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

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.