Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back to the 1870's

In trying to find historical parallels for the current financial crisis, Scott Reynolds Nelson thinks that we are looking at the wrong crash. We should be thinking of 1873 not 1929.
...the current economic woes look a lot like what my 96-year-old grandmother still calls "the real Great Depression." She pinched pennies in the 1930s, but she says that times were not nearly so bad as the depression her grandparents went through. That crash came in 1873 and lasted more than four years. It looks much more like our current crisis.
I am wary of direct historical analogies, but this intrigues,
If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time. The protracted reconstruction of banks in the United States and Europe created widespread unemployment. Unions (previously illegal in much of the world) flourished but were then destroyed by corporate institutions that learned to operate on the edge of the law. In Europe, politicians found their scapegoats in Jews, on the fringes of the economy. (Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion.)
Via

2 comments:

Shuggy said...

If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time.

I don't agree with his analysis of the Great Depression and I don't think you'll find many economic historians who would agree that the US economy contracted in the 1870s to the extent that it did in the 1930s - regardless of what someone's granny can remember. In any event - to compare the present situation to something here claimed to be worse than the Great Depression strikes me as being a little premature, to say the least.

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