Amid much good reporting on the current economic mess has been some weird vicarious excitement -- the sort of giddy buzz of kids watching a disaster and simultaneously not realizing that it's real and hoping it gets worse. You see this in the many stories about the Great Depression, the implication being that we're facing something similar here. A lot of writers seem almost eager to see what such a thing looks like. Is this a longing to be Part of History? Don't know. But I was glad to see I'm not the only one bothered by this.
From Virginia Postrel:
If anyone should fear a Depression, it should be journalists, who are already the equivalent of 1980s steelworkers. But instead, they seem positively giddy with anticipation at the prospect of a return to '30s-style hardship--without, of course, the real hardship of the 1930s. (We're all yuppies now.) The Boston Globe's Drake Bennett asked a bunch of people, including me, what a 21st-century Depression might look like. The results sounded pretty damned good to some people--a sure sign of an affluent society, or at least affluent commentators.After 10 years of profligate spending fueled by real estate flips, refinancing and credit card debt, the author will write about living on what he actually earns. In order to do so, he and his family of six will mine cost-saving techniques from the Great Depression and the first cookbook in America, and stay within their budget, whether that means growing their own food or bartering for things they need. Carter is writing a column based on his experiences for Gourmet.If that last line doesn't bring a smile to your face, you really are depressed.
As Postrel notes in wrapping up, "It's not a Depression, folks, and it wouldn't be nearly as fun to think about if it were."
Postrel also has a nice column in the Atlantic about a lab study of economic bubbles.