Business History Review

Research Article

Positive Business Responses to the New Deal: The Roots of the Committee for Economic Development, 1933–1942

Robert M. Collinsa1

a1 Assistant Professor of History, North Carolina State University


The bitter opposition of businessmen to the New Deal in its early stages is well known. Not so well known, however, are the efforts of a few business leaders to maintain constructive communication with the President and his advisers. Professor Collins traces these efforts, from the early stages during which both groups labored in mutual distrust, through the remarkable transformation in which such strong business personalities as Beardsley Ruml, William Benton, and Paul Hoffman helped persuade a deeply conservative Franklin D. Roosevelt to adopt compensatory deficit spending as a means to recovery. Finally, he shows that World War II marked not the end but a continuation of these positive efforts by businessmen to adapt to the new philosophy, and led directly to the founding of the Committee for Economic Development.