by ilene - March 15th, 2010 12:58 pm
Courtesy of James Howard Kunstler
Driving down the broad avenues of Cleveland, Ohio, was like flipping through the pages of a picture book about the rise and fall of our industrial empire. Where demolitions had not removed things — a lot was gone — stood the residue of a society so different from ours that you felt momentarily transported to another planet where a different race of beings had gone about their business.
Among the qualities most visible in the recent ruins of that lost society is the secure confidence expressed in its buildings. Even the most modest factory or business establishment built before the 20th century included decorations and motifs devised for no other reason but to be beautiful -- towers, swags, medallions, cartouches — as if to state we are joined proudly in a great enterprise to make good things happen in this world. This was true not just of Cleveland, of course, but the whole nation, for a while anyway.
Equally arresting are the changes visible in the collective demeanor from the mid-20th century, especially after the Second World War, when the adolescent panache of a rising economy had morphed into the grinding force of a place devoted to the production of anything. The memory of the Great Depression lingered like a metabolic disorder, and the spirit of the place was no longer caught up in the muscular exuberance of self-discovery but the sheer determination to stay powerful and alive. This phase didn’t last long.
By the 1970s, signs of a new illness were clear. Production was moving someplace else, incomes and household security with it. An existential pall settled over the city as ominous symptoms of waning vitality showed up in the organs of production. Steel-making and car-making staggered. Even the Cuyahoga river caught on fire, as if fate was a practical joke. Major retail was moving elsewhere — to the suburban outlands — where so many of the people who worked in the downtown towers had already fled. The population that remained in the city center was made of recently uprooted agricultural quasi-serfs who had only just come up to the city a generation before to make better livings in the factories that were all of a sudden shutting down. It seemed like a kind of swindle and they were understandably angry about…
by ilene - November 7th, 2009 5:39 am
Courtesy of Jesse’s Café Américain
The triumph of financial engineering based on an analysis of the past.
World industrial production in the Great Depression and now:
Jesse here. This chart is a bit deceptive because it compares two periods of time based on the start of the crisis. It would be interesting to compare the two crises from the start of the Fed’s expansion of the monetary base. As I recall, the early 20th century Fed did not react this way until 1931 and did so in two stages. Ok, Ben was quick out of the starting gate, and in a big way. Score one for the Fed. They are quick on the draw.
And there is little hazard that Ben will tighten prematurely out of fear of inflationary forces, having learned at least that lesson which is obvious enough as well.
It would be unjust to not note that the 1930′s Fed suffered a bit under multiple chairmen, and the difficulties of an entirely different type of commercial banking structure and the restraints of a gold standard. The challenge instead in this era of fiat currency will be to avoid the ‘zombification’ of the economy, the appearance of vitality with none of the self-sustaining growth.
Before this Administration declares "Mission Accomplished" and high fives its victory, they may wish to consider that they have done the obvious quickly in one dimension, but have done very little to change the dynamics of what created the crisis in the first place, choosing instead to support the status quo to a fault.
There are three traits that make a nominal bounce in production fueled by a record expansion in the monetary base a success: sustainable growth without subsidy, sustainable growth without subsidy, and sustainable growth without subsidy.
Our forecast is that Ben and Team Obama are failing badly because they are fighting the last war, in the almost classic style of incompeteng generals who lost the early stages of the Second World War because they were using the game plan from the First.