Bush/Paulsen bailout, he would be thought of as a hero.

33:30 Joe Martin preferred the policies of silent Cal Coolidge–“he didn’t do very much”–to those of FDR. Martin has visited Coolidge’s grave but not FDR’s. On the other hand, me talking, to some extent Washington, D.C. is FDR’s grave–or at least his monument.