The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Reviewing two recent books on the Great Depression and FDR’s response to it, Benjamin Friedman in the New York Review of Books ($) adduces some numbers that call into question the right-wing revisionist historians’ contention that FDR did nothing (or less than nothing) to end the nation’s greatest economic catastrophe, and that only WWII saved us. From 1929 to March 1933, total economic production dropped steeply and repeatedly.

“March 1933 marked the bottom. Total production rose 11 percent in 1934, 9 percent in 1935, and then 13 percent in 1936 — just enough to regain the level reached in 1929. But by then businesses in many industries had learned to make do with less labor, even if they now produced just as much.” The one-year decline in 1937-38 was smaller and quickly ended.

World War II didn’t start until 1939.

These numbers seem to be incompatible with the assertions that FDR’s policies perpetuated the Depression and discouraged business innovation. Is there some good economic reason why they’re wrong or irrelevant?