Herbert Hoover

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Herbert Hoover

Postby I Love Italy » 22 Apr 2016, 02:33

So, I heard an interesting point today that I didn't quite trust the credibility of, but I wanted to get some opinions, as it seems many on this forum are more historically and politically knowledgeable than I am.

The point came up during a discussion of my history teacher with a classmate. The classmate mentioned that she didn't like his teaching because it was "one-sided." When I asked for examples she stated that he said that Herbert Hoover lengthened the Great Depression through relative inactivity in the presidency (which was taught), but that actually he lengthened it through doing too much to alleviate the Depression.

I'd never heard this point before, and wanted opinions on it. Any takers?
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby Carebear » 22 Apr 2016, 03:02

He was the first 88!

Do you have any references to academic discussions on the topic?
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby I Love Italy » 22 Apr 2016, 03:14

Carebear wrote:He was the first 88!

Do you have any references to academic discussions on the topic?


No. Sorry, I'm not the best at looking for academic sources on the internet, and know that many on this forum are better than I, so was hoping for some insight from you guys.
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby V » 22 Apr 2016, 03:51

I am no economist, so cannot comment on the veracity of the accusations laid at Hoover door, but it is widely said many of his attempts at solving the Great Depression aggravated the problem. Nations had not grasped Keynesian economics at that time, many were still on the Gold Standard & very protectionist. These type of economic attitudes did not help & Hoover got some blame, justified or otherwise?
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby Keirador » 22 Apr 2016, 06:12

I Love Italy wrote:So, I heard an interesting point today that I didn't quite trust the credibility of, but I wanted to get some opinions, as it seems many on this forum are more historically and politically knowledgeable than I am.

The point came up during a discussion of my history teacher with a classmate. The classmate mentioned that she didn't like his teaching because it was "one-sided." When I asked for examples she stated that he said that Herbert Hoover lengthened the Great Depression through relative inactivity in the presidency (which was taught), but that actually he lengthened it through doing too much to alleviate the Depression.

I'd never heard this point before, and wanted opinions on it. Any takers?


I think we would need more information about what exactly was taught. It's not really a historical question about what policies would lengthen or abbreviate a depression, it's an economic one. What is a historical question is how people felt at the time. Hoover was widely believed to have worsened the Great Depression through inaction. Whether people were correct in thinking that is really an economic question, but whether they actually thought that, and the repercussions of that belief, are historical questions. It's pretty clear historically that people blamed Hoover, and that paved the way for FDR's unprecedented government interventions in the economy.
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby I Love Italy » 22 Apr 2016, 06:38

Keirador wrote:
I Love Italy wrote:So, I heard an interesting point today that I didn't quite trust the credibility of, but I wanted to get some opinions, as it seems many on this forum are more historically and politically knowledgeable than I am.

The point came up during a discussion of my history teacher with a classmate. The classmate mentioned that she didn't like his teaching because it was "one-sided." When I asked for examples she stated that he said that Herbert Hoover lengthened the Great Depression through relative inactivity in the presidency (which was taught), but that actually he lengthened it through doing too much to alleviate the Depression.

I'd never heard this point before, and wanted opinions on it. Any takers?


I think we would need more information about what exactly was taught. It's not really a historical question about what policies would lengthen or abbreviate a depression, it's an economic one. What is a historical question is how people felt at the time. Hoover was widely believed to have worsened the Great Depression through inaction. Whether people were correct in thinking that is really an economic question, but whether they actually thought that, and the repercussions of that belief, are historical questions. It's pretty clear historically that people blamed Hoover, and that paved the way for FDR's unprecedented government interventions in the economy.


It was taught that Hoover was a strict believer in government non-intervention, though he tried to find private solutions (i.e. by asking union leaders not to strike, though he wasn't using executive power) to the Depression. It was further taught that this didn't work, which led to a slightly more interventionist last third-ish of his time as president, where he signed off on construction of the Hoover Dam.
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby ruffdove » 22 Apr 2016, 08:56

I Love Italy wrote:It was taught that Hoover was a strict believer in government non-intervention, though he tried to find private solutions (i.e. by asking union leaders not to strike, though he wasn't using executive power) to the Depression. It was further taught that this didn't work, which led to a slightly more interventionist last third-ish of his time as president, where he signed off on construction of the Hoover Dam.


Hoover liked to say he was a strict believer in government non-intervention (as do modern public school teachers), but he wasn't. In addition to asking unions not to strike he also asked business owners not to lay people off or lower wages. But his actions went far beyond the informal. His wikipedia page gives a good laundry list of Hoover's government interventionism, which is what didn't work in alleviating or ending the Depression, during his presidency and Roosevelt's. Had he truly believed in non-intervention, he never would have signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, a HUGE government intervention that badly exacerbated the Depression not just in the US, but across the world. I will allow that Hoover's intervention pales in comparison to that of Roosevelt, which was equally ineffective, but it at least made people feel like he was trying.

So basically, I think your classmate has a pretty good point, I Love Italy. Hoover had a lot of well-intentioned public works programs, subsidies, and the ol' tariff as part of his strategy for dealing with the Depression. He also raised taxes to pay for all this. And he raised them a lot. To say that he tried to avoid interventionist measures in his policy except for a half-hearted attempt at the end is just bad history. If you don't mind me asking, are you in HS or college?
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby Corniel » 22 Apr 2016, 13:38

I know there is discussion on the subject. There is however no right answer to it. We just don't know what would happen if. This being said, from historical perspective it most interesting to see who having which opinions. And key there is your opinion on Keynesian economics. If you like/believe the fundamentals behind it, tend to think Hoover's policy was effective, if not the opposite (although not that black and white).
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby ruffdove » 22 Apr 2016, 14:09

Corniel wrote:I know there is discussion on the subject. There is however no right answer to it. We just don't know what would happen if. This being said, from historical perspective it most interesting to see who having which opinions. And key there is your opinion on Keynesian economics. If you like/believe the fundamentals behind it, tend to think Hoover's policy was effective, if not the opposite (although not that black and white).


Well, there is a right answer to what Hoover did, it's a matter of historical record. While we certainly cannot say that a strict non-interventionist president would have any fared better, we can question the motives of a teacher who tells his students the fib that Hoover was a strict non-interventionist president and further leads them to the bogus conclusion that Hoover's failure was therefore a failure of non-interventionist economic policies.

Also, there's a difference between economic intervention and Keyensian economics. The latter is a subset of the former. Hoover certainly indulged in Keyensian programs, but the tariff that he signed into law was another kind of economic intervention altogether.
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Re: Herbert Hoover

Postby The O » 22 Apr 2016, 19:17

What grade level are we talking about? I think that matters. Also, in my opinion, a good teacher will encourage students to challenge doctrine. A student is free to study their own sources and present a contradictory case to the teacher as long as it's well researched and well thought out and presented. I think that the student should read about Hoover and write a paper showing that he/she thinks that the teacher may be incorrect or only stating a part of the story. Most real history teachers (I'm not talking about coach here) will be glad to start this discussion. The wonderful thing about history is that it's so dynamic and complicated. The general attitude of the American public at the time is that Hoover did not do enough. They called the slums Hoovertowns and blamed him (as well as the banks and oligarchs) for the severity of the depression. A good place to start is to realize that there were many "panics" leading to the great depression. Why was this one different and what was done about it that was different then the ones beforehand? The depression happened 8 months after Hoover took office, so rightly or wrongly he gets a lot of the blame on this. This is a well studied time in history, so there are a lot of good material to look into this further.
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