I’ve been reading Amity Shlaes’s wonderful book The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, which provides some great story-telling and a richly deserved economic send-up of the New Deal. She illustrates the illogic of many New Deal policies — such as the NRA’s attempt to deal with the monetary problem of deflation through price controls — as well as the sheer contradictory ad hocery Roosevelt’s “bold, ceaseless, experimentation.” Her main thesis seems to be that the New Deal never actually had an economic — as opposed to an electoral and political — logic. To the extent that it was Keynsian it was Keynsian mainly by accident.
Along the way, she rehabilitates some of the class villains of the 1930s and their pre-Crash shenanigans, among them the use of holding companies by utilities. In the traditional story, the captains of industry in the 1920s used holding companies to manipulate stock prices to reap huge profits at the expense of naive investors who found themselves bilked when the market crashed in 1929.
Shlaes has a different story.