FDR’s Folly by Jim Powell

“FDR’s Folly” by Jim Powell is a critical examination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Contrary to popular narratives that credit the New Deal with lifting the U.S. out of the Great Depression, Powell posits that these policies exacerbated and prolonged the economic downturn. Here’s an in-depth analysis of the work:

Powell scrutinizes a range of New Deal initiatives, from Social Security to the Wagner Act, arguing that these policies stifled growth, created barriers to employment, and burdened the economy with debt. The book is positioned as a counter-narrative to the predominant belief that FDR’s leadership and the New Deal were pivotal in the nation’s economic recovery.


  1. Well-Researched: Powell supports his claims with a wealth of data, offering a detailed and fact-based critique of New Deal policies. He delves deep into the economic ramifications of each policy, presenting a thorough case.
  2. Challenges Status Quo: “FDR’s Folly” serves as an essential counterpoint to mainstream historical narratives, encouraging readers to critically evaluate the effectiveness and impact of government intervention in the economy.
  3. Clear Writing: Powell’s prose is accessible and engaging. He explains complex economic concepts in layman’s terms, making the book suitable for a wide audience.
  4. Broad Scope: The book doesn’t just focus on one or two policies but provides a comprehensive critique of the New Deal as a whole, touching upon its various aspects.


  1. Polarizing Perspective: Powell’s position is clearly on one end of the historical and economic spectrum. Critics argue that while the New Deal had its flaws, it also had merits that Powell might downplay or overlook.
  2. Potential for Confirmation Bias: The book’s focus is predominantly on the negative outcomes of the New Deal. As a result, there might be instances where Powell selectively presents data or examples that bolster his argument, potentially neglecting opposing viewpoints or evidence.
  3. Lack of Nuance: Some critics believe that Powell paints the New Deal with too broad a brush, failing to differentiate between policies that might have been genuinely harmful and those that had positive or mixed effects.


“FDR’s Folly” by Jim Powell offers a compelling critique of one of the most celebrated periods in American history. By challenging the commonly held belief that the New Deal was an unmitigated success, Powell provides readers with an alternative lens through which to view this era. While the book is rich in data and offers a fresh perspective, it’s essential for readers to balance Powell’s arguments with other historical analyses to gain a comprehensive understanding of the New Deal’s multifaceted impact. Regardless of one’s stance on the topic, “FDR’s Folly” is a valuable addition to the discourse on American economic history.