Tag: Great Depression

Voting with their feet

Here’s an interesting factoid: For the first time since the Great Depression, the migration of people from the less-developed to developed countries may have reversed. Remittances are expected to be dropping next year by 8 percent. On the other hand, many of the returnees have skills and capital, and that may help back home.


I’ve never met a man…

Today, I took the family to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. If you’ve never heard of Rogers, then you might want to learn. He was quite a man.

Rogers was an entertainer, a writer, a public speaker, amateur philosopher, etc. In 1931, he went on the radio with President Herbert Hoover to talk about the Depression. He seemed truly troubled by what was happening:

So here we are in a country with more wheat and more corn and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world—there’s not a product that you can name that we haven’t got more of it than any other country ever had on the face of the earth—and yet we’ve got people starving. We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile. The potter’s fields are lined with granaries full of grain. Now if there ain’t something cockeyed in an arrangement like that then this microphone here in front of me is—well, it’s a cuspidor, that’s all.

Now I think that they’ll arrange it—I think some of our big men will perhaps get some way of fixing a different distribution of things. If they don’t they are certainly not big men and won’t be with us long, that’s one thing…

A bit later, Rogers asked Americans to help their fellow citizens:

These people that you’re asked to aid, why they’re not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can’t give ‘em a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there’s not a one of us who has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got. I don’t suppose there’s the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America has contributed in one way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It wasn’t the working class that brought this condition on at all. It was the big boys themselves who thought that this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over—merged and over—capitalized, and over—everything else. That’s the fix we’re in now.

Now I think that every town and every city will raise this money. In fact, they can’t afford not to. They’ve got the money because there’s as much money in the country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it, but it’s there. And I think the towns will all raise it because I’ve been on a good many charity affairs allover the country and I have yet to see a town or a city ever fail to raise the money when they knew the need was there, and they saw the necessity. Every one ‘em will come through.

Europe don’t like us and they think we’re arrogant, and bad manners, and have a million faults, but every one of ’em, well, they give us credit for being liberal.

Doggone it, people are liberal. Americans—I don’t know about America being fundamentally sound and all that after-dinner hooey, but I do know that America is fundamentally liberal.

Rogers was known for his witty remarks on a wide variety of political and economic topics.

Obviously, this extended radio address was a little more serious.


Can we collect benefits now?

Alex Tabarrok explains why government employees should be considered unemployed.

Some of you will, I expect, object that Tabarrock is actually referring to those employed by receiving money from workfare programs, specifically those, uh, affiliated with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the New Deal. Yes he is. But I fail to see why one class of government employees is actually “unemployed” while every other government employee is “employed.”

I suppose one could argue that WPA workers were only temporarily paid for providing goods and services. To my mind, that answer creates fascinating conceptual issues, such as whether someone who loses his or her job becomes retroactively unemployed whilst they were working. But, more to the point, it would seem to place many government contractors into the ranks of the unemployed. My wife, for example, has a one-year non-renewable contractor position. Somehow, though, I think any application she submitted for unemployment insurance would be rejected.

(h/t Henry Farrell)


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