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The Forgotten Man | [Amity Shlaes]

The Forgotten Man

It's difficult today to imagine how America survived the Great Depression. Only through the stories of the common people who struggled during that era can we really understand how the nation endured. In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes offers a striking reinterpretation of the Great Depression. Rejecting the old emphasis on the New Deal, she turns to the neglected and moving stories of individual Americans, and shows how they helped establish the steadfast character we developed as a nation.
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Publisher's Summary

It's difficult today to imagine how America survived the Great Depression. Only through the stories of the common people who struggled during that era can we really understand how the nation endured. In The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes offers a striking reinterpretation of the Great Depression. Rejecting the old emphasis on the New Deal, she turns to the neglected and moving stories of individual Americans, and shows how they helped establish the steadfast character we developed as a nation.

Shlaes also traces the mounting agony of the New Dealers themselves as they discovered their errors. She shows how both Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt failed to understand the prosperity of the 1920s and heaped massive burdens on the country that more than offset the benefit of New Deal programs.

The real question about the Depression, she argues, is not whether Roosevelt ended it with World War II. It is why the Depression lasted so long. From 1929 to 1940, federal intervention helped to make the Depression great, in part by forgetting the men and women who sought to help one another. The Forgotten Man, offers a new look at one of the most important periods in our history, allowing us to understand the strength of the American character today.

©2007 Amity Shlaes; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"A thoughtful, even-tempered corrective to too often unbalanced celebrations of FDR and his administration's pathbreaking policies." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    David 10-19-08
    David 10-19-08 Member Since 2004
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    "History is written by the victors..."

    ... and hopefully "rewritten" by more objective eyes.

    The history repeating itself right before our eyes can help us understand The Depression. The same ideologies and self-interested representations are again at work today

    Today, Democrats try to ensure that the official history of our economic crisis says it was caused by Wall Street greed, the failure of capitalism and Bush economic policies. Future objective "rewrites" will include neglected inconvenient facts: Democrats refused to regulate the unintended consequences of their economically unsound "spread the wealth via affordable housing" policies.

    The Depression was no different. Those Democrats were fascinated by and experimented with the same socialistic fascism promoted by Mussolini and Hitler - long before their extreme versions of fascism became malignant. Politicians asserted it was a failure of capitalism in order to justify a socialist "solution". Thereafter, the sanctioned history was written by the victors and those who still champion these ideals, proclaiming them successful, beyond reproach and "settled" through a consensus of everyone - except the "deniers".

    Learning from the tragic history of our ancestors and noting the differences and, especially, dramatic parallels between the 1920-40s and 1990-2010's could help us navigate today's dangerous waters. However, our vision must be 20/20. We must ensure our official histories are free from ideological bias and political motivations.

    This book shines a brighter light on this era, a "revision" long overdue. The personalities, ideologies, agendas and political history of the main characters (e.g., Mellon, Hoover, Roosevelt, the 1920's and 1930's...) are practically ripped right out of todays headlines.

    Another excellent "rewrite" that'll give context for this era is "Liberal Fascism" - still actively at work in the 2008 Election.

    21 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-05-08
    11-05-08 Listener Since 2008
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    "Very informational"

    I learned a lot about the Depression that I did not know.

    9 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    doug APPLETON, WI, United States 10-28-11
    doug APPLETON, WI, United States 10-28-11 Member Since 2011

    Just some dude.

