Monday, September 21, 2009
The Great Depression: A Diary by Benjamin Roth
The Great Depression: A Diary is just that, the diary of a Youngstown, Ohio lawyer, named Benjamin Roth, who began to keep track of life for a bit more than a decade after the Great Crash of 1929. As the country tried to rebuild and reinvent itself after falling into the great financial mess, Roth recorded his thoughts and observations and tried diligently (and admirably) to learn how and why this happened.
As a diary, it's peppered with some interesting personal stories--friends and family who can't find work, the general unease of the times and how the conversations always turned to the economy. It also recalled home to me since I grew up just across the border in Western Pennsylvania.
However, since the diaries were likely never intended for publication by Roth, the entries get repetitive and downright tedious, especially the stock quotes of prominent local businesses. It left me cold and there were many points when I was going to put the book down. Then he'd write about how the country fears the coming surge of Socialism or how the government was helping industry, the banks and the citizens but the debt to the coming generations was going to be staggering.
The exact same things we are hearing and fearing now.
For that it was well-worth seeing the book through.
What we are seeing now, as new and troubling as it is, it's all been done before. Better still, it's been overcome and long before the Internet , the 24 news cycle and globalization. The "mortgaging our children" claptrap, the 'righteous' anger, the belief that government can't possibly be counted on to fix this situation, the whole schmeer.
If anything, the book made me feel like we'll be okay and we will find our financial footing. The trouble lies in the likelihood that it will take far longer than we are prepared to endure since we are a nation beholden to the Internet, the 24 news cycle and globalization. In the 1980's, the Dead Kennedys railed "Give me convenience or give me death!" not as their battle cry but to criticize who we had become. That could be our true stumbling block to economic recovery--that it won't happen as quickly as we think we are owed.
The book publishes in October.