What was the effect of Hoover's philosophy on the U.S. during he Great Depression?
Hoover's philosophy is usually (if rather simplistically) called "rugged individualism," based on a speech he gave while running for President. What he meant was that government policies needed to incentivize initiative and hard work. What he did not mean, as he stated categorically in his speech, was a return to laissez-faire policies of the late nineteenth century. Once the Depression broke out, Hoover advocated what he called "associationism," the mutual agreement of business leaders to act in the interest of the country. He also advocated significant and really unprecedented levels of government aid in the form of loans to businesses (the Reconstruction Finance Act) and public works (like the Hoover Dam). So Hoover did not take the "hands-off" approach to the Depression that he is often blamed for taking. However, he strongly opposed direct aid, a position that made him seem unfeeling and insensitive to the suffering of many Americans. He also generally refused to use the coercive power of the state to force businesses to cooperate in the ways he thought necessary. Finally, he reluctantly signed off on protectionist legislation, a disastrous decision that stemmed from his views on monetary policy. So Hoover, who was one of the nation's leading humanitarians before the Depression, assumed much of the blame for the government's apparently feckless response to the economic catastrophe. This fact, while perhaps unfair, stemmed from his adherence to certain philosophical principles in the face of an unprecedented disaster. It also, to a degree still debated by historians, contributed to the human impact of the Depression.