In this article, you will discover Herbert Hoover’s political and economic opinions. President Herbert Hoover was a Republican who adhered to conservative politics and economic ideals. These values had a significant impact on how he governed America, especially during the Great Depression.
Herbert Hoover had a deep-seated belief in the benefits of laissez-faire economics as a conservative Republican and former businessman. The French phrase “laissez-faire” means “let go” or “hands-off.” The laissez-faire economics concept is that the government should take a “hands-off” approach to economics and allow it to function according to market principles. The terms “laissez-faire” and “capitalism” or “free market” economics are often used interchangeably.
He thought that government regulation and participation in business were detrimental to the economy. In a free-market economy, he advocated the natural process of supply and demand. He, like most capitalists, believed that competition was beneficial, resulting in higher-quality goods at lower prices. Hoover advocated for a balanced budget and the gold standard, a monetary system in which gold used to back up the currency.
The Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression erupted in October 1929, but Hoover remained committed to his conservative economic beliefs. Initially, he attempted to combat the Depression by encouraging businesses not to cut wages and project a confident image. Hoover felt that pro-business policies could help to alleviate the Depression. He suggested “volunteerism” as a means of combating the Depression. Volunteerism was a form of economic cooperation between the public and private sectors. For example, a private company would team up with a library or the local government to provide financial assistance.
However, as the Great Depression intensified, Hoover became more receptive to enlisting federal assistance. While retaining his conservative economic philosophy, he came to believe that the Depression was such a unique circumstance that government intervention was necessary. To that end, he signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased import tariffs, and the Revenue Act of 1932, which increased income taxes across the board. On the other hand, the American people believed Hoover had done insufficient to combat the Great Depression. In the 1932 presidential election, Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated the unpopular Hoover.
Herbert Hoover, perhaps influenced by his Quaker upbringing, was wary of using military force and made global disarmament a priority of his foreign policy, unsuccessfully attempting to remove all military aircraft, tanks, and chemical weapons. Many nations signed a worldwide treaty abstaining from the war in 1929. When Japan invaded Manchuria in violation of the Treaty of Versailles in 1931, Hoover cautioned against sending American forces to repel the invasion. Instead, Hoover announced a non-recognition policy, stating that the United States would not recognize any territorial gains made by Japan or any other nation due to military invasion.
Historians laud Hoover’s handling of the United States’ role in Latin American affairs and his efforts to minimize political and economic interference in the region. Hoover spent ten weeks in Latin America after his election, but before taking the oath of office, meeting with leaders and giving speeches promising that the United States would be a “good neighbor” to the countries to the south. He put an end to Nicaragua’s U.S. occupation and signed a treaty with Haiti in 1932 that pledged a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops within three years. Hoover also refused to use diplomatic non-recognition to destabilize Latin American governments that the U.S. disapproved of.
Because the Depression began after Hoover took office, many people mistakenly blame him for it. Unemployment increased in 1930, the Dust Bowl devastated Midwest agriculture, and people lost their homes. Many people went to California in the hopes of finding work. They lived in their cars or in what became known as Hoovervilles, shanty towns instead.
Many of the signs of the newly impoverished were associated with Hoover’s name. Newspapers were used as “Hoover blankets” to keep the homeless warm in the winter.” Hoover flags” were empty pants pockets that were turned inside out to show a lack of money. The cardboard known as “Hoover leather” was used to replace worn-out shoe soles. Because gasoline was too expensive, cars were pulled by horses and dubbed “Hoover wagons.”
Thousands of World War I veterans established Hooverville in Washington, D.C. in 1932.18 They demanded that promised government bonuses be paid sooner rather than later. The government refused, citing financial constraints. Hoover dispatched the army after the veterans refused to leave. Troops set fire to Hooverville and used bayonets and tear gas to drive the group out of town. This inflamed the populace’s resentment of Hoover.
Japanese Aggression and Affairs in the Pacific
Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, defeating the Republic of China’s military forces and creating the puppet state of Manchukuo. The Hoover administration despised the invasion but avoided antagonizing the Japanese, fearing that taking a hard stance would weaken the Japanese government’s moderate forces. Hoover also saw the Japanese as a possible ally in the face of the Soviet Union, which he saw as a much more significant threat.
To respond to the Japanese invasion, Hoover and Secretary of State Stimson laid out the Stimson Doctrine. It stated that the United States would not recognize territories acquired through force. The declaration was based on the Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928, including Japan and the United States, pledged to avoid war and resolve conflicts peacefully. Following Manchuria’s invasion, Stimson and other Cabinet members began to believe that war with Japan was imminent, despite Hoover’s continued push for worldwide disarmament.
After the Spanish–American War of 1898, the United States took control of the Philippines, and despite a strong independence movement, the islands remained a U.S. possession. Stimson persuaded Hoover to oppose independence because it would be detrimental to the Philippine economy.
After his Administration
Herbert Hoover became the fall guy for the Great Depression, and in 1932 he was soundly defeated. The New Deal, he claimed, was fascist because it gave the federal government too much power.
During World War II, FDR tasked Hoover with delivering food aid to German-occupied countries. He was opposed to the war, particularly the use of the atomic bomb.
President Truman tasked Hoover with coordinating efforts to avert a global famine in 1946. He chaired a commission that bolstered Truman’s executive departments in 1947. He chaired a similar commission for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955.
He was a staunch critic of U.S. military intervention in other countries. He believed that America’s military spending would bankrupt the country. He could be correct, given the $2 trillion spent on the War on Terror.
Herbert Hoover’s life was chronicled in a three-volume autobiography published in 1941. He also published eight volumes of speeches and four volumes of presidential correspondence. “American Individualism,” “The Challenge to Liberty,” “The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson,” “Business Cycles and Unemployment,” and “Freedom Betrayed” are among his other well-known works. He died of colon cancer in 1964 at the age of 90.