The Great Depression

Start Free Trial

Compare and contrast the respective approaches of Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt to the issues and problems of the Great Depression.

Quick answer:

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover adopted opposite approaches to the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover thought that America and its economy would naturally recover from the depression, so he refused to have the federal government intervene or become heavily involved. By contrast, Franklin D. Roosevelt believed the federal government needed to take an active role in resolving the depression, and under his New Deal, he dramatically expanded the federal government to increase employment and establish agencies help relieve some of the country's worst problems.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Contrary to popular belief, Hoover did actually believe in using the power of the federal government to help tackle the Great Depression. Despite his instinctive aversion to government involvement in the economy, he allocated billions of dollars of tax payers' money to the states in the hope that these resources...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

would be used for public works projects.

However, Hoover's efforts proved to be far too little, far too late. The amount of money he allocated to the states was woefully inadequate to deal with the sheer scale of the problems now facing the country. To make matters worse, many of the states were run by fiscal conservatives from Hoover's own Republican Party, which had a strong ideological aversion to what it considered to be dangerous, radical measures.

Roosevelt was much bolder than Hoover in his approach. His policies to deal with the Great Depression were more comprehensive in their scope and purpose. Under the New Deal, FDR greatly expanded the role of the federal government, not just in regulating the economy but in actively creating employment opportunities for the growing army of jobless people.

For the first time in American history, the federal government would actively seek to create millions of new jobs, instead of stimulating the creation of private-sector jobs through fiscal measures such as tax cuts. Republicans were deeply skeptical of such policies, and believed they involved the Federal government greatly overstepping the bounds of its authority. But in actual fact, FDR simply adopted a similar kind of policy to that pursued by Hoover, except that he carried it out on a much bigger scale.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt were the presidents during the Great Depression. Each had their ideas about how to deal with the Great Depression.

For the first two years of the depression, the principles of laissez-faire guided Hoover’s response. He believed that our economy goes through cycles. Thus, he believed the government should let things run their course and eventually things would improve. As a result, many people believe Hoover did nothing to end the depression. During first two years of the depression, this was an accurate perception.

However, in his last year as president, Hoover reluctantly got the government involved. The National Credit Corporation, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and the Emergency Relief and Construction Act were examples of programs and laws Hoover utilized to help end the depression. However, it was too little, too late.

Franklin Roosevelt believed the government needed to be actively involved in ending the Great Depression. Immediately following his inauguration, Roosevelt went to the White House to work on programs to end the Great Depression. In his first 100 days in office, there were 15 programs or laws developed to end the Great Depression Some of these programs helped provide jobs, regulate the banking industry and the stock market, and also gave help to farmers. More programs followed after the first 100 days. The government was very active in trying to end the depression.

President Hoover and President Roosevelt had ideas about how to deal with the Great Depression. While there were a few similarities, there were far more differences.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Herbert Hoover, a Republican, and Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, obviously had different ideas about dealing with the Great Depression.

Roosevelt is famous for his “New Deal,” with which he tried to reverse the negative economic effects of the depression. The New Deal included many federally funded programs that greatly expanded the federal government’s role. Hoover, as a Republican, was not as inclined to spend federal money on such programs. Instead Hoover tried to stimulate the economy through banking and trade policies and by instilling a spirit of volunteerism to spark interest in helping those most affected by the ravages of the depression.

Hoover’s efforts resulted in little or no success. Roosevelt’s were spotty, but much more popular with mainstream Americans, who probably gained more in morale as they witnessed the government’s attempts to help, than in actual economic improvement.

Many of Roosevelt’s programs were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional federal over-reach. That is a fact we don’t learn much about in school. Nevrtheless, Roosevelt’s activist approach helped change the makeup of the two parties, as the Democrats came to be considered the party of social change and economic assistance, while the Republicans appealed to those who favored individual rights and limited government. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The approaches of these two presidents did have something in common.  Both presidents used the federal government more than any previous president had to try to get the economy back to full strength.  Hoover is commonly blamed for not doing anything to end the Depression, but he actually did have the government do quite a bit (like the Hoover Dam and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation) to try to end the Depression.

There are two major differences between their approaches.  First, Roosevelt was willing to do much more than Hoover to combat the Depression.  He was willing to have the government get much more involved in the economy.  Hoover did more than any previous president, but Roosevelt did much, much more than Hoover.  Second, Roosevelt did more to try to boost the morale of the people.  Roosevelt tried to convince people that things would get better and that the government would be there to help.  Hoover did not do nearly as much to try to improve public morale.

Though Hoover did do more than he is given credit for, his approach to the problems of the Great Depression was not nearly as aggressive as Roosevelt's.

Approved by eNotes Editorial