William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) was an American academic and a professor at Yale. He was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and graduated from Yale College in 1863. He was appointed to the newly created Chair of Political and Social Science at Yale and made his name as a sociologist. His major accomplishments were developing the concepts of diffusion, folkways, and ethnocentrism. Sumner argued that government-mandated reforms were generally useless. He was a staunch advocate of laissez-faire economics and was active in the intellectual promotion of free-trade classical liberalism. One of his most brilliant quotes is well worth thinking about at the present time:
The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C's interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.
The Forgotten Man became the title of Amity Shlaes controversial treatment of the New Deal and the Great Depression. It is a marvelous book that deserves more serious readership among non-academics who want to understand why the New Deal did not actually turn the economy around as commonly believed. If the New Deal did not actually accomplish what many tell us it accomplished why should we dig ourselves more deeply into the same hole in the present time?