The Great Depression

by Kieran Healy on May 22, 2008

Because Eric Rauchway’s book on The Great Depression and New Deal makes inordinately heavy demands on the reader, is filled with hard-to-remember facts, and spends too much of its absurd length wistfully discussing fashions in men’s suits and hats of the period, I have been looking for a brief video to show in its place to undergrads in my social theory class. It’s good to finally have found it.

{ 25 comments }

1

John Quiggin 05.22.08 at 10:41 pm

How long before Jonah Goldberg picks this up?

2

Eric Rauchway 05.22.08 at 10:42 pm

Well, it’s hardly fair, is it? Oxford UP cut my chapter on hobology and also the Jonathan Coulton soundtrack and made me put in all that stuff about unemployment instead.

3

Anderson 05.22.08 at 10:47 pm

Unemployment? Had that been invented already?

I thought people were just lazy back then.

4

Eric Rauchway 05.22.08 at 10:58 pm

Well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping a cyclical Shiftlessness Index in 1884, aggregating state data on indolence and sloth.

5

Bloix 05.22.08 at 11:09 pm

This is the first time I’ve ever been bored out of my skull while laughing hysterically at the same time. I have the highest tolerance for boredom of anybody I know and I couldn’t make it past minute 4.

6

Jeff Rubard 05.22.08 at 11:55 pm

I once verbally abused David McCulloch in person. Do I get extra credit?

7

sbk 05.23.08 at 2:44 am

#5: I had a similar reaction. It was a completely bizarre experience: the voiceover was both impressively clever and almost intolerable. I struggled with the cognitive dissonance for a while, then turned it off… concluding that I’m glad that it exists, and that I can quit watching it.

Is it the visual that does this?

8

Matt F 05.23.08 at 5:41 am

the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping a cyclical Shiftlessness Index in 1884, aggregating state data on indolence and sloth.

I still laugh when I think about the old almanac I found on my grandfather’s bookshelf, in which one can find the precise number of officially “feeble minded” people in the United States.

9

astrongmaybe 05.23.08 at 8:03 am

Wow, Ken Burns’s style spawns its own *mannerist* version.

10

Hiyo_2366 05.23.08 at 10:46 am

Same reaction as # 5 and 7. #10 thinks too much. It sounded to me like an improv by the Firesign Theater, none of which I could ever listen through although I enjoy most of their studio albums.

11

Great Zamfir 05.23.08 at 11:52 am

This is scary and I don’t know why.

12

Bob B 05.23.08 at 12:11 pm

For a retrospective assessment of the economics of the Great Depression by a currently topical author, try Ben Bernanke: Essays on the Great Depression (Princeton UP, 2004)

13

Hoagy T. Kartoffel 05.23.08 at 1:38 pm

You actually showed this to children!? There oughta be a law!

14

Kieran 05.23.08 at 1:41 pm

IMO Bernanke is pretty weak on the hobo threat, and does not mention Hoover’s hover yacht at all.

15

Eric Rauchway 05.23.08 at 3:18 pm

does not mention Hoover’s hover yacht

That much is pure partisanship. FDR kept the presidential hover yacht—in fact, he had it retooled with leather upholstery and gold plating after he nationalized the bullion supply—but you don’t hear about that from liberal historians, do you.

In fact every president used the executive hover yacht until Nixon had it melted down in 1971 to pay CReeP expenses.

16

BKN 05.23.08 at 4:35 pm

Many of the absurd punchlines reminded me of some of Woody Allen’s essays from the early 1970s, e.g. “The Scrolls” or “Slang Origins”.

In mock frustration at my kids’ (10 & 7) incessant requests for money and incessant complaints about the unfairness of their lives, I took to calling them “a bunch of Communists”–a term which they eventually asked me to explain. My convoluted, fact-lite explanation involved bearded men fomenting a revolution aimed at making the world a better place for hoboes.

So now the kids, in games/activities that lend themselves to the coining of team names, will often label one side “the Communists” and the other “the Hobo-Haters”.

It will be up to some poor Social Studies teacher to sort all this out for them.

17

Walt 05.23.08 at 4:36 pm

That was funny, but bkn’s comment is funnier.

18

Anderson 05.23.08 at 8:09 pm

in which one can find the precise number of officially “feeble minded” people in the United States

Nowadays, you can just multiply Bush’s approval rating x the population, and get a pretty accurate figure.

19

Hiyo_2366 05.23.08 at 8:21 pm

Many of the absurd punchlines reminded me of some of Woody Allen’s essays from the early 1970s, e.g. “The Scrolls” or “Slang Origins”.

Sudden terrifying thought: the actual inspiration may been the early Ficciones of Borges. Now I won’t sleep…

20

tom s. 05.24.08 at 12:07 pm

John Hodgman I presume? #5 and #7 can of course double their pleasure/pain by listening to the great man recite a list of 700 hobo names.

21

ben wolfson 05.24.08 at 6:05 pm

This video confirms my suspicion that John Hodgman isn’t funny.

22

nick s 05.25.08 at 5:50 am

#10 thinks too much.

Actually, barista’s got it pegged. Whoever mashed this up — an actuary, I presume — gave me an ‘oh, of course’ moment in realising the hat-tip to Ken Burns. But it’s also obviously ill-fitting.

23

Danielle Day 05.25.08 at 4:52 pm

What the heck was *that* little piece of mischief?

24

Ozzie Maland 05.25.08 at 7:19 pm

Maybe the most ridiculous misinformation in the video is the allegation that FDR put polio in the nation’s water so as to render hobos unable to walk — he actually put Guillain-Barré Syndrome into the water, that being the affliction he himself had (not polio as most believed). (Caveat: verschlimbesserung)

Aloha ~~~ Ozzie Maland ~~~ San Diego

25

DRR 05.26.08 at 8:37 am

About the third time the video repeated itself I was in stitches. A great send up of your average Ken Burns/History Channel program even if that wasn’t intended.

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