There seems to be a start of a consensus, that this current economic crisis is at once more quick in its onset yet differntly severe than the Great Depression. But it comes on the heels of what appears to be a second Gilded Age. We’ve had business crooks of unprecedented proportion, major food safety problems, and a simultaneously incompetent and enabling federal government.
The Great Depression was preceeded by the most savage war yet known, and a second age of largess and nationalism during the 1920s. The economic turmoil that followed the First World War coupled with gratuitously harsh Allied insistence on reparations, which set the stage in Germany for an irrationally attractive and very radical National Socialist Workers Party to be put in power after worldwide depression has set in. World War II followed. We won.
And as I’m fond of saying, “We all know everything was fine after that.”
Back in America in the interwar years, President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs did make a big difference (and no, he did not cause the Great Depression). We can still see its positive effects here in Milwaukee: the County Park system and the Linwood water treatment plant all were built in large part thanks to the New Deal.
This is a different time. There are no bread lines. The city is not considering issuing script, nor is the county running a public food program. I think if there was to be a new facist party, it wouldn’t be in Germany, it might start right here in the States, perhaps a rural-suburban movement of people blindly accepting all that Limbaugh and Hannity say. But while historical patterns tend to repeat themselves, it would be hard to see how they could unit in any effective manner. Of course, one must not underestimate the power of talk radio or the Internets. Even if it did occur, I would give a very minuscule chance of ultimate success. Enough people in America were united to legitimately elect a benevolent president who seem committed to a smart use American power.
Of course, this could be all wrong. We’ll have to see.