If you picked up your objective, neutral, full of fit-to-print news New York Times on this day in 1933, you saw the headline, “PRESIDENT SIGNS FARM BILL, MAKING INFLATION THE LAW.” The day before, Roosevelt had signed the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which included all kinds of market-jiggering and subsidy-for-nonproduction mechanisms meant to restore “parity”—an equivalent standard of living in the countryside and the city. But so far as the New York Times was concerned, the important part of the bill was the Thomas Amendment, or Title III of the law, which permitted the President to determine the value of the dollar in gold or silver.

The Times headline notwithstanding, inflation wasn’t the law, it was a tool in Roosevelt’s kit—one that, many economic historians now believe, he used rather well. In Christina Romer’s 1992 article, “What Ended the Great Depression?”, the answer is, mainly, Roosevelt’s use of a managed currency under the Thomas Amendment and related powers.

Non-economic historians—like, of course, Richard Hofstadter, who noted axiomatically that “the rural masses look for statesmen of the cheap dollar”—have tended to think relatively little of the plaint constant from the settlement of the plains onward that the currency needed a little uplift. But sometimes the rural masses get it right. Senator Elmer Thomas (Democrat of Oklahoma, he of the amendment) said, “For over three years the people of the United States have been engaged in war with the forces of deflation. Through the curtailment of credits and restriction of currency [he’s looking at you, the Federal Reserve], causing enforced liquidation, bank failures, bankruptcies and hoarding, we have lost from circulation some thirty billions of bank credit or deposit money.” He meant for the president to set it right.

Now, you know that if you buy one little book on the New Deal this year, it should be this one. But if you buy two, the second one should be Anthony Badger, FDR: The First Hundred Days. Badger’s especially good on rural policy, and writes with an eviable clarity and concision.