Michael Tomasky on How Newt Gingrich Has No Rightful Place in American Politics or Government
John Kay Weighs in, Calling for a Practical Macroeconomics

Politico Says: "Opinions of Shape of Earth Differ"--and Won't Interview Anybody Who Thinks It Is Round

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Yet more evidence that the world would be a better place without the Politico:

Today it is Andie Coller and Patrick O'Connor, who drop a notch below "he said, she said" journalism: they write a story about Amity Shlaes by interviewing Amity Shlaes and her side alone:

Why GOP is devouring one book: Andie Coller and Patrick O'Connor : House Republicans are tearing through the pages of Amity Shlaes’ “The Forgotten Man” like soccer moms before book club night. Shlaes’ 2007 take on the Great Depression questions the success of the New Deal and takes issue with the value of government intervention in a major economic crisis.... “There aren’t many books that take a negative look at the New Deal,” explained Republican policy aide Mike Ference, whose boss, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, invited Shlaes to join a group of 20 or so other House Republicans for lunch earlier this year in his Capitol suite. “Republicans are gobbling it up — and so are other lawmakers — because it tells you what they did, what worked and what didn’t.” “It’s been suggested as required reading for all of us, I think,” said Erica Elliott, press secretary for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) — who himself notes that his chief of staff “stole” his hardback copy, so he had to purchase a paperback....

It’s not hard to see what Republicans find compelling about the book. Shlaes... presents a vision of the Great Depression that challenges the conventional wisdom that casts Herbert Hoover as a goat, FDR as a hero and the New Deal as the country’s salvation....

Critics of the book... have challenged Shlaes’ use of data, noting, for example, that the unemployment statistics she uses do not count Works Progress Administration jobs. Shlaes defends her approach, arguing that make-work jobs are not evidence of economic growth.... Others, such as Matthew Dallek, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, have called her take “revisionist”; Shlaes said she is simply recounting what she found.

It’s clear, however, that she brings a certain perspective to her task. As she told Reason magazine in January: “The government is like a lobster. It will eat anything, it wants to survive, it will compete with anything, and it can be a cannibal. When you look back at the ’30s using the public choice lens, what you discover is the extent to which the Depression wasn’t about a virtuous government and bad businesspeople. Rather, it was about people in office competing with the private sector for power.”...

“Definitive isn’t the word I would use,” Shlaes said. “I just thought, ‘Maybe there’s more to the story, and if I find more, I’ll try to capture that in the book,’” she said. She notes that she is a “history writer with a journalism background, not an economist,” and that it was not her intent to write a polemic — rather, it was to tell the stories of individuals who lived through and helped shape the era.... Shlaes herself stops short of asserting that a laissez-faire approach would have been more successful than the one Franklin D. Roosevelt took. “We don’t know — because we weren’t there — what would have happened if they had left the market alone,” she said. Or, as she puts it in the book, “Of course Hoover and Roosevelt may have had no choice but to pursue the policies they did. They may indeed have spared the country something worse — an American version of Stalin’s communism or Mussolini’s fascism.”

Actually, we do know. All of the five major economies of the world started out the Great Depression pursuing for the most part the orthodox gold-standard non-New Deal policies of the 1920s. All five of them had fierce political debates about whether to switch to a "New Deal." All eventually switched to their own version of the New Deal--Japan and Britain in 1931, Germany and the U.S. in 1933, and France not until 1937. Japan and Britain recovered fastest and most completely; Germany and the U.S. were in the middle; and France was the worst. Odds are that had the U.S. "left the market alone" until the late 1930s--as France did--production and employment in the U.S. in the late 1930s would have been no higher than in 1932: that there would have been no recovery from the Great Depression at all.

But Coller and O'Connor can't be bothered to take the time to even interview those who say that the shape of the earth is round.