Learning From History

January 3, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Posted in Books, Politics | Leave a comment

William M. Leuchtenberg’s “The Perils of Prosperity” (1958) chronicles America between the end of World War I and the election of Franklin Roosevelt; it gives the reader a sense of history repeating itself. The conservatism of the Roaring 20s was the foundation for the worldwide depression and war of the next two decades.

The critiques of American business and politics of the 1920’s applies just as much today as it did eighty years ago. Like those today struggling with real estate deflation and job losses, most people, and especially those who had the most influence and power, did not see the dangers until it was too late. One paragraph in his book neatly summarizes a lesson which 2000’s America has failed to learn:

“There was no single cause of the crash and the ensuing depression, but much of the responsibility for both falls on the foolhardy assumption that the special interests of business and the national interest were identical. The administration took the narrow interests of business groups to be the national interest, and the result was catastrophe.”

How can one read the above passage and not see the parallels between the Republican presidents of that time (Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover) and George W. Bush, and deny that their policies have brought another depression to our country? We are going to pay a heavy price for our failure to learn from history.

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