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    "Title should be The Forgotten Lesson"

    Amity Shlaes brings those bad old times back to life as thought it were yesterday. She does not have much commentary in this book implied or un-implied as far as I was concerned. I't pretty straight down the middle. Of course the history has been edited by her and that would be a type of editorializing I suppose. I really enjoyed it. Made me think. Made me wish Bush and Oh,bummer would have read it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles West Monroe, LA, USA 04-10-08
    Charles West Monroe, LA, USA 04-10-08 Member Since 2007
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    "A New New Deal"

    The "Forgotten Man" is a valuable piece of revisionist history, and it has both the strengths and weaknesses common among works that attempt to recast history through the eyes of later generations. The greatest strength of the work is that it recasts focus on the people that did and still do largely control the fate of the American economy: the wealthy. The book makes it clear that the resistance of the wealthiest Americans fatally weakened the New Deal. Shale explains in chapter after chapter how the rich moved their investments off shore, filed suit, and lobbied against the New Deal on the radio stations and in the newspapers they owned. However, she never interprets this resistance as a series of selfish un-patriotic choices that only prolonged the nation's agony. Instead, for her the villains are the New Dealers who were concerned about the plight of the average American. Shale lays out a laundry list of failed and misguided New Deal programs and never gives any credit to FDR or his administration or to the New Deal programs that worked. Instead, the book is a one sided polemic against the New Deal. Shale never accounts for the incredible popularity of FDR and the New Deal programs that her heroes worked so hard to sabotage. She fails to mention that the resistance to the New Deal in the South that really started after 1936 was largely driven by fears that the New Deal would weaken Jim Crow and she does not make the connection between some of the successful projects, such as the TVA and Intercoastal Waterway, with the eventual American victory in World War II. If you are really familiar with the New Deal the "Forgotten Man" might be worth a read for a different perspective, but this should not be your introduction to the subject. In fact, among most of the over eighty set FDR is still a hero and I believe that they would disagree with Shale's view of the New Deal as a disaster.

    31 of 72 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan arlington, TX, United States 03-01-12
    Dan arlington, TX, United States 03-01-12
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    "TMI Too much detail. Biased author."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Yes, I would give much more focus on the actual human aspect. How did the politics effect the daily lives of the average citizen.


    Did The Forgotten Man inspire you to do anything?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Names of politicians was overboard. Lost my interest about half way through book.





    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L New York, NY, United States 11-02-08
    L New York, NY, United States 11-02-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Too Much Detail"

    I'm in the middle of the book now, considering putting it down, as it got very bogged down in giving bios on every conceivable character. I feel like she's going to introduce every living American in the 1930s...

    5 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Lane MN 02-07-09
    S. Lane MN 02-07-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Not my style of history book"

    It's a difficult listen with a lot of dates and names that seem to run together. I also expected more analysis on how the FDR admin. wasn't as successful as common history would have you believe. It was more of a run down of events that happened during the 1930s.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
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    Gregory WESTFIELD, IN, United States 10-26-11
    Gregory WESTFIELD, IN, United States 10-26-11
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    "Good Overview of Depression Era Politics"

    A fascinating run through the key players in and around the White House during the period leading up to and during the depression. Such notables as Father Coughlin, Guy Tugwell, Father Divine, and many others are profiled, in chronological sequence. The author provides background on each notable figure. Several major legal challenges to FDR policies are also detailed. I found myself cheering when the Schecter brothers won their case, as though it had just happened.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Jack Daniels 12-16-10 Member Since 2008

    Uplinktruck

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    "To avoid future mistakes, we must study the past"

    The Forgotten Man is the perfect book for the times we are in now. It reminds us of the lessons this country learned the hard way through the 1930s. Many of those lessons are not being taught in today's schools. This book lends credence the same philosophy my college economics professor taught. That philosophy is that no one can spend and borrow their way to prosperity. Ms. Shlaes' book taught me that in the 1930s is was possible to go to jail for selecting a specific live chicken for sale rather then grabbing the closest one to the door. She showed us what happens to common stock holders like you and I when government competes against private companies. To compare what happened through the 1930s to what is happening now is frightening. Everyone should read this (or listen to) this book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hondadx8 06-15-10
    hondadx8 06-15-10 Member Since 2006
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    "A great book."

    Shlaes does a great job of explaining what you will never learn in Public Schools. Don’t be fooled by people who call this “revisionist”. As you read it you also see a lot of similarities in the legislation and arguments that are being used today. Unfortunately some don’t learn what history has to teach.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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