Paterson grew up in poverty on the Western frontier. She had only two years of formal schooling. But she learned from her own experience, as well as her encyclopedic knowledge of history, that economic success results from individual initiative, not federal management. As an author, she also knew what makes a plausible story and could see that there could not possibly be a happy ending to the government’s efforts to fix everything that was broken in the 1930s.
Both Roosevelt and his hapless predecessor, Herbert Hoover, tried to inspire confidence by keeping unsuccessful enterprises afloat at the expense of successful ones. Strangely, prudent investors declined to be stimulated, no matter how fervently they were exhorted to trust the government’s programs. For Paterson, that result was tediously predictable. She told readers she was “tired of being told that ‘credit depends on confidence.’ Fudge. Credit depends on real assets, sound money and a clean record. … When any one asks us to have confidence we are glad to inform him that the request of itself would shatter any remaining confidence in our mind.”
Then there was the issue of government planning. To Paterson, the notion that federal experts can plan to ensure the people’s welfare was a ridiculous projection of childish fantasies—“a mother’s boy economic program with a kind maternal government taking care of everybody out of an inexhaustible income drawn from mysterious sources.” Perfect planning requires perfect foresight—and who possesses that?