Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There Are Too Many States Nowadays

Last Saturday's WSJ had an interesting article that featured people who had lived through the Great Depression who were now recalling their searing memories of the troubled time (sub req). It's good to read first person historical recollections such as these and amazing to think of the events and changes that these folks have witnessed through the years. And in the midst of our current economic downturn, hearing stories about the difficulties faced in the Great Depression helps keep matters in perspective.

However, my inner cynic couldn't but question the writer's attempt to credit a couple of these people with having foreseen our present financial crisis:

* Mr. Dickinson went on to work in Wall Street brokerage houses, he says, and retired as a manager of human resources. He says during the last five years, he annoyed his friends with repeated warnings that a day of reckoning was coming.

* Farmer Richard G. Hendrickson, 96, has been predicting another Great Depression for years, even decades. He warned family members and friends that America's profligate ways would bring back the hard times he had experienced in the 1930s when he watched his father almost lose the family farm.

He repeated the dire prediction so frequently, says his wife, Lillian, 90, his own children thought he was "getting old."

Now, perhaps these gentlemen did offer rational, logical, well-reasoned arguments to predict that a crash was a comin', but I have to wonder how much of it was that and how much was Grandpa Simpson style hysteria and baseless paranoia. Especially with the second guy who's been "predicting another Great Depression for years, even decades." Well yeah, if you predict a stage in the economic cycle for decades, the chances are that at some point we'll actually experience it again. Although, we're still a long ways off from being anywhere near that now. Sometimes there's a fine line between clairvoyant and crank.

UPDATE Jack e-mails with additional perspective:

My father was born in 1934 in Ukraine which, at the time, was the most God-forsaken shit-hole on the face of the earth. After Stalin starved millions of Ukrainians to death, Hitler came along and "liberated" them. Shortly after that, the Nazis started using local townspeople as human mine-detectors. Compared to them, I'm livin' in fat city.

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