The Same Stories, Again and Again

During the depths of the Great Depression in 1932 an Ohio lawyer named Benjamin Roth wrote in his diary:

People think if more money were printed business would be better. This is a false and vicious theory … I am personally very much concerned with the question of inflation and it seems to me there is a grave possibility it will come unless the government at once balances its budget. With an election coming this seems out of the question.

A few months later, he wrote:

There is also considerable discussion about the new science of “technography” which holds that new machinery has replaced many men in industry who will never find a job again.

When I first read those a decade ago I couldn’t believe how similar they were to what people said after the 2008 recession. Now they’re relevant again today. You can copy and paste those paragraphs into any current newspaper and they’d fit right in. Some things never change.

Roth felt similarly.

When writing his Great Depression diary he was struck by how similar the 1930s were to previous big recessions. “I have done considerable reading about the depressions of 1837 and 1873,” he wrote, “and I am amazed at the similarity to conditions today.”

A year later he researched the Depression of 1893 and wrote, “I am again struck by the similarity.” The way people responded to decline and how politicians behaved and how greed and fear controlled investment decisions seemed identical. Some things never (Read more...)