Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in 1945 after his election to four terms as President of the United States. He entered office amid the Great Depression; initiated the programs that would become the hallmark of the New Deal; piloted the United States and its allies into war against Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and against Nazi Germany; and helped lay the groundwork with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill for the reconstruction of the world at Yalta. “The common perception of FDR,” maintains Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), “remains that of someone who brought an end to fear of starvation and of fascism.”

Dr. Grabar is writing a book on Roosevelt. She presages it in an article “New Deal Nostalgia” for the March 31 issue of Gloria Greenfield’s online journal at Doc Emet Productions.

Not surprisingly, a lengthy list of left-leaning historians like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and William Leuchtenburg has adulated FDR. In a famous line, Schlesinger posited that instead of destroying capitalism FDR possibly single-handedly saved it. Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and an endless series of lesser Democratic politicians have cloaked themselves in his legacy.

But some communitarian conservatives, recently disenchanted by the free market, have wanted to conserve the spirit of the New Deal for their own. “[E]mpty factories . . . boarded storefronts, neighborhoods of sinking value, and social decay” have resulted from deregulation. They want to focus on the working- and middle-classes instead of giving license to corporations in bed with the neo-liberal uniparty government that are out to swindle them. The former neo-conservative Michael Lind’s influential writings fall into this camp.

“National developmentalism” is Lind’s watchword. It emerges in his mind, according to Dr. Grabar, from “a twenty-first century version of the state-sponsored national industrial capitalism of Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Democrat successor and modern Republicans like Eisenhower and Nixon. Under ‘democratic nationalism,’ private and public sectors collaborate to maximize ‘the military security and well-being of the community.’” In such a scenario, reinvigorated and independent labor unions take their rightful place in opposition to corporations.

But Dr. Grabar is not buying what Lind is selling. Whenever, she asks, has the free market been free and fair? Lind and others like him are suffering from “historical amnesia.” The New Deal, she says, “was a chaotic program, which was not based on experience or even well-thought-out theories.” It did more harm than good and served FDR in centralizing the apparatus of the regulatory state in unconscionable ways. He instituted, in effect, a machine that would run by itself. He amassed power and put civil liberty at risk, the erosion of which continues to this day.

The sleight of hand of Social Security, for example, a tax on income that confers no private ownership of the funds allocated and is based on a vague promise that government is willing to pay retirees, was done with precisely this in mind, as even Roosevelt himself admitted. With Social Security currently heading toward default, the uniparty of both Republicans and Democrats have made much needed reforms to maintain solvency of the system a taboo topic in Washington.

Imagine the United States decentralized, with a widespread dispersal of power and private property rights, disfavoring regulation, for fair trade, and opposed to foreign entanglements and heaven-on-earth schemes. That would be a wondrous dream.