June 2015 2-04: How successful were the policies of Franklin Roosevelt in dealing with the problems of mass unemployment in the years 1933 to 1940? [24 marks]

June 2015 2-04: How successful were the policies of Franklin Roosevelt in dealing with the problems of mass unemployment in the years 1933 to 1940? [24 marks]

Advantages

  • FDR had a major psychological effect through his ‘fireside chats’ and measures to restore confidence
  • the speed with which FDR acted to deal with the banking crisis in 1933 was vital for recovery
  • Roosevelt’s first New Deal did a huge amount to create jobs; the CCC, the FERA, the NIRA, the PWA and the TVA were all vital initiatives to build infrastructure and make work
  • unemployment levels were halved between 1933 and 1936
  • the Second New Deal included agencies like the WPA, REA and NYA to make work and provide training.  Unemployment carried on falling every year except 1938.

Disadvantages

  • the Second New Deal included agencies like the WPA, REA and NYA to make work and provide training.  Unemployment carried on falling every year except 1938.
  • many of the New Deal alphabet agencies were ineffective and had little impact overall.  The introduction of the Second New Deal was an admission the first New Deal had not really succeeded.  Unemployment was still over 10 million in 1936
  • the ‘Roosevelt Recession’ of 1937–1938 saw unemployment going back up again
  • full economic recovery was due to the natural ‘rebound’ of the economy, not FDR and intervention – the real surge in economic activity and employment was due to the approach of war in Europe, as US industry got huge contracts to produce armaments and raw materials for Britain and Europe.

Evaluation

Students should make a judgement of the degree of success and failure of government policies to deal with the problem of mass unemployment in the Great Depression (note that there was a delay between the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Depression).  Students might argue that government policies made very little difference and that it was natural economic recovery and the impact of war that finally got America back to work; or that FDR and his New Deal Policies succeeded where Hoover had failed. One feature of answers at the higher levels may be depth and differentiation – for example, between elements of success and failure in New Deal policies, or in the interrelation of US government policies and the wider context of unemployment in the world economy.

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