Last week, Michael Ledeen compared the President to one of the worst presidents of the twentieth century, Jimmy Carter. But, as I read Amity Shlaes’s The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, it seems he has more in common with another failure of the previous century, Herbert Hoover.
Like that hapless (as least as president) Republican, this ambitious Democrat has great faith in the power of the state to fix the economy.
Writing about Hoover in his pre-presidential days, Shlaes observes that Hoover “feared criticism . . . he encountered it so infrequently. Luck and talent had done their work, and he began to feel his greatness was unlimited.” Kind of sounds like his twenty-first century successor.
But, the similarity doesn’t end there; Hoover “disdained laissez-faire economics.” Indeed his presidential predecessor Calvin Coolidge didn’t much care for the incredibly intelligent Iowan:
Where the president [in 1927] eschewed technology, Hoover was always playing with it. Coolidge also hated Hoover’s tendency to react to news with grand-intrusive plans. Could not Hoover see where some of his rescues led?
From this introduction to Hoover and our forty-day experience with President Obama, it seems the two presidents share what Victor Davis Hanson describes as the liberal philosophy:
The liberal philosophy maintains that government, better than thousands of informed and self-interested individuals, can direct and guide our lives and national purpose. It has more confidence in the tenured bureaucrat than it does the small businessman, whose unpredictability and autonomy prove too disruptive to the common vision.
And we all know the results of Hoover’s trust in bureaucrats.