In 1928, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover announced his intention to seek the presidency of the United States. Once he secured the republican nomination, his campaign slogan was “a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.”
His plan as president was to continue the economic policies of his two immediate predecessors, as the decade had up until that point, been quite prosperous.
Unfortunately, the economy started to fall apart in September, 1929, a mere six months after he took the oath of office as president. Then came Black Friday, October 29, when the stock market crashed. The ensuing panic, coupled with economic downturns worldwide, snowballed into what we now know as the Great Depression.
In looking back at the presidency of Herbert Hoover, it’s easy to blame him and him alone for allowing the depression to become what it was. As I’ve already hinted, it was the culmination of a decade of economic policies that can be characterized, if we are being as charitable as possible, as shortsighted. Additionally, prior recessions, depressions, and panics worked themselves out in time. Had I been Hoover, I probably would have assumed the same would be true this time.
Doing nothing, in the face of a crisis, never looks good. Even if all evidence suggests that doing nothing is absolutely the right thing to do.
But that was Hoover’s downfall. His inaction was perceived as inability, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he lost his reelection bid in 1932 to former New York governor Franklin D Roosevelt.
Roosevelt didn’t have a magic plan to get us out of the depression and he knew it. He just knew that inaction simply wasn’t working so something else was needed. He even admitted that he didn’t know which ideas would actually work (or for that matter, which ones would hold up to judicial scrutiny).
And despite that uncertainty, voters not only elected him in 1932, but they re-elected him in each of the next three election cycles. In the end, we needed a war to truly end what had become known as the Great Depression.
I mention this anecdote because America has a gun problem. It was laid bare last week in Orlando in the Pulse nightclub shooting but it’s so much more than high profile events like that. Domestic violence, suicide, accidents. Doing nothing really isn’t an option.
I’m not pretending to have all of the answers. Or even any of them. The only thing I’m truly sure of, is that doing nothing is not the answer.
It’s fair to say that we ought to at least start out with the recognition that we do have a problem. Take an attitude that there’s no such thing as a bad idea to start with, poke holes in them all to measure their practicality, and the ones that still hold water, should be tried.
If they don’t work, or if they’re not constitutional, scrap those ideas and try again.
Then we can keep doing that until the problem is actually fixed.
Just like the Great Depression.