I know I rail against federal government programs, but one I have a soft spot for is Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, perhaps because I heard my dad tell so many stories about being a member. It did good work by getting things done that needed doing, and it put some money in the pockets of people who didn’t have any and showed them how to use it. The program was run by the Army and like an army — my dad said one of the things that happened was that the young men were sat down periodically and made to write letters home, and they had to send money home, too:
The foundation of the CCC was conservation work, and in the national park, corps workers built trails, fire towers, roads, bridges, back country shelters and the park centers at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee.
Unlike most government programs, the CCC actually did what the government said it was going to do and actually went away when it said it would. But you can still see evidence today in bridges and parks and roads and dams of the good work done. Today, of course, the need is for urban rather than rural infrastructure. In my non-libertarian moments, I wonder if a modern, urban version of the CCC would work.