I responded to the TIME article because I had strong compassion for this illiterate guy who apologized for his crime. I wanted to let him know God would forgive him – Romans 10:9. My letter was very well received and began a 33 year friendship.
Americans who favor the New Deal often don't understand what it did. Thus, my two books (one with my wife) to help explain FDR and his programs. The WPA was very bad, but I point to the whole change in attitude favoring government intervention that FDR promoted – which had terrible consequences.
John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt and successful bankers are often described in a negative light. In Myth of the Robber Barons you distinguish between “political” and “market” entrepreneurs. While there is a seemingly obvious contrast, why is it a relatively recent revelation?
My distinction between political and market entrepreneurs was new because historians tended to accept the bias that all entrepreneurs should be lumped together, and that federal aid was constructive. I challenged that.
Revisionism is common because historians rethink their positions in light of new evidence and in the case of changing times and circumstances.
[Howard] Zinn and others like him damage the writing of American history because they distort and exaggerate. They pursue a point of view rather than an understanding of history.
What are your research gathering and writing routines? When does a new book idea formulate?
I do much research before I ever write. It takes a while to think through writing a book and I will sometimes do years of reading and research before I do any writing. Once I start writing, I will often average about 1,000 words a day (about 2-3 book pages). So a 300 page book will take me less than six months to finish a draft.
I'm currently working on a textbook bias project and also a possible Truman book – the current leftist agenda (through FDR's economic bill of rights) received a strong push from Truman.
Burt Folsom is author of Death on Hold and Myth of the Robber Barons.