Saturday, December 27, 2008
As previously reported, I am in the middle of Amity Schlaes book The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. It is an excellent and very entertaining read about an era that most Americans know about only as mythology. In a curious sign of the times, as of this writing The Forgotten Man is ranked #78 on Amazon, which is remarkable considering that the paperback edition was published more than six months ago. The success of the book is both good news -- it shows that Americans have not lost their capacity to learn about the past when it is useful to do so -- and bad. We would not all be reading about the Great Depression if we were not trying to figure out whether we are headed into another one.
I'll be an optimist about this: it's more good because it will help correct the errors taught to us about the economic policies of Hoover and FDR and give some strength to the opposition when Obama tries to reenact them.
The Christmas social scene was decidedly mixed on the idea of how serious a financial problem we have. Many here in Princeton, where we are obviously deeply affected by the problems of the financial industry and live in a profligate debt-ridden town, county and state, are very negative about our near-term prospects.
But many people reported relatives in the mid-west, where one might expect gloom over the auto industry problems, seemed to think optimistically about the economy. If we could get our taxes under control, allow the UAW to die quickly and if we could reach a bottom in housing prices, the thinking seemed to go, we would turn the economic corner.
Sounds good to me.
I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and it is an excellent read. Seeing what is happening now and the steps being taken seem to be a serious deja vu moment. It is scary that we learned nothing from the mistakes of the past and are determined to repeat them.