“Until you do it, I’m the boss,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the socialist congresswoman from the Bronx, responding to critics of her Green New Deal in February. Later that night, the freshman congresswoman doubled down on her comment, tweeting that people who “don’t like the #GreenNewDeal” should “come up with your own ambitious, on-scale proposal to address the global climate crisis. Until then, we’re in charge—and you’re just shouting from the cheap seats.”
Much has rightly been made of the Green New Deal’s fuzzy-headed utopianism and its impossible goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero in 10 years. But we should also pay close attention to the plan’s authoritarian impulses, particularly in light of its historical inspirations: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the command economy he established during the Second World War.
If proponents of the Green New Deal are serious—and there’s no reason to doubt them—then they’re proposing a return to a militaristic America where Uncle Sam’s heavy hand intervenes in all aspects of life, curtailing individual freedom in pursuit of their collectivist goals. And like the planners of the Roosevelt years, their intentions are clear and grandiose: They want the power to regiment a society of nearly 330 million people in pursuit of a pipe dream they liken to a war for survival.
‘The New Deal and the Analogue of War’
After FDR defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932, the new president rolled out his first New Deal to confront the Great Depression. Roosevelt saw the economic collapse as directly analogous to war. In his first inaugural address, he said that Americans “must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.”
Like President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, President Roosevelt and his New Dealers moved to cartelize the economy with the enthusiastic support of business executives such as Gerard Swope, president of General Electric. “There was scarcely a New Deal act or agency that did not owe something to the experience of World War I,” according to FDR scholar William E. Leuchtenburg in an excellent paper published in 1964, “The New Deal and the Analogue of War.”