I've been reading a lot of editorials and articles lately on historical patterns. Right now, we are living in a similar, albeit smaller scale, time as around the Great Depression. Mark Twain said "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." And we are rhyming with a few other periods in time centered on a recession or depression.
From Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America, by Kurt Andersen, talking about another "rhyming" moment:
We've just finished living through a long Gilded Age, in which rich Americans got richer, and more and more people began consuming conspicuously. The original Gilded Age began a century earlier, in the 1870s, during a laissez-faire boom that lasted — déjà vu! — from the end of one Wall Street and banking meltdown (the Panic of 1873) to the beginning of another (the Panic of 1893).
The idea of historical cycles can be reassuring: what comes down must go up. However, great nations can shrivel and empires do come to an end. And America in 2009 also looks as if it could rhyme, uncomfortably, with Great Britain circa 1909. A hundred years ago, the British were coming off a proud century as the most important nation on earth. But during the 30 years between the beginning of World War I and the end of World War II, the United States emerged as the unequivocal world leader, and Britain became an admirable also-ran.
I found this quite interesting. In a few other exerpts, Andersen talks about other historical rhymes, and what the consequences were. After the Great Depression, the US emerged as the world leader. He talks about what we can do to avoid losing that spot to China, and becoming the Great Britain of the 21st century.
Andersen predicts that, if we can get through this the right way and emerge unscathed as the Great Nation we have been, we will see another great economic, technological, and societal boom as we did after each previous recession. We had similar crashes in the '60s and '70s, where "we found ourselves in a slough of despond, with an oil crisis, a terrible recession, declining productivity, a kind of Weimarish embrace of cultural decadence" we then got from that era Federal Express, Microsoft, Apple, and others. Yes, we will lose certain industries, but we will gain others.
What else did other crashes have before we went to Superpower status? We had a wave of immigrants.
The waves of exotic foreigners who poured in during the 1800s and early 1900s were unsettling to Americans at the time — culturally, economically, and politically. But our forebears got over it, fortunately, since the newcomers were instrumental in forging the American Century.
No other nation on earth assimilates immigrants as successfully as the United States. There are those who argue that we can no longer afford to open our doors so wide, but in fact precisely the opposite is true. Beyond giving sentimental, self-flattering lip service to our history as "a nation of immigrants," the sooner we can agree on a coherent and correctly self-serving national immigration policy — that is, to encourage and enable as many as possible of the world's smartest and most ambitious and open-minded people to become Americans — the better our chances of forestalling national decline...
Just as we are now dependent on cheap credit and cheap manufactured goods from China, we really can't afford to say no to cheap laborers from Mexico and Central America, and we need to admit that truth and make the system for absorbing them rational. At the upper end of the scale, it's crazily self-defeating for us to set arbitrary and entirely politicized limits on the visas we grant to skilled foreign workers, such as software engineers and nurses. Wouldn't it make more sense to establish a politically independent federal apparatus, like the Federal Reserve System, that would adjust immigration quotas according to the actual and projected ebbs and flows of our economy?
Basically, we need immigrants. Sometimes we need more, sometimes we need less. We need some way of regulating that, and a better system for getting them legally. We need tax-paying immigrants who will not only provide cheap labor, such as what provided that backbone of the industrial revolution, but also the other end of the spectrum; we need immigrants who will bring fresh ideas and ways of thinking to our complacent system. People like Einstein and other immigrants who brought changes to the United States. Immigrants who will give birth to the future Reagans, Clintons, Obamas, Martin Luther Kings, Rosa Parks, Lincolns, MacArthurs, etc.
We need to get over our xenophobic aversion to immigration in order to survive.
Read exerpts from Reset here:
The pure is the enemy of the real
2 weeks ago