"The Depression of 1933"?? -- Is a Depression a Moveable Famine?

At first I thought I must have heard it wrong when I was watching a discussion of "Keynes vs. Hayek" on The PBS Newshour on Wednesday evening.

The Free Market faithful have rewritten a great deal of history in their attempts to make it appear that the real world operates the way their ideology says it does. (See Amity Shlaes's faith-based reconstruction of the history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man.)

But surely they wouldn't dare go that far ... would they?

"We have a long history of contractions in the United States," economist Russ Roberts of George Mason University said to Paul Solmon. "The 1933 Depression was not the first one. We had one in 1894 ..."

Say What? Did he actually say "the Depression of 1933??

No longer content to blame Franklin Roosevelt for not ending the Depression, now the Marketists are blaming him for starting it.

When Mr. Roosevelt took office in 1933, three-and-a-half years after the start of what has always been, accurately, called the Depression of 1929, at least 25 percent of the American workforce was unemployed and the banking system had completely collapsed.

But blind faith wouldn't be blind if it could see such plain facts. It's like those who believe that God created the world in 4004 BC and placed fossils around to fool us and test our faith. The Depression, we are told, was created in 1933 and all the evidence that it had been going on for more than three years should be ignored, because it must be false, since it contradicts what our faith in the Market tells us.

It should not be missed that moving the start of the Great Depression to Roosevelt's first year is just what "conservatives" have done with the Great Recession. They are now blaming it on President Obama. In their faith-based re-writing of history, the recession that began in 2007 has become "The Recession of 2009."

An economic collapse is a moveable famine.

Professor Roberts is, like another noted believer in a God of Prosperity with whom he shared a surname and who died this week, Oral Roberts, a faith healer: Just have complete faith in the Market and give no medication to the economic patient in critical condition and all will be well.

That is now the position of an entire political party. God help us if they return to power, because the Market God won't.

Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. A 25th anniversary edition of his classic book, The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941, with a comprehensive new introduction comparing circumstances then and now, has just been published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.