The answer to this question is at the heart of the argument between liberals and conservatives.
In October of 1929 Wall Street crashed. The financial markets froze as speculators could not pay their loans. Banks lost income and failed. Bank failures wiped out the life savings of millions of Americans.
Beyond the financial markets, ordinary business lost consumers and shed jobs. More job losses meant fewer customers. It was a vicious cycles that seemed to have no bottom. Millions of American suffered, losing their jobs and homes.
President Herbert Hoover was a conservative. He believed in “free markets” or laissez-faire.
He took limited steps to alleviate the suffering. He saw pain as a necessary motivation for Americans to get back on their feet.
Hoover also saw pain as a valuable lesson. It created a moral hazard. It taught right from wrong. Pain taught individuals what not to do. Conservatives believed that alleviating the pain would prolong the crisis because people would never go back to work as long as they were well-fed.
Unfortunately, that is not the way the world works. Jobless Americans can’t pay rent. They can’t buy food. They can’t but clothes. When they lost income, businesses lost customers.
In 1930 the unemployment rate was almost 9%. In 1931 it was near 16%. By 1932, an election year, unemployment was 23%.
The free market had failed to correct itself.
Not only was the personal suffering unnecessary, but it also depressed the entire economy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against Hoover in 1932 and offered a liberal alternative. FDR promised to do something to alleviate the suffering.
Roosevelt offered a New Deal. He would regulate big business to stop them from abusing their size in the market place. He would create job programs to put the abled bodied to work. He would offer immediate relief to workers with no jobs. FDR promised to shorten the work day and week.
FDR won in a landslide with 57.4% of the vote and 472 of 531 electors. Americans were tired of suffering for nothing. Conservatives predicted doom and gloom.
They argued that liberals were destroying the moral fiber of America. Without pain Americans could not tell right from wrong.
Liberal America prospered once the New Deal kicked into gear. By 1936, FRD’s reelection year, unemployment was 17%. The New Deal had saved the free market. Jobs returned. Americans paid their rent. They bought food. They bought clothes. Consumer spending drove more job creation.
Americans don’t need to suffer. No one needs to suffer. We are all better off when we relieve suffering. Like the Good Samaritan we need to heal our neighbor. The rewards are great.
Grayson County Democratic Chair and the SDEC 30 Committee Man
As an “Army Brat” Glenn Melançon [pronounced Mel-LAWN-sawn] learned the value of public service. He was born in Heidelberg, Germany, on January 24, 1966, and is the youngest of four children. His parents, Yves “Buster” and Anna Mae Melançon, had committed to a career in the US military, Buster as a combat engineer and Anna Mae as a military wife. Their sacrifices and examples provided the foundation for Glenn’s firm belief that serving others can make the world better one day at a time.
Glenn and his wife Jackie moved to Sherman in 1995 after he completed a Ph.D. in History from Louisiana State University. He had accepted an appointment to teach history at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, while Jackie became a special education teacher at Denison ISD. They are proud of their two sons, Christopher and Alexandre. Christopher is following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a combat engineer. Alex attended Sherman High School where he enjoyed soccer and the University of Louisiana–Lafayette. He is now a proud member of the United States Airforce. While Glenn advanced in rank to become a Full Professor in July 2005, he made time to serve the local community. He served as the Cubmaster and Committee Chair for Pack 9, Wakefield Elementary School. He is also a volunteer at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.