Hoover’s Speech on Individualism
Herbert Hoover’s “New York City Speech” (1928)
Herbert Hoover positioned himself somewhere between the conservative orthodoxy of Coolidge and the progressive Republican tradition of Roosevelt and La Follette. Born in Iowa and raised in a Quaker family, he pursued a successful career as a mining engineer before being asked by Woodrow Wilson to head the Food Administration during World War I. He then served with distinction as secretary of commerce under Harding and Coolidge, expanding American markets abroad and nurturing the infant airline and radio industries. In the excerpt below, he described the American system of individualism and free enterprise. . . .
What you will be doing here is finding a Voices of Freedom section. In that section, you will read the primary sources that are there. Usually it is 1 or 2 primary sources. Primary sources are contemporary accounts of a historical event / action / person / thing. So after you read these, you will answer the 2 (sometimes 3) questions that are at the end of the Voices of Freedom section, and include any sources you use as a reference page on an additional page. You will want to provide historic examples from your materials and any outside academic materials you wish to use. So essentially, you need to find one Voices of Freedom section in the chapters from the unit and answer the questions at the end of it.
Hoover’s Speech on Individualism: Primary Source Assignment Answered
That is: shall we depart from the principles of our American political and economic system, upon which we have advanced beyond all the rest of the world, in order to adopt methods based on principles destructive to its very foundations?
America has always enjoyed high levels of economic prosperity, which have largely been attributed to the country’s economic principles. The American economy is founded on liberal democracy (individualism and free enterprise). These principles tend to be challenged in situations when the economy goes under a recession. Herbert Hoover’s presidential term ushered America into an economic recession, which later came to be known as the Great Depression (Crafts and Fearon 305). During this period, Hoover encouraged the Americans to uphold the economic principles around which the economic success of the country was founded. His question on whether a change of tactics was vital in 1929 warrants a debate.
Even though Hoover openly declares that the role of the US government was limited in the country’s economy, borrowing from the past, his actions later in his presidency were contrary to this declaration. Hoover’s presidency attracted a fallacious reputation labeling him as a “do nothing” leader who accepted that America had to endure the unpleasant economic recession. Hoover indeed put a lot of effort towards ending the Great depression. He might have done the most towards the end of the Great Depression, but his contribution is still highly contested. He eased his stance on the upholding of the economic principles dictated by liberal democracy (Smith 182). His approach to the ending of the Great Depression encouraged voluntary efforts by the citizens as opposed to government interference. The actions of Hoover throughout his presidency imply the necessity to ease key policies to adopt some seemingly destructive principles in solving national problems. Government interventions, whether direct or indirect, aided America in the recovery of the Great Depression.
And what have been the results of our American system?
The system of individualism and free enterprise in the United States is to be credited for the major economic steps that the country as made compared to other countries that portrayed greater potentials. According to Hoover, the system made the US a nation of opportunities for the less fortunate not only because of its economic prowess but also due to freedom of initiative and enterprise (Hoover 2). The economic system in the United States has made the people living in the country among the most privileged globally (Daniels 72). American citizens and residents do not have to wait in queues for hours waiting to purchase items. They have many options to choose both location wise and brand wise. All industries have a range of products which drives competition. The competition in the industries pushes for the production of quality products.
The American economic system has boosted self-reliance in the nation. Free enterprise has positively contributed to a significant reduction in the poverty rates. People in the United States tend to be more responsible for their needs and do not rely on the government for wellbeing. In countries where free enterprise is discouraged, the citizens depend on the government to implement social programs to help them. Dependence on welfare in the United States is very limited. In situations where welfare is inevitable, the government in the United States devices means of ensuring that the beneficiaries still participate in some kind of work. Overall the popularization and implementation of the system of individualism and free enterprise in the United States has not only facilitated economic prosperity but also contributed positively to the general wellbeing of the citizens.
Crafts, Nicholas, and Peter Fearon. “Lessons from the 1930s Great Depression.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy 26.3 (2010): 285-317.
Daniels, Eric. “A Brief History of Individualism in American Thought.” For the Greater Good of All (2011): 69-84.
Herbert Hoover, \”New York City, \” in The New Day: Campaign Speeches of Herbert Hoover, 1928 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1928), pp. 149-76.
Smith, Gene. The Shattered Dream: Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. 2nd. William Morrow, 1970.