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from the Daily Reckoning


"The dollar of my childhood is worth about 7¢ today and I expect to see it plunge to 2¢ or less before I die," writes John Wrisley, of Columbia, SC.

"It's a shame inflation can't be suspended and attempts made to restore the dollar to a little of its former glory, but that's not the way long episodes of monetary inflation end. Unfortunately, the chips must fall where they will, the chickens must return to the roost, and people will notice the punch bowl is empty and the party will be over.

"As a child of Great Depression 1, I grew up believing 'they' would never let anything like that happen again. Not that being raised by grandparents in a small rented house was an unhappy experience. They couldn't afford luxuries like an automobile or vacation trips, but life was not unbearable. Besides, radio entertainment was free! Not until I became an adult did I realize how Spartan my childhood was.

"I don't look forward to enduring Great Depression 2 because I think it will be far more unpleasant than the episode of the 1930s. I fear the level of violence most of all, as young people trained by movies, videos, and vicious 'music' notice the raunchy party is winding down and they must go out and take what they want to sustain themselves.

"I remember the adults of the 1930s being very adept at growing food in the backyard and raising a few chickens to augment the vegetables. Clothes were repaired when necessary, and no one worried particularly about drifters coming through town looking for handouts. You either helped them if you could, or shrugged in sympathy if you couldn't. They usually
understood and roamed on.

"Not only will average people be less self-sufficient in Great Depression 2, but the new social phenomenon of huge numbers of old people must be faced. In the '30s, the over-65 crowd usually lived with family when they couldn't work any more. Now, they live apart from their families and science is keeping them alive longer.

A preview of things to come can be found in the mailing piece of an upscale retirement center in our town, which asks for contributions to help certain residents who have outlived their reserve.' Imagine! These are people who thought they had provided for their future and plunked their money down to be taken care of until the Grim Reaper came to fetch them. And now, they have 'outlived their reserves!' (There's a book title there.)

"There is no way to avoid this difficult economic setback, unless the laws of nature have been rescinded. No inflation has ever not ended amid pain and confusion. And no economic boom, funded mainly be debt, ever led to anything but a depression. We've been very clever devising ways to postpone the grim payoff, but an awareness of the fictions is creeping across the land, and here and there people are saying, 'Wait a minute! Maybe all this debt is not such a good thing! Let's find the guy who told us we could borrow ourselves rich and hang him!'

"Arnold Toynbee remarked, 'The fall of a great nation is always a suicide.' I have a vague understanding of why all the great empires of the past did themselves in, but I never expected to live long enough to witness this strand of history repeat itself in the United States.

"However, it will only be another transition. It will be grossly painful for some, and a minor inconvenience for others. Life will continue. When the going gets tough I shall walk the streets with a sign that quotes Thomas Paine; 'We have it in our power to begin the world over again!'"
The Dollar of my Childhood