How Quickly Freedom is Lost: Remembering FDR’s NRA

Logo of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) as displayed in movies by cooperating filmmakers.
Logo of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) as displayed in movies by cooperating filmmakers. (Source: Bill of Rights Institute.)

Were any of you around in Franklin Roosevelt’s day? I am amazed at how he is praised in our modern textbooks, with little critical discussion of what he did to Japanese Americans or to the Constitution of this land. While the precedent he set of massive executive power grabs continues unabated in our day, there are some lessons from his reign that should be remembered by those who seem eager to trust a President with power far beyond the intent of our Founding Fathers. One little glimpse into what can happen comes from the activities of the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on the NRA which discusses its “codes of fair competition” aimed at reducing “destructive competition” and helping workers by setting minimum wages and maximum weekly hours:

About 23,000,000 people worked under the NRA fair code. However, violations of codes became common and attempts were made to use the courts to enforce the NRA. The NRA included a multitude of regulations imposing the pricing and production standards for all sorts of goods and services. Individuals were arrested for not complying with these codes. For example, a man named Jack Magid was jailed for violating the “Tailor’s Code” by pressing a suit for 35 rather than NRA required 40 cents. John T. Flynn, in The Roosevelt Myth (1944) reported:

The NRA was discovering it could not enforce its rules. Black markets grew up. Only the most violent police methods could procure enforcement. In Sidney Hillman’s garment industry the code authority employed enforcement police. They roamed through the garment district like storm troopers. They could enter a man’s factory, send him out, line up his employees, subject them to minute interrogation, take over his books on the instant. Night work was forbidden. Flying squadrons of these private coat-and-suit police went through the district at night, battering down doors with axes looking for men who were committing the crime of sewing together a pair of pants at night. But without these harsh methods many code authorities said there could be no compliance because the public was not back of it.

In 1935, in the court case of Schecter Poultry Corp. v. US, the Supreme Court declared the NRA as unconstitutional because it gave the President too much power. The NRA quickly stopped operations, but many of the labor provisions reappeared in the Wagner Act of 1935.

Businesses and individuals face similar threats today. I know someone who once ran a controversial health care clinic that had painstakingly sought FDA approval for their treatments. Everything was cleared by the branch of the FDA they had been working with, or so it seemed, but one day another branch of the FDA showed up to do an “investigation.” They seized records and computers needed for the business, essentially shutting down the clinic, without filing any charges. One year later, the impoverished owner of the clinic, who had lost everything she had due to the FDA’s actions, received a phone call from the FDA. “We’ve completed the investigation. Didn’t find any problems. No charges will be filed. You have 24 hours to pick up your stuff or we’ll discard it. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

That’s her story. I’ve looked at both sides and recognize that there are legitimate questions about the value of the service that was provided, though many of the patients claimed they were being helped. Whether the clinic was effective or not, the actions of the FDA just “didn’t feel like this was America,” as she put it. The sometimes capricious and harsh treatment of people and companies by our massive regulatory agencies in this country, not to mention the spying on citizens by Homeland Security and other organs of a burgeoning police state, represent a genuine loss in personal liberty.

Paraphrasing something I heard from The Onion, “the loss of personal liberty is a small price to pay for freedom.” At least that’s what we’re supposed to think.

The growing loss of liberty and individual responsibility will ultimately mean decreased tolerance for religion and religious values. Whether maintaining religious values results in being diagnosed with a mental illness, criminally charged with a hate crime, or other forms of punitive government intervention, I feel there is a risk in the future of increasing barriers to free religious practice. Religion truly is the enemy in Marxism, and as we move along Marx’s socialist trajectory (can you identify which of the 10 platforms of the Communist Manifesto have not yet been implemented in the US?), we will see more lions and fewer Christians.

Don’t let go of personal freedom and individual responsibility. A nanny state is one step away from a police state. Keep America free and sovereign.


Related reading:When the Supreme Court Stopped Economic Fascism in America,” Foundation for Economic Education, 2005.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

21 thoughts on “How Quickly Freedom is Lost: Remembering FDR’s NRA

  1. That is sure a condemming statement on a great american patriot. Quoting the “onion” and “Wilkepedia” is also questionable as they are known to not be reliable sources.

    Roosevelt got the country out of a great depression. He stopped two of the most evil men ever to live. (Stalin and Hitler). He created the CCC camps so young men could have jobs.

    There is a reason that every time Roosevelt’s name was mentioned that my mom put her hand over her heart in respect.

    What he did to the Japanese americans was done in a moment of time. to second guess his judgement is fruitless. Your hind sight is 20/400. In addition he was a Mason.

    Governor of New York and 32nd President of the United States, he was the only US president to be reelected three times. He brought his country out of the Great Depression, guided them through World War II and died in office. He was succeeded by another Mason, Harry S. Truman.

  2. FDR was truly great. As anonymous pointed out, you can’t knock his record. Notice the two who criticized. Nothing of substance.

    Contrast his record with the goofball we now have. Bush is a dishonest powermonger responsible for bankrupting the nation (morally and financially).

  3. I just finished reading “The Forgotten Man -A New History of the Great Depression.” It is a great book that really opened my eyes to how our federal government got to the bloated size that it is now. I am amazed at how virtually every big government agency was created by FDR. It also chronicles in great detail how Hoover and FDR caused the great depression to be “great.” It would have been over much sooner if they had let the markets take their course.

  4. I think the point of Jeff’s post was to show that Bush is even more dangerous than FDR was. Liberty is in jeopardy.

  5. Anonymous #1: “Roosevelt got the country out of a great depression.”

    FALSE. Roosevelt’s policies made the depression worse and kept it going for nearly a decade. It was World War II that ended the depression — it sent otherwise unemployed men off to fight and gave jobs to those who stayed here in the States.

