This is the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the New Deal galaxy, an essential book for anyone seeking to understand the varied roles of the New Deal alphabet soup agencies that successfully fought the Great Depression by creating millions of jobs to build the physical and cultural infrastructure upon which we still rely today. Each agency has a chapter of its own with statistical lists of the kinds and number of projects they completed. An obvious labor of love by the long-time editor of the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, the book is richly illustrated with photographs taken by Leighninger of New Deal structures around the U.S., complimented by archival images. Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman paired Leighninger’s book with that of Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression to debunk her thesis that the New Deal wasted taxes and prolonged the Great Depression. Leighninger argues that public expenditures for public works should be regarded in the same light a prudent long-term investment by the private sector with the difference that they provide public benefits for the many such as improved health, education, and recreational opportunities.
Reviewed by Gray Brechin