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Washington Law Review

Abstract

The recent celebration of the Franklin D. Roosevelt centenary and the fiftieth anniversary of his coming to the Presidency demonstrate that those who look back at one of the most momentous periods in American history are divided mostly into two camps—those who apotheosize the New Deal and those who excoriate it. But both sides commit the error of looking upon the New Deal as an historic past without treating it as a prelude. Neither side recognizes that the New Deal fundamentally changed the nature of economic and social conditions among the American people, as well as the public policies affecting these conditions. Thus, neither side recognizes that these changes have become a throbbing reality in all that has happened since. In relatively minor details, the New Deal may not be relevant to present problems. But in its broad aspects, it lives on in the thoughts and actions of both those who revere and those who condemn it. National policies since the New Deal have largely been New Deal and anti-New Deal policies, because the problems they focus upon have not changed in their essential nature. It is therefore high time to substitute objective analyses for emotional proclamations, and to undertake an empirical examination of the significance of the New Deal during its time and during the last half century. This should be beneficial to those who want to carry the New Deal forward in its basic thrust. It should also help to terminate misinterpretations of the New Deal, which have brought a long train of confused and misdirected national economic and social policies, thus imposing terrific costs upon the American economy and people. Such an evaluation of the economic and social effects of New Deal policies and programs, and of departures from them, is in effect a study of the role of government and law in society because, to be meaningful, such an evaluation must evaluate government and law in terms of their purposes and results.

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