During the 1930s, FDR managed to prolong the depression he inherited for over a decade by unleashing a vast array of wrongheaded economic interventions on an economy trying to correct itself from the malinvestments that occurred during the 1920s.
Whenever a financial bubble pops, prices fall from their artificially high levels, seeking their true, market level. This is the market’s way of liquidating the malinvestments and imprudent debt that resulted from prior central bank monetary inflation, which artificially raised prices and lowered the cost of borrowing and investing.
Many of FDR’s New Deal interventions proceeded from the economically idiotic belief that preventing prices from falling would help. So, for example, he used taxpayer funds to pay farmers to produce less crops at the same time many were going hungry. By lowering the supply of crops, he hoped to raise their prices.
But he never ordered people to produce nothing at all.
Today, the federal and state governments are doing just that, albeit for supposed public health reasons rather than economic ones. State governments are in many cases ordering most of their populations to stop producing anything whatsoever, while the federal government promises to reimburse their losses.
Reimburse them with what money, you ask? Good question.
Regardless, the economic devastation that will result from this economy-wide shutdown will dwarf the damage FDR did during the so-called “Great Depression.” If simply limiting production caused a decade-long crisis (and it really didn’t end until after WWII), ceasing production altogether will obviously be worse. How much worse depends upon how long the insanity lasts.
As far as that is concerned, never underestimate a government.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.