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Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression

Pity the poor photographers…

 

In this photo illustration a Lego shark chomps down on a Lego figure holding a Greek flag as other figures holding an Italian (L), Portuguese (C) and Spanish flag look on over a sea of Euro coins on September 27, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. Europe is continuing to wrestle with the ominous prospect of a Greek debt default that many fear could spread panic and push the already fragile economies of Italy, Portugal and Spain into a Eurozone crisis with global repercussions. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Greeks aren’t the only ones sick of the euro crisis. Photographers are reaching the end of their tether too, struggling to shoot images of euro coins in various states of distress to illustrate the story. Though some of the photos are absurd, they still get published — because news outlets are equally desperate…

Read the whole sad story in “Photographer Fatigue: The Absurd Quest for Euro Crisis Images” in Spiegel Online.

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As we reach for our hankies, we might recall that it was during this month in 1930 that over 6,000 unemployed New Yorkers took to street corners selling apples at five cents apiece.  As Herbert Hoover unhelpfully observed, “Many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples.”

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Written by LW

November 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

“Gold is the corpse of value…”*

 

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In the wake of World War I, with metals scarce, Germans faced a shortage of pocket change.  So cities, corporations, and sometimes individuals printed and used Serienschein (series notes), a form of Notgeld (emergency money).  Circulating from 1917 to 1923, in the run up to the great inflation that presaged the rise of National Socialism, the Serienschein were denominated in small amounts– one Pfennig up to one or two Marks– unlike the Notgeld issued during the great inflation, which were issued in giant denominations, up to $100 million Marks…

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And even then, required wheelbarrows for transactions…

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But the Serienschein were unlike the huge inflation bills in another way, too:  while the Weimar bills were as uniformly drab as the circumstances that spawned them, Serienschein— sourced from many different places, as they were–  were hugely various and often strikingly designed…

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These fascinating notes began to give way to their drab– but astronomically denominated– successors in 1922, when the European victors in WWI, led by England, demanded their reparations payments in full (and in gold).  Reeling still from their loss, and unable to rev their economy sufficiently quickly to cover the vig, the Germans were effectively bankrupted… and reduced to printing money.  Printing it as fast as they could.  The social toll was huge, and had a profound political effect, paving the way for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

One notes that once again a group of European countries, this time ironically led by Germany, is looking to a beleaguered neighbor, this time Greece, for repayment at a time when the Greeks do not have the capacity to earn their way to solvency. (One notes, too, that Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others are trailing perilously closely behind Greece…).  So as one watches right-wing nationalist movements gather strength in these debtor nations, one can only hope that the folks with hands on the tillers in Germany (and at the EMU) recall George Santayana’s admonition (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

See more examples of Serienschein here.

*Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

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As we think again about stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%.  Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.

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Written by LW

October 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

Imagining a new New Deal…

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It was almost 80 years ago that Franklin Roosevelt’s administration initiated the New Deal.  Recognizing that those days have a poignant resonance with our own, Ready Made asked a number of contemporary artists to “reimagine the populist poster art of the first Great Depression”…

Christoph Niemann

See the others at Ready Made.

[TotH to VSL]

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As we recall our roots, we might send heartfelt birthday wishes to Alexandre Dumas fils; he was born– the illegitimate child of Marie-Laure-Catherine Labay, a dressmaker, and novelist Alexandre Dumas on this date in 1824.  A novelist and playwright, Dumas fils is probably best remembered for his romantic novel The Lady of the Camellias (La Dame aux camélias); adapted into a play, Camile, which became the basis for Verdi’s 1853 opera, La Traviata… and then for any number of plays and movies, including Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Business? Why, it’s very simple: business is other people’s money.

