I was at the gym this morning talking to some of the guys I usually see there. The conversation inevitably turned to money and the economy. One guy said "Well, I never thought I would know what it felt like when the Great Depression was starting." I sort of silently nodded at the time, but the import of those words is starting to hit me, several hours later.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that the "Great Depression II" is starting. The guy who said that didn't mean that either. It could have happened this week though. If the U.S. economy is an automobile engine, it came damn close to throwing a rod and seizing up entirely. Thankfully, we don't live in the age of Herbert Hoover anymore. Financial technocrats and economists control the big levers on the economy, and there isn't any delusion that "the markets will sort this out." Nope, Mssrs. Paulson and Bernecke know that it's time to take a hammer to the "break glass in case of emergency" window and hit the Big Red Button. Financial 9/11. What is it about our national karma and the month of September?
If you had told me in 2000 that I would experience the modern equivalent of "Black Tuesday" and "Pearl Harbor" in next 8 years, I would have said "you're daft!" How did we let greed spiral so far out of control? I recall reading histories about the causes of the Great Depression -- the debt pyramid that overtook the country, the out of control speculation in the stock market, and the lax oversight philosophy in Washington. I look around and we've let some weird caricature of that situation happen all over again... almost.
There's that old curse "May you live in interesting times." We are cursed indeed.
on 2008-09-19 at 3:41 p.m.
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