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A Review of The Forgotten Man

I recently read a book called “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes. Actually, the full title is “The Forgotten Man – A New History of the Great Depression.” It’s a very good read. I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between times past and what is going on in our country today.

One of the questions posed in the book was what caused the depression to happen in the first place. There are many schools of thought on this. The Great Depression was brought on by a number of things: Problems with the banking and Federal system; deflation; loss of international trade; raising of tariffs; transition from agriculture to industrialization; floods; and the Dust Bowl.

What I noticed about times past is that basically it came down to money and weather. Isn’t that so much like today? The struggles for our country today come down to the same two things. Freaks of nature, should you choose to call it that, such as with our oil spill; tornados, earthquakes; flooding and then coupling all of that with astronomical spending; healthcare; and loss of jobs…one can’t help but think we aren’t that far away from repeating history.

During that time the people in America felt very helpless. I know many Americans that are feeling the same way today. At the heart of the matter back then was a lack of faith in the marketplace. Government so poorly managed our country that it led to a crumbling economy. Again, do I see a pattern here? Does anyone really trust in our government anymore? That is quite honestly what led me to become an Independent in the first place.

Of course, like many tend to do, we can go back and put the blame on others. We can try to ignore what the current administration is doing and remind everyone of who started it all. Yet, it really does us no good. First of all it gets us no where and second of all, I have to ask does it really even matter anymore when our country is being spent into oblivion? Do you remember all of the promises that taxes won’t go up? We were supposed to somehow feel protected, that we would not have to worry about becoming a victim in our own country.

In “The Forgotten Man” Shlaes talks about Yale philosopher William Graham Sumner who wrote an essay called “The Forgotten Man.” In this essay he warned that people would be coerced by social progressives. I love what he wrote:

“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine…what A, B, and C shall do for X.”

Who was the forgotten man in this equation? C. You see, A and B working together to help X was not the problem. However, C got dragged into it. I mean, that’s absolutely wonderful if A and B want to help X but forcing C to be part of it? He was the forgotten man because there was no thought given to how this would affect him. Does this sound familiar?

What this book focuses on is the story of A and C. A is the progressive of the 20’s and 30’s who had good intentions. That’s an important point. A wasn’t trying to destroy the country. But sometimes good intentions can be very wrong. C was the American who got forgotten. C is your average person who has no part in politics, who has to pay the price for what A wants to do and who had to sit and just wait for economic growth to happen. Again, does this sound familiar?

If you are looking for a good read on the depression, pick up a copy of this book. I picked this book up from my local library but can be purchased on Amazon for $10. And if any of my readers have suggestions for other good books, pass them my way!

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