– La Question d’argent (1857), Act II, sc. vii

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“…what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned at school.”*

A guest post from Scenarios and Strategy (here, with an almanac entry)…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reminds us that it’s smart to stay in school:

But as Calculated Risk reports, while unemployment among the best educated is still lowest, it’s increased as much in percentage terms for them during this current recession as for any other group.

click to enlarge

One notes that all four groups** were slow to rebound after the 2001 recession– not an encouraging reminder if one is hoping for a brisk employment-led, consumption-fueled recovery this time around.

But in some ways more striking is a difference we might expect, but that hasn’t yet emerged.  Calculated Risk:

I’d expect the unemployment rate to fall faster for workers with higher levels of education, since their skills are more transferable, than for workers with less education. I’d also expect the unemployment rate for workers with lower levels of education to stay elevated longer in this “recovery” because there is no building boom this time. Just a guess and it isn’t happening so far … currently the unemployment rate for the highest educated group is still increasing.

Clearly, from an individual’s point-of-view, it’s still smarter to get more education than less.  But the perturbations of past periods remind us that the gearing between between academic degrees and financial success isn’t always perfectly tight…  Indeed, those with sharply-defined professional credentials in fields– e.g, finance– that are unlikely even in the intermediate term (if ever) to recover their bubble-fueled growth rates, may find their advanced degrees at best unhelpful; at worst, downright prejudicial.

Economic recovery and growth will be driven to some large extent by innovation; that innovation will create new– and new kinds of– jobs.  Looking even just five years out, much less ten, one has to admit that it’s just not possible to predict what these emergent jobs, nor their requirements, will be.  (Consider, e.g., the hottest topic– and job category– in marketing/advertising these days: “social media marketing”…  which wasn’t even a glimmer a decade ago, and was just being born five year ago.)  This is a challenge for those new to the work force, who have to wrangle the product of their schooling and their personal experience into a shape that can fit the entry-level positions they seek.  It is a much bigger challenge for those  mid-career who find themselves needy of making a move:  these more mature folks have not only to learn new fields, they also have to re-direct the considerable momentum of perception and habit that characterized their old– and they have to do those things, usually, in ways that justify salaries way north of entry-level.

All of which underlines for your correspondent the extraordinary value of a liberal arts education.  When one is faced with a “working adulthood” that is one transitional challenge after another, no skill is more valuable than the capacity to adapt.  And no capability is more central to that adaptation than the ability effectively and efficiently to learn.

This is precisely what, at its core, a liberal arts education is about:  learning to learn.

There are many, many other reasons, rooted in personal and societal benefits, to pursue a liberal arts education, and top support a strong foundation of liberal arts in higher education.  But the lessons of the last couple of years– indeed, of the last several decades– suggest that the economic rationale is plenty strong as well…

And besides, it’s fun.

* “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
– Albert Einstein

** To put these cohorts into perspective, the Census Bureau suggests that, of these folks “25 yrs. and over” (in 2008):
– 13.4% had less than a high school diploma.
– 31.2% were high school graduates, no college.
– 26.0% had some college or associate degree.
– 29.4% had a college degree or higher.

UPDATE:  Reader JK directs our attention to another treatment of the data, in the NY Times. As he suggests, even more dramatic.

As we revisit our course catalogues, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act, the first major legislative step in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal  program.  The sense of urgency was sufficiently high– four days earlier Roosevelt had declared a “Banking Holiday,” closing all of the nation’s banks– that most legislators passed the Act without even reading the single copy that was available for review.  The EBA gave the government authority to shutter insolvent banks; that, coupled with the Federal Reserve’s informal-but-explicit pledge to guarantee the deposits of banks allowed to reopen (de facto deposit insurance), eased the crisis of public confidence:  within two weeks of banks’ re-opening on March 13, Americans had re-deposited over half the cash they’d withdrawn and hoarded through the period of bank failures that marked the first chapter of the Great Depression.  Later that year, the (more considered and embracing) Banking Act of 1933 replaced the EBA, and established such lasting practices and institutions as the FDIC.

Roosevelt signing the Emergency Banking Act

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