During the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to act in the name of “the forgotten man,” that is, the poor man, the old man, the man “at the bottom of the economic pyramid” in need of government help. Amity Shlaes explained that FDR redefined the forgotten man and his plight. “As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine…what A, B, and C shall do for X.” C is the forgotten man, the one whose property is redistributed to someone else.
But FDR labeled X as the forgotten man. “This redefinition of the Forgotten Man and the government’s responsibility toward him was the end of limited government and the beginning of a new tradition,” comments The Honorable Janice Rogers Brown in her exceptional Constitution Day speech. “Whereas the American Revolution was a taxpayer revolt that emphasized individual liberty and protection of private property, the Roosevelt revolution cultivated dependent constituencies and class warfare.”
Decades after FDR’s New Deal, Judge Brown wonders “Have Americans really grown weary of statism, or are they only concerned about the staggering cost and paltry return of the statist’s promises?” The success of America and the forgotten man turns on First Principles: “Without a return to first principles, we will end up arguing that conservatives can preside over the welfare state more efficiently than liberals. That hardly seems a distinction on which the pivot of human history should turn. Programs and policy are important at the margins, but what really matters is philosophy.”