Friday, March 5, 2010

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes" -- Mark Twain

If, in America, every man rises on his own merits, then he falls through his own failings. "Anyone," it was said, "could find a job if he really tried." That people who were economically secure should perpetuate this myth is understandable; what is, at first glance, more surprising is that the jobless themselves should do so.

The unemployed worker almost always experienced feelings of guilt and self- depreciation. Although he knew millions had been thrown out of work through no fault of their own, he knew too that millions more were still employed. He could not smother the conviction that his joblessness was the result of his own inadequacy.

from: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, by William E. Leuchtenburg. Chapter 6: "One Third of a Nation." Harper and Row, New York. 1963. pp.118-119.

1 comment:

The Arthurian said...

John Mauldin: "This is something I watch carefully because a recession is long overdue, if history means anything."

No, John. History doesn't repeat itself. It only rhymes. You can't tell from the length of the boom, at what time the bust will begin. Recessions are not like 17-year locusts.

In his book The Great Wave, David Hackett Fischer ends the Introduction with "A Caveat for the Critical Reader".

"It should be understood clearly," Fischer writes, "that the movements we are studying are waves -- not cycles. To repeat: not cycles, but waves."

He explains: "Cyclical rhythms are fixed and regular, Their periods are highly predictable. Great waves are more variable and less predictable. They differ in duration, magnitude, velocity, and momentum."

Me, I'm comfortable with the term "business cycle". And I particularly like the phrase "cycle of civilization". So when I read Fischer's book, I thought he had grabbed nothing and turned it into a big deal. I knew. When I use the word "cycle" I I mean to describe a general pattern, not some particular timing.

I would never say something like "A recession is long overdue, if history means anything." Shame on you, John Mauldin, for using that argument.