“Nothing to Fear”

March 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in History, Nonfiction | Leave a comment

My man Rocket Scientist convinced me to read Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, by Adam Cohen.  Usually it’s the other way around – I am constantly hounding him to read things I liked, which is tough because I read approximately 25 times more than he does.  This time, he beat me to it.

We study history, as Santayana tells us, so that we won’t be doomed to repeat it.  Nothing to Fear is positively eerie in how familiar it makes those first months of 1932.  People losing their life’s savings due to poorly regulated financial institutions?  Check.  Rising rates of unemployment?  Check.  A publicly vilified lame duck president slinking out of office to make way for a tremendously popular new president?  Check.  It goes on.

If you follow current events at all, you’ll find this book a real page-turner.  Cohen explores FDR’s ground-breaking policies in enough detail that a layperson can understand the problem as well as the solution.  FDR brought together cabinet members from different ends of the political spectrum, and somehow got them to work together.  Together they hammered together a practical plan, rather than arguing over ideology and party platforms.  (Well, they did that a little).  There are a lot of lessons here that could contribute to solving today’s headliner issues.  After all, we’ve been here before.

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