The Prairie Dog Press
Monday, July 7, 2008
Watching Wall Street and the American real-estate market crumble over the past 10 months has not inspired great confidence in our wonderful free-market economy or the land pirates who run it. As someone who recently wrestled with the causes and consequences of the Great Depression, I find the current economic shipwreck not merely spooky but downright terrifying.
Working as a historian is a discouraging business. No one seems to learn anything from history – that’s pretty much a given – but we keep hoping. As a chronicler of the 19th century American West, I had my work cut out when a family friend asked me to write a biography of her father, Judge Wilson McCarthy.
Herbert Hoover appointed McCarthy to represent Western Democrats on the board of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Hoover’s only real response to the worst economic disaster in American history. The RFC attempted to restore liquidity to the economy by getting cash out from underneath mattresses and into circulation.
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Last year I had to look up “liquidity” to remind myself what it meant. Today I could sort through 23.2 million Google hits to learn more.
“History doesn’t repeat itself,” Mark Twain said, “but it does rhyme.”
The similarities between economic conditions in 1929 and 2008 rhyme like hickory, dickory, dock. As early as 1935, “brain truster” Rexford Tugwell identified the root cause of the Great Depression as the failure “to pass on a fair share of the spectacular productivity gains of the 1920s” to both labor and consumers.
This article was posted: Monday, July 7, 2008 at 2:56 pm