Herbert Hoover: Capitalist or Socialist?

For no particular reason I decided to browse an old forum I used to visit named the Daily Paul, home of supporters of former U.S. Representative and Presidential hopeful Ron Paul, and what I would call a member of the Libertarian echo-chamber. At this point in time I am finding it healthy (and useful) to pull back from whatever perspective I am currently viewing the world through, and to take a look at things through a different lens. Seeing as how I am currently re-editing (and thus re-listening and reading) some of the works of Gustavus Myers, who writes, unabashedly, from the socialist/populist/progressive/etc. viewpoint, I figured why not take a glance from another end of the spectrum. A “how’s the stench in your neighborhood” type of thing if you will.

The topic I ran across first and which I wanted to address was this one: Some of our newer (and some of the older) Libertarian minded folks need to self-correct. Unfortunately, I couldn’t register to reply directly to the author, so it is doubtful he will ever see this but none the less, why have a blog if not to spew forth more information into the already over-crowded public space? (Sarcasm)

While I would like to address all of the points of the author in that thread, I don’t have the time. But one thing which I will address is this point in the authors list of history that is NOT TRUE: Herbert Hoover was a capitalist. Or, that is to say, that the author thinks that Herbert Hoover was NOT a capitalist. The real history, the author concludes supports that statement. Well then if he wasn’t a capitalist, what was he? A socialist? The answer is probably not as cut-and-dry as one usually is presented…

First off, Hoover was definitely a capitalist. I will be appending a PDF file to this post containing the references which I am citing. These are verifiable facts. Hoover had immense capital interests in Russia prior to the Revolution of 1917. He had interests in no less than 11 oil companies in the Maikop Oilfields (as did his brother, Theodore J. Hoover), he sat on the board of directors of several oil and mining companies including Maikop and General Petroleum Trust, Russo-Asiatic Corp., and Kyshtim Corp. to name a few. He networked with the multimillionaire Leslie Urquhart, and his interests in oil, timber, and minerals before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, were estimated at over $1,000,000,000. These holding were acquired with the help of the corrupt White Czarist oligarchs of the time. Whether coincidence or prescience, Hoover would divest himself of these holdings the very year of the October revolution, after which the Soviet Government would revoke the oil concessions granted by the Czarists and confiscate the mines. Hoover would then go on to be one of the loudest opponents to the Soviets.

So how on Earth could someone believe that Hoover was not a capitalist? Well it is not widely talked about. You will find no mention of the vast interests in Russia on Herbert Hover’s Wikipedia entry, except for the mere mention that he had an office in St. Petersburg (see Leningrad, not Florida). Still though, there is plenty there to indicate he was quite a lofty businessman. So why the disconnect? I would blame it on the echo-chamber of ideology that all of us can get trapped in at some point in time or another. For example:

Was Hoover a socialist? Well the author of that thread vaguely lists his sources for that view of history (or at least I am under the assumption that is what he is implying) as being the following:

So what is he talking about? Maybe this post on Herbert Hoover’s Depression., which provides excellent insights into how the policies of Hoovers administration, were remarkably similar to those of his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. While I would certainly encourage the reading of that article, as Murray Rothbard makes very astute points, it is my opinion that Presidential policies does not a socialist make.

The perspective that I think is missing here is that the President does NOT “make” the policies of his administration. That is to say, he is only a socialist if you believe that Hoover himself was the author of the bills and policies his administration advanced. I would liken it to thinking that it was President Barack Obama who was the drafter of the “Affordable Care Act”, or President George W. Bush who thought up the “Patriot Act”. I strongly believe that, by the time an individual is groomed to sit in the Oval Office, they know full well what the “script” is and that they are to follow it. That is why we can see such strong continuity between some of the policies of the administrations of Hoover and FDR. Just as today, people are baffled as to why some of the policies (see wars, droning, torture, spying, etc.) from the Bush administration are being carried on now by the Obama administration (who at face value, appear to be exact opposites). This is the “script”, plain and simple. Failure to recognize this I feel is the result of spending to much time in the echo-chamber, where the same viewpoint is presented from all sides, as if viewing an issue in a house of mirrors. All history has a bias, objectivity does not exist. Only by viewing as many perspectives as possible, can we hope to achieve any semblance of equilibrium.

Was Hoover a capitalist? Sure, whatever that label really means. Was he a socialist? I think that is not very clear, to say the least. With that being said, I look forward to any corrections or differing opinions. Feel free to blast me in the comments section.

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