An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Amity Shlaes on the Great Depression

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Amity Shlaes on the Great Depression and consider these questions.

1. Shlaes suggests that President Hoover’s temperament trumped his philosophy in dealing with the Great Depression. What does she mean by this?

2. Interviewer Roberts invokes a popular image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the helmsman of a ship, and Shlaes takes issue with this metaphor. Why?

3. Shlaes and Roberts discuss the National Recovery Administration at length. How did the NRA typify American’s vacillation between embracing and worrying about “bigness”?

4. Describe the case of Schechter Poultry. Explain why Shlaes uses the quote, “I’m not an economist, but I am an economizer.”

5. Why does Shlaes describe Schechter as a “Gideon case”?

6. Describe the difference of opinion between Shlaes and Roberts regarding the level of economic literacy in America during the Depression.

7. What important observation did Irving Fisher make during the Depression, and yet why was he so discredited?

8. Why is deflation so destructive to an economy? How does Shlaes think that this helps us to understand our grandparents’ personalities?

9. Shlaes holds out the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous as one of the enduring cultural positives of the Depression era. Why?

10. Paraphrase Roberts and Shlaes’ discussion of class warfare during the Depression. Why does Shlaes reference Joseph McCarthy?

11. Who is the “forgotten man” of Shlaes’ title? How do William Graham Sumner and FDR’s characterizations compare?