Tag: Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Fantasies of Government

I found this story amusing, but not for the reasons Vox intended. In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving back a week in the calendar. Vox goes into the culture war that erupted but I was more interested in his motivation for doing so:

Since the late 19th century, Thanksgiving had traditionally been celebrated on the final Thursday in November. But in 1939, Roosevelt’s seventh year in office, that last Thursday fell on November 30. And that left a mere 24 days of shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Retailers believed this would lead to less money spent on holiday gifts, and would therefore hurt the economy (and, of course, their own bottom lines). The solution seemed obvious — the date should be moved one week earlier, to Thursday, November 23. Roosevelt agreed, and announced on August 15, 1939, that he would do just that, with an executive proclamation.

Let your mind boggle. Our President thought that he could help the economy by adding some extra Christmas shopping days to the year. Because, I guess, people do their Christmas shopping until the stores close not until they’ve run out of money or gifts to buy.

The “stimulus” didn’t work for the reason Cash for Clunkers didn’t work. All it did was change when people spent their money, not if. But I want you to marvel at the hubris in FDR’s change to Thanksgiving: a belief that government simply telling people to shop seven more days would make them shop for seven more days. It’s a microcosm of every Keynesian will-o-the-wisp economic salvation that comes down the pipe.