The Roosevelt Myth

You Do Not Have Access

This content is part of a subscription to the Laissez Faire Book Club.

A strong intellectual foundation in classic laissez-faire ideas is essential for navigating the media and government propaganda that you are assaulted with every day. That’s what The Book Club is for. Each month our editorial board selects two of the most important classic books and publishes them into the Club. As a member, you get them and every other book we’ve ever published — 85 titles and counting -- for FREE.

Discover All the Benefits Here   Login


Franklin D. Roosevelt is considered the most-sainted president of the 20th century. You have to look far and wide to discover the truth about his character and policies. But as John T. Flynn notes in this landmark 1948 volume, your ebook of the week, FDR actually prolonged the Great Depression and deliberately dragged the country into a war that seriously compromised American liberties.

What’s more, he did this despite campaign promises to slash bureaucracy and cut spending. He ran as a small-government liberal, a fact (among a million) that has been completely forgotten today.

Flynn writes a devastating indictment. If the contents of the book were widely known, the monuments erected in FDR’s honor would be torn down forthwith.

To this day, the period of the New Deal remains a puzzle just on the face of it. People were suffering. The Great Depression was long and hard. We are told that Roosevelt did wonderful things for people to rescue them from this suffering, yet even a casual look shows that he didn’t actually end the Depression. It continued from his first to his last day in office. How is it possible that he is given credit for something that he so obviously did not do?

The reputation of this president has to be one of the greatest propaganda victories of the 20th century. There is no better book on FDR. Just to focus on one example, Flynn’s account of the early banking crisis and the confiscation of gold is more detailed and beautifully written than any other. Most historians totally ignore this monumental event or pass it off as some sort of brave act of responsible public policy. Not Flynn. As a serious student of economics, he understood monetary depreciation and its implications.

Flynn provides a seamless documentation on how the New Deal so nicely segued into the Second World War. The war was clearly seen by the Roosevelt administration as an another round of New Deal policymaking: more debt, more control, more spending, more inflation, more of everything that had not worked for eight years but was now taken to another level entirely.

If you want to know why this book never became a national best-seller, this is the reason: Flynn saw the welfare state and the warfare state as two expressions of the same policy impulse. That vision makes him anathema to historians of the left and the right. Even worse, from their point of view, he fully succeeds in making his case.

The Roosevelt Myth remains the best-ever account of this presidency and its catastrophic influence on American life. Its appearance also sealed the fate of the author. He was a giant in the 1930s as a journalist and public figure. By the 1950s, he was forgotten and ignored. He paid a big price for telling the truth. We are all so fortunate that he dared to do so.

From the Foreword by John T. FlynnThis book is in no sense a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is rather a critical account of that episode in American politics known as the New Deal. As to the President, it is an account of an image projected upon the popular mind which came to be known as Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is the author’s conviction that this image did not at all correspond to the man himself and that it is now time to correct the lineaments of this synthetic figure created by highly intelligent propaganda, aided by mass illusion and finally enlarged and elaborated out of all reason by the fierce moral and mental disturbances of the war. The purpose of this book, therefore, is to present the Franklin D. Roosevelt of the years 1932 to 1945 in his normal dimensions, reduced in size to agree with reality.The war played havoc with history-writing after 1940. Not only did a great curtain of secrecy come down upon performers in the drama of the war, but their portraits and their actions were presented to us through the movies, the radio and the press upon a heroic scale as part of the business of selling the warriors and the statesmen and the war to the people. Their blunders and their quarrels were blotted out of the picture. Only the bright features were left. The casual citizen saw them as exalted beings moving in glory across the vast stage of war, uttering eloquent appeals to the nation, challenging the enemy in flaming words, striding like heroes and talking like gods.The moment has come when the costumes, the grease paint, the falsely colored scenery, the technicolored spotlights and all the other artifices of make-up should be put aside and, in the interest of truth, the solid facts about the play and the players revealed to the people.A whole 20-foot shelf of books has appeared glorifying the character and career of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition a large number of men and women who were associated with his administrations have published their own versions of their several parts in those administrations. And while these contain some incidental criticisms, the chief effect of all these books is to feed the legend of the world conqueror and remodeler. Curiously, only two or three critical works have appeared and these touch only special sectors of the whole story. It seemed to me there was room for at least one critical book covering the whole period of Roosevelt’s terms as President. There is much to this story with which I have not attempted to deal either because it is not provable or, if provable, is not yet believable or because it belongs to a domain of writing for which I have neither taste nor experience. I have omitted any account of the bitter struggle which attended our entry into the war or any attempt to determine whether or not we should have gone into the war. That is another story which is reserved for a later day. Similarly no account of the military conduct of the war is included. The facts about that are even more obscure than the political facts and must await the release of a mass of documents still under official lock and key. I have, however, sought to clear up from the recently offered testimony of the chief actors, the diplomatic performances in that shocking and pathetic failure during and after the war. And I have included some account of the incredible mismanagement of our economic scene at home during the war.I have limited myself severely to facts. A critic may disagree with my interpretation of those facts, but he will not be able successfully to contradict them. I have introduced into the text numbered references to my authorities and these appear at the end of the book. The facts are drawn from official records and reports, the testimony given in congressional investigations, the reports of responsible journalists and a large number of books by men who were actors in these scenes.
Author: John T. Flynn