“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." according to the Book of Ecclesiastes. Life is a continual repetition of whatever went before. It's like coming into a movie time after time and realizing you've already seen the picture.
I was born in 1926, three years before the 1929 stock market crash with which, I hasten to add, I had absolutely nothing to do. In the aftermath of this financial catastrophe, the world was plunged into a dismal period of depression and in the U.S. and German people looked for a savior to lead them out of the economic morass that was reducing them to a state of penury.
Here in America, years of mindless speculation and unbridled hedonism had ended suddenly as the chickens finally came home to roost and be plucked. Wall Street having failed us, our response in desperation was to look to Washington for relief and to the governor of New York, the oratorically-gifted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to lead us out of the depression from the White House.
He came to power in 1933, a year that would be the prelude to earth-shaking events. Despite the flurry of socialistic palliatives presided over by the horde of leftist-oriented bureaucrats who flocked to Washington, the depression not only endured, but deepened and the sole beneficiaries of all those welfare state programs were the people who created and administered them.
Ordinary Americans remained mired in the depression until the advent of World War II, which proved to be the economic engine that restored prosperity at the cost of countless numbers of American lives.
By the early 1930s, Germany was in the grip of an economic meltdown. Its loss in World War I, followed by the Draconian conditions imposed by the victorious United States, Britain, and France in the Treaty of Versailles, had left the nation humiliated and in poverty, with a runaway inflation destroying their economy and the lives of the German people. The Treaty of Versailles required ruinous reparation payments to the allies.
The global depression that came in the wake of the U.S. stock market crash in 1929, made matters even worse in Germany, causing banks to fail, factories to close, and unemployment to skyrocket. Like the American people, they looked for a savior.
They found him in Adolf Hitler; another spell-binding orator who pledged to bring about change in the way the nation was governed and the economy managed.
Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker's Party came to power in January 1933. Like Roosevelt, he reinvigorated the economy by instituting socialist programs using government funds and power, but unlike FDR, he covertly based his economic recovery programs primarily on a massive arms buildup in open violation of the Versailles Treaty.
He also sought to revive Germany's martial spirit and pride by acquiring or re-acquiring additional territory by either blackmail tactics or open aggression. Germany prospered, its pride restored, and the second deadliest act of the World War became inevitable as the threat the bellicose Hitler posed was recognized.
In the case of both the U.S. and Germany, war and the anticipation of war was the engine that drove the economic engine. For the U.S., the end result was a prosperous economy that endured almost without pause until two weeks ago. For Germany, it was an unmitigated disaster.
That was where I came in 75 years ago. I can't shake the feeling I've been through all this once before. Just as it was then, the world economy has collapsed, this time as a result of irrational exuberance as it has here in America.
Just as it was then, the long-term outlook for the economy is dismal and there is general agreement that recovery is a long, long way off. And just as it was then, as we approach a presidential election, Americans look not to themselves and our two centuries of proven self-reliance and ability to solve our own problems, but to Washington to solve the very crisis government itself has created.
We spurn our heritage of rolling up our sleeves and attacking and solving our problems in favor of letting government do for us what we should be doing for ourselves.
Like the German people of 1932, many Americans seem to be willing to put our future in the hands of a messianic leader with abundant oratorical gifts, a questionable and largely unknown past and a unshakable conviction born of a socialistic background that America can spend its way out of a debacle initially caused by trying to spend our way into prosperity.
History repeats itself. The government's ultimate answer to economic crisis is always war, simply because government alone cannot create prosperity. It can only create the impression of prosperity by printing money and the more it creates the less it is worth. Or by going to war.
"Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity," says the author of Ecclesiastes.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist (Cato) for National Review magazine in the 1960s.
He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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