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Still Riding the Wave or Crashing on a Rocky Shore?


The other day as I was aimlessly surfing the net in search of something interesting to read, I came across a fascinating op-ed column by James Saft of Reuters, UK. Saft referenced a book by historian David Hackett Fischer, The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. in an effort to understand the current worldwide economic crisis.

Fischer’s book, published in 1996, looks at price data back to the time of the Babylonian king Hammurabi, and actual prices back to Europe in the 13th century.

As the title implies, Fischer finds in the data a succession of waves, often lasting more than 100 years, of first inflation that leads to violent crises and then very long periods in which prices are basically stable. The most recent “Great Wave” of inflation began in 1896 and may or may not have broken on the shore of the current debacle.

“It looks as if the long inflation has come to an end, but we can’t be sure,” Fischer said in an interview.

He makes no claims for the predictive value of his work, unlike those who study cycles, and warns that the wild swings characterizing the ends of waves make it impossible to judge until well after the fact.

In his book, Fischer details in four great waves since the 12th century when the most care price records began to be kept: (1) the Medieval price revolution, followed by the fourteenth century crisis, which led into the stable period of the Renaissance; (2) the sixteenth century price revolution, followed by the seventeenth century crisis and the Enlightenment; (3) the eighteenth century price revolution, the revolutionary crisis, and the stability of the Victorian era; (4) the price revolution of the twentieth century and recent history.

Fischer says that European historians have written extensively about these historical waves, but U.S. historians have not. Americans tend to focus on the present and future rather than long-term historical trends. Today there are many comparisons in the media of our current economic crisis with that of the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s; but those crises were mere bumps in the road in the context of the “great waves” that Fischer studied.

Fischer’s research showed that periods of price equilibrium were characterized by “order, harmony, progress, and reason,” while inflationary periods (price-revolutions) led to “cultures of despair” as they drew to a close. During price-revolutions (inflationary periods), inequality, broken families, crime, and drug and alcohol abuse increase.

Clearly, American culture has been in turmoil at least since late 1963. In the spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was planning to pull American advisors out of Vietnam after the 1964 election, and he was determined to push for a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. But that was not to be. Instead Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, the military-industrial complex got the war and the weapons they wanted, and a long, a series of smaller wars have followed. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that our current wave has been kept going by wars.

Still the 1960s were prosperous times for the U.S. World War II vets like my dad had, with the help of the GI Bill, had been able to get an advanced education, build a professional career, move up to the middle class, and buy a nice house with a low-interest mortgage. My dad supported a family of 7 on less than $20,000 per year. When I left home and came to Boston in 1967, life was relatively easy. For years, I supported myself by working only part time. I had plenty of leisure time to participate in anti-war demonstrations and other personal pursuits. Then, in 1973, under Nixon, we were hit with out-of-control inflation and times started to get a little bit harder. I had to work full-time again, and after Reagan, it became just about impossible for a familiy to be middle class without two incomes.

According to Fischer, right now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, we have been riding a wave that began more than a century ago, at the end of the Victorian era and right after the presidential election of 1896 which pitted Democratic and Populist party nominee William Jennings Bryan against Republican William McKinley. One of the primary issues in the campaign was deflation, because Commodity prices were at a nearly 100-year low point in the U.S. The biggest issues in the campaign revolved around deflation and “scarce money.” Populist Bryan proposed expanding the gold standard to a “bimetal” standard in which the value of the dollar would be tied to a set quantity of silver or gold, in order to encourage wage increases and higher prices for farm products. McKinley, who argued for maintaining the gold standard, won the election. Those in the monied classes were greatly relieved, unaware that inflation was already beginning in other Western countries. According to Fischer, prices have continued to rise from then until the present time, when prices for housing and oil have begun dropping precipitously. According to Wikipedia, the 1896 election

is often considered to be a realigning election. McKinley forged a coalition in which businessmen, professionals, skilled factory workers and prosperous farmers were heavily represented; he was strongest in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast states. Bryan….was strongest in the South, rural Midwest, and Rocky Mountain states….Republican campaign manager Mark Hanna invented many modern campaign techniques, facilitated by a $3.5 million budget. He outspent Bryan by a factor of five.

Following the 1896 election, Republicans controlled the White House for sixteen years, until their hold on presidental power was broken in 1912 by the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. From Wikipedia:

However, although Bryan lost the election, his coalition of “outsiders” would dominate the Democratic Party well into the twentieth century, and would play a crucial role in the liberal economic programs of Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.

Today, shortly after the presidential election of 2008, we see all around us signs of social disruption and turmoil typical of other times in history when great inflationary waves crashed to a close. This year, the candidate of the monied and professional classes was the nominee of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama, and the real battle for the White House happened during the Democratic primaries, with Obama representing the wealthy establishment and party insiders, and Hillary Clinton ending up as the more populist candidate who appealed to rural and working class voters. This year’s the “outsiders” were those who voted for Hillary in the primaries and refused to recognize Obama as a true Democrat–the pumas, the remains of the FDR/JFK/LBJ branch of the Democratic Party.

Have we reached the end of the twentieth century wave? According to Fischer’s historical model, the present crisis resembles the periodic crashes that in the past have come at the end of inflationary waves, with sudden and dramatic deflation in housing prices and commodities. In the past, economic crises such as the one we are experiencing now have led to violent social unrest and “toppling of old orthodoxies.” The devastaing “lending and spending spree” of the 14th Century came to an end with the epidemic of plague known as “the Black Death.” But the economic crashes that come at the end of inflationary waves can also be followed by periods of social and economic stability and low inflation, such as those that occurred during “the Renaissance, Enlightenment and the prosperity of the Victorian period.”

