Friday, February 25, 2011

Inside the Great Depression

photo: courtesy of the Roth Family

Some have said our country is experiencing some of the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Sometimes I wonder, will it get worse? In my mind, I know that is entirely possible, yet I assume that times will get better. The economy will grow again. And slowly, supposedly it is. However, these days, it doesn't seem to take much before we sink backwards again. Have you ever heard that Bruce Springsteen song that goes, "one step up and two steps back?" I feel like that is where we are at. Today, I heard that for every penny gas goes up, a billion dollars less is spent in our economy. That, is two steps back. One step back is for our dependence on oil to the point it has this much effect on our lives and the second step back is for our country's stubbornness to change its ways. I'm not trying to paint a gloomy picture here, but it's gloomy. These problems don't just fix themselves overnight. I feel like the economy these days is like a car from a movie teetering on the edge of a cliff, every slight weight shift or breeze could send it over. Is this what it felt like during the Great Depression? Perhaps all those history books will never teach us the unease and uncertainty a lot of us are feeling right now as we wonder what will happen next?

Perhaps we can't answer that question today, but one man can shed some light. A couple years ago a book came out called, "The Great Depression: A Diary" about the daily accounts of Benjamin Roth, a practicing lawyer during the Great Depression. We've all heard from textbooks and historians about the Great Depression such as people standing in bread lines, people out of work, or in rags on a rural farm. Roth's account of the Great Depression is a fascinating, personal reflection of this historical time period that is really interesting to ponder. He asked himself the very questions we are asking today. What will happen next? If you have about 20 minutes of time, it is well worth the listen! It might just teach us a thing or two.



  1. I also highly recommend reading the book "Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression." This is a fantastic book that sheds light on this time period. It is told my an older woman who recounts her childhood on the farm. The book really goes to show you how little money they actually needed to get by on a daily basis. It's fascinating to read about the resources they used, mostly from the land on which they lived. Great read!!!!

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Jenny! I would like to read that book.