In praise of John T. Flynn

From the Mises Institute:

In fact, that’s the second fundamental truth about journalism we have to grasp if we want to understand the importance for today’s libertarians of the liberal journalist John T. Flynn: journalists are just historians in a hurry. And just as there are revisionist historians, historians who attempt to revise our understanding of the historical record, so there are revisionist journalists, journalists who, while events are taking place, insist on an alternative understanding of those events, an understanding that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom of the time.

John T. Flynn was, if not the very first, then one of the very first few, of the revisionist journalists to write about the New Deal, focusing on both its domestic and its foreign policies. He represents, therefore, the beginning of historical revisionism where the New Deal is concerned. And if any historical event fairly cries out for revisionist treatment, it is the New Deal. The myth of the New Deal, assiduously promoted by the state and its court historians, is that it was a triumph of liberalism that, by further curbing and cushioning the supposed "excesses" of capitalism, brought the American Dream within the reach of more Americans than ever before and brought what Franklin Roosevelt called "the four freedoms" — "freedom of speech and expression"; "freedom of worship"; "freedom from want"; and "freedom from fear" — to the masses.

The truth is far otherwise.

What I took from Flynn’s writing is different than what the author of this piece took. The author of this piece is more focused on Flynn’s criticism of FDR’s collusion with big businesses. When I read Flynn I was struck by his belief that the New Deal was one big vote-buying scheme. It laid the foundation for the modern electoral strategy of the Democratic Party – make sure everyone gets transfer payments.

Flynn also wrote the first draft of the critique of the New Deal that has recently become popular – the critique that suggests the New Deal paralyzed economic activity because it was constantly changing the rules of the game.

Finally, Flynn deals with the transition from New Deal to war.

Whatever your reason for reading him, you have no reason not to read him. All his books are free at

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