Miller Center

From New Deal to Cold War: Economic Planning

David  Ciepley David Ciepley

Speaker: David Ciepley
Date: February 23, 2007
Time: 12:30 PM

David Ciepley, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

The New Deal began as a revolution in favor of progressive governance – executive-centered, expert-guided, and with an eye toward fundamentally transforming U.S. state-economy relations. Yet, despite some early successes, and despite the government's further success in managing the wartime economy, the United States, alone among the countries of the world, emerged from World War II with only minor new controls on its economic system, and with a firmer commitment on the part of its intellectuals to the free enterprise system than at any previous point in the 20th century. The leading factor behind this unlikely outcome, Ciepley argues, was the fear of the totalitarian state that gripped the country, beginning in the late 1930s. Free enterprise was not believed to be more efficient, more just, or more stable than a "cooperative," or "planned," system; but it was feared that it was the only economic system that could be counted on not to subvert democratic government. Fear of totalitarian dictatorship scuttled or curtailed all of the more statist governance projects of the New Deal, regardless of success, to be replaced by a very weak form of Keynesian fiscal compensation. At the same time, the fear of totalitarianism abroad led to the erection of a national security state with many of the features of progressive governance denied to the civilian state.

Ciepley is a postdoctoral Fellow in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law at U.Va. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He was formerly a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center on Religion and Democracy at U.Va. and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. His dissertation, Liberalism in the Shadow of Totalitarianism: The Problem of Authority and Values since World War Two was published by Harvard University Press in January 2007.


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