Friday, December 5, 2008

PostHeaderIcon Depression Semantics

Virginia Postrel has some less than kind words for the press and pundtry's seeming infatuation with "the first 21st century depression".

I don't necessarily disagree with her assessment, but she (and most of the press for that matter) miss the mark by focusing simply on economic statistics like unemployment, bank failures, stock market value, etc.

What most people seem to be forgetting is that the Great Depression was actually two "depressions" in a series.

The economy had actually started a minor rebound when Roosevelt came into office -- but other factors intervened like:
  • Environmental disaster -- the dustbowl, subsequent mass migration of people and pressure on food markets
  • Protectionist world markets collapsing credit markets and trade
  • Cultural shifts with the continued move from the farm to the city (driven by economic factors)

The near collapse of world social order created by these factors led to the rise of the Hitler & the Nazis, Mussolini in Italy , the entrenchment of Stalin in the Soviet Union, and the re-emergence of Japan's military dictatorship. All of which set the stage for a battle of economic ideologies that would be fought militarily and financially through World War II and the Cold War.

That's a depressing enough thought for the holidays.


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