Is it Useful to Compare Today to the Great Depression

by francine Hardaway on January 26, 2009

A reporter asked me today to answer a few questions about the Great Depression. Here are the questions, and my answers:

Q.Are the current parallels being made between the current recession and the Great Depression applicable, accurate?
A. I wasn’t alive during the last Great Depression. I have a friend who was, though, and she says this one is not as bad.
But this is a useless and even dangerous comparison.

Q. Where are the comparisons wrong?
A. In the last Depression, we were not involved globally on the scale we are now.
In the last Depression, we still lived in an industrial economy, and now we’re in an information economy.
In the last Depression, we still had a tradition of people living with their multi-generational families; now we don’t have that tradition any longer, although I bet we are going to get it back:-)
And we didn’t have government protections in the last Depression. (FDIC, SIPC)

Q. Where are they right?
A. Financial greed brought on both meltdowns
Layoffs occurred in both Depressions
In both, people chose a permanent solution (suicide) for a temporary problem (losing money)
In both innocent people suffered for the sins of a few.

Here’s a more useful view: money comes and goes in most people’s lives, and it’s a matter of timing whether you lose yours with the masses, or in some unexpected twist of fate when everyone else is partying. It’s best to realize that we repeat these cycles because we seem never to learn from them. I went through the real estate recession in the 80’s, and when the market turned, everyone said “don’t worry. We won’t overdevelop this time. The banks won’t let us. They won’t fund us. ” Twenty years later, voila! We did, they did, and we suffer again. Everyone should be reading the teachings of Buddha. Attachment leads to suffering.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ontario Emperor January 27, 2009 at 1:15 am

This brief analysis is much better than my own, which merely concludes “The unemployment rate isn’t as high today” and doesn’t delve deeper. For what it’s worth, every economic downturn in this country will be compared to the Great Depression for some time to come. This is actually a good thing; I hope that the US doesn’t have a more critical financial crisis that makes the Great Depression look like nothing.

MsGourmet January 30, 2009 at 4:35 am

good to hear an even tempered voice of wisdom in the midst of this current media frenzy!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: