The Myth of Isolationism

The Commerce Department

Herbert Hoover as Commerce Secretary
Hoover’s Department of Commerce epitomized the philosophy and ethic of the Cooperative State in action.


“Herbert Hoover agreed to serve as Secretary of Commerce only after securing President-elect Harding’s promise that he would have a free hand in all economic policy. Most people in 1921 viewed Commerce as a sleepy bureaucratic backwater, its main functions “turning out the lighthouses at night and putting the fish to bed.” Yet under Hoover this themeless hodgepodge became the most dynamic agency in Washington.

Three new divisions were created to deal with housing, radio and aeronautics. While the Fisheries Bureau helped to save Alaska’s salmon, Hoover convened a meeting of fishermen and oilmen to save Chesapeake Bay– part of a seemingly endless series of public conferences and private think tanks, all designed to educate decision makers, inspire legislation or promote grassroots cooperation.

Under Secretary Hoover, the Census Bureau was expanded into an informational treasure trove for business planners. The Railway Labor Mediation Board was established in 1926. Hoover personally raised more than a million dollars to further scientific research.

As befitting the man who insisted that all airport runways be fitted with landing lights, radio beams and other safety devices, Washington’s first airfield was given Hoover’s name. In 1924 the Commerce Department sponsored the National Conference on Street and Highway Safety–this after 20,000 people died in auto accidents the previous year. Hoover himself wrote the nation’s first uniform highway safety code after a friend obeying District of Columbia traffic regulations was cited for twenty-four violations en route to New York.”

Further Resources:

Hoover in the Coolidge Administration

Hoover in the Department of Commerce


Isolationism and Empire Copyright © by James McKay. All Rights Reserved.

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