    Big government can solve short-term problems, but at the cost of creating long-term problems. Government has grown ever-larger since Roosevelt, and we’re on the brink of economic collapse.

  6. Roosevelt’s policies made the depression worse.

    False. For example, social security ensured that many of the elderly did not endure terrible poverty as had occured in the past. I suppose you also believe the FDIC is a bad idea. How about the SEC. We really don’t need protection from greedy, evil people do we.

    Again, your arguments are without substance.

    By big government solving short term problems at the expense of long term problems, are you refering to Bush’s tax cuts which have sunk the dollar?

    If so, you are right there.

  7. To attack ones mother and say she was deluded can only be done by a weak and cowardly man.

    Mom lived throught the depression and three wars. I do not think she was deluded.

  8. Agreed – a comment that got too personal about someone’s mother was deleted. I may turn off comments on this one if this becomes a bunch of name calling.

    Look, I know a lot of people love FDR and grew up thinking he saved the country. But the power grab he orchestrated, even to the point of packing the Supreme Court with additional judges (totally destroying the concept of checks and balances), and numerous other acts, can be seen as fast-tracking America on the route to a totalitarian estate, exemplified by the NRA police. But that pace may be lethargic compared to what is happening now. But America is asleep while our liberties and individual responsibility for our lives and families is being taken over by ever bigger government. This route, history teaches us, is rarely reversed.

  9. I will agree with you about the problem of eroding liberties. I disagree with you that the fault lies with big government (speaking from a Mormon liberal perspective). I like my FDA. I want to make sure medication is what it claims to be. I like the safety net of social security, medicare, medicaid, etc. I like the idea of a free public education. I like the idea of a highway system. I even like NASA.

    To me the problem is one or more branches of government failing in their fiduciary duty to hold another in check. I, like many other Dems, had high hopes that this Congress would finally get a backbone and stand up to Bush. But alas…

  10. I graduated in the early 70’s and I can not believe how much our country has gone away from democracy and how much our freedoms we have given away to the goverment. At times I thought it was just me and I was listening to the wrong people that were out of touch with how things are supposed to be. But when I talk to my many friends from the former USSR and the countries Russia ruled over, tell me that they have more freedoms now than we do and how quickly we are loosing our freedoms, I am pretty sure we need to wake up. Ofcorse I am sure they are all brain washed

  11. Public education, eh?

    “I am opposed to free education as much as I am opposed to taking property from one man and giving it to another who knows not how to take care of it… Would I encourage free schools by taxation? No!” – Brigham Young

    There have been dozens of such statements from prophets and apostles from Brigham Young’s day onward, not only against public education but all the other principles of communism that have been implemented in America with the support of people like you, “anonymous.” The programs you laud are unconstitutional. To use a rather stronger word, they’re satanic, insofar as they infringe on the agency of U.S. citizens. On a more practical note, leftist policies are economically destructive.

  12. “Contrast his record with the goofball we now have. Bush is a dishonest powermonger responsible for bankrupting the nation (morally and financially).”

    They said this about President Regan and the world was going to come to an end with President Clinton too. We alway manage to get past all the good and bad they do.

  13. RWW, that’s all you can quote? Some obscure statement from Brigham Young. Even I can recognize when a prophet speaks as a man. By the way, we are removing Elder McKonkie’s uninspired words in the preface to the Book of Mormon too. Don’t insult our intelligence here by claiming the Church and God have taken a stand on public education.

    By the way, if you want to invoke Satan, look at what Satanists (a la LeVay) espouse. It is the same Social Darwminism that you love.

    I think they vote lockstep with you (as does the KKK by the way).

  14. RWW, I think you have failed to see the destructive economic policies by the right. It seems to me that we had surpluses under Clinton. If you need help to see how destructive Bush policies have been for America read Fishman’s China Inc. Or just listen to the sucking sound (as Perot used to say). Those are our jobs heading over there.

    By the way, Bush is a fool for trying to fund a war by lowering taxes. Brilliant!

  15. RWW, that’s all you can quote? … Don’t insult our intelligence here by claiming the Church and God have taken a stand on public education.

    Here’s a quote for you: “Thou shalt not steal.”

    I think you have failed to see the destructive economic policies by the right.

    Do you honestly think I’m a Republican? Bush and FDR are entirely on the same page.

    The nonsense about satanists and the KKK isn’t worth response. You should reconsider your reverence for history’s sacred cows if all you have to back it up with is vitriol.

  16. So RWW, are you saying that all taxation is stealing? How about “render unto Caeser”? What’s your take on that? I don’t think Christ was advocating stealing here.

    Vitriol?! That’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Who started claiming one of us was in league with Satan? My claim at least has substance. Satanists do espouse a brand of extreme Social Darwinism that seems to be near and dear to your heart. Even many Republicans I meet see the merit in regulated capitalism and in safety nets. Now I see your true colors.

    I didn’t just back up my reverence for true patriots with vitriol. I reminded you of the success of some of the programs that FDR brought into being. All you could do is make a claim about Satan or something like that. And you did single out the left when you said that leftist policies are destructive. No references, just vitriol. I at least can show you how the right has sunk the dollar. If you want to have that discussion, let’s have it but only if you can leave Satan and all other silliness out.

  17. I’m surprised at how scathing our remarks to one another are here…isn’t there a more controlled way to communicate? I can barely get to the meat of the original post through all of the sideline arguing. It would benefit us all greatly to keep to the point–I would love to read and discuss someone else’s viewpoint about such things as how they feel America is being led, what issues we currently face, etc, but I’d rather not have to sift through back-and-forth arguing to do so.

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