The Forgotten Man

A New History of the Great Depression, Amity Shlaes, Harper Collins.

The Forgotten Man

The term “forgotten man” has long been associated with the Great Depression. It conjures up images of the indigent WW I vet, the man standing on the bread line, the farmer who failed. In “The Forgotten Man,” Amity Shlaes tries to reclaim the true meaning of “forgotten man”—the hard worker who is overburdened with the kind of taxes and regulations that help buoy the non-working.

Shlaes makes the case that the New Deal did not help America out of the Great Depression, but in fact stunted the economy with programs and laws that hindered businesses and prevented growth. Shlaes looks at the politicians who made the rules (Roosevelt doesn’t come off well, but neither does Hoover) and the businessmen who struggled to work with them, such as Andrew Mellon and Wendell Wilkie. 

Clear and easy to read, Shlaes’ book is undoubtedly worth the time for those interested in the Great Depression. Whether readers buy Shlaes’ view on the decisions and results of the time period will undoubtedly come down to personal feelings about the government’s role in the economy. Those who believe government programs interfere too much with business will agree; others may feel that desperate times call for desperate measures and missteps are an acceptable byproduct of trying.