Fighting a New Deal: Intellectual origins of the Reagan Revolution, 1932--1952
Eow, Gregory Teddy
Haskell, Thomas L.; McCann, Samuel G.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation locates the origins of the modern conservative movement in the intellectual history of the 1930s and 1940s. I argue that it was during the years of the Great Depression, when laissez-faire capitalism was most discredited, that a group of conservative academics and intellectuals began to lay the foundations for its postwar resurgence. Angered by the New Deal, those intellectual activists honed their free market ideology and began to develop a network through which to distribute it. As a result, they began to lay the intellectual and institutional foundation for the conservative movement. This dissertation recovers a number of narratives that reveal the rudimentary makings of a movement. It was during the 1930s and 1940s that economist Henry Simons worked to turn the University of Chicago's economics department into a bastion of free market sentiment; Leonard Read, after a decade of free market advocacy, created the first libertarian think tank, the Foundation for Economic Education, in 1946; legal scholar Roscoe Pound, worried by the spread of legal realism in the academy and growth of government in Washington, dramatically moved to the political right to make common cause with conservatives; Albert Jay Nock, his protégé Frank Chodorov and Felix Morley created a network of conservative writers and publications that paved the way for William F. Buckley's National Review ; and writers such as Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson made the case for laissez-faire in the pages of popular publications such as the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Herald Tribune . Historians have generally attributed the rise of the modern right to the conservative political mobilization in response to the civil rights movement, campus agitation of the 1960s, and the campaign for women's rights. As a result, historians tend to view the modern conservative movement as a distinctly postwar social and political phenomenon. This dissertation enriches that account by revealing the ties the modern conservative movement has to the years of the Great Depression and the debate over the government's role in the economy.