Will the “panic of ’08” ultimately lead to a time of economic stability, productivity, and human creativity? Are we headed for a period social unrest, government crackdowns on dissent, and violent resistance? Our government is certainly preparing for such emergencies, with Secretary Gates (warning: PDF file) plan to assimilate the Naitonal Guard and Reserves into the regular Army and have 20,000 combat troops on alert on U.S. soil by 2011. In fact that process as already begun. Or will government’s efforts to “bail out” (actually nationalize) banks and big industry lead to a continuation of the twentieth century wave, with even more dramatic, out-of-control inflation? We probably won’t know for some time.

All we really know right now is that incoming President Barack Obama plans to allow the Bush tax cuts to continue while maintaing the current level of spending in Iraq, increasing spending in Afghanistan, extending and increasing increasing Bush’s policy of vast deficit spending. I’m obviously no economic expert, so I’ll leave it to our resident economist Dakinikat to comment on how she thinks Obama’s proposed policies are likely turn out. Will we continue to surf the big wave or will we crash on a rocky shore?


111 Responses

  1. If there were an honest assessment of the past primary it would be rooted in the fact that each side put up candidates who just were not capable of standing for POTUS. Neither one, in my opinion, possessed the right stuff.

    McCain was as much a panderer and as craven to a great degree as Obama. Obama is inexperienced to say the least and we need not rewind the caucus fraud and gaming of delegate votes to explain his “phenomenon”. McCain was way passed his prime. Let’s be honest here. We all looked for something to hang our hats onto just to underscore our intent to vote against the DNC and Obama. But had this been a Hillary year, we would have loudly disowned McCain as he deserved. I will admit to a certain amount of “delusion” in attempting to justify my own position.

    But both parties settled on these two choices and what was left was abysmal. Obama won in large part due to a Bush backlash and McCain lost because even his own party stalwarts had no use for him. Either choice was iffy at best.

    We can blame a lot of things on this “win” but the bottom line is that we were all left with third stringers and I seriously question whether we would be better off had the opposition won.

    That being said, we have suffered from the objectivity that should have been present but wasn’t. It is what it is.

  2. It seems like I’ve heard Bill Clinton say the same thing. The movement now will be back to populism and the working class. The Lou Dobb’s movement. Hopefully we won’t crash as we make the transition.

  3. Excellent post (even if the economics stuff makes my brain numb)

  4. Pat,

    That is why I think the Democratic primaries were the most important struggle of this election season. It would have been almost impossible for any Republican to win this year, and after the economic crisis hit, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Obama would win.

  5. To think that it was a mere year ago that we all came together here with high hopes for a Hillary win. What a difference a day makes. Along with a compliant press, an uninformed electorate, and a gamed system!

  6. Thanks, myiq2xu. The economics stuff makes my head hurt too, but I find the notion of long-term historical movements fascinating. I will be interested to see what Dakinikat has to say about this. I’m hoping maybe she is familiar with Fischer’s research.

  7. I hope you’re right Jmac, but if that happens it is likely we will have to go through some difficult years first.

  8. bb: If that Iowa caucus “win” was legitimate I will buy you a dinner at Boston Legal! That alone set the stage for the rest of the campaign. The press fell all over itself and the dye was cast.

    Again, the loss of objectivity and some serious investigative reporting went the way of vaudeville. Gone forever.

  9. .. well, Madoff can stay free on bail – judge ruled.

  10. Madoff can remain free on bail. Tell me the “fix” is not in with the NYC legal system. That guy should be clapped in handcuffs and sent away for a long time. Instead he will remain in his NYC penthouse. Some punishment.

  11. .. “third stringers ” … love it Pat !

  12. Hillary saw this huge shift coming and I think that’s why she ran so hard for the little guy. As the Dems try to cosy up to big business, the Republicans might shift all their attention to Joe the Plumber and end up on top again.

  13. Hillary does her homework. That’s why she is considered a “wonk”. The rest just parrot and copy. If Obama knew as much as he doesn’t know we might feel a little less discomfort with the nation in his hands. But so far he has proven that he is basically clueless. Too much time spent running from state to state (in his case all 57) looking pretty and dazzling the crowds.

    She on the other hand kept her pulse on the happenings around her and offered solutions. He was busy posing. And the Obots question why we resuse to sip the Kool Aid? They have got to be kidding!

  14. Madoff free on bail! The judge says all his outgoing mail will be checked to ensure no property is transferred.

    Better check all his $$ in off-shore banks and make sure the jet’s not fueled for takeoff.

  15. Great post, BB!

    I look forward to hearing what Kat has to say…as for me, I think the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates very high in order to “prove” that “Democrats” can’t manage the economy. They do that every single time the Republican in office before the Democrat screws everything up. That way, the plutocracy/patriarchy can blame the “Democrat” in office (I know he isn’t one, but most people THINK he is) for the disaster that the Federal Reserve causes. If that happens, we will have Stagflation, a Carter Years specialty. The Republican will walk in in 2012.

    I sure hope Obama listens to Paul Krugman. I know that Hillary would have had him on her team – possibly even as Secretary Treasury.

    PJ – You speak for me. I never liked McCain but I protest-voted; also, the 30% Solution was a big part of it.

    Although lately, I have been thinking that McCain would have actually done a much better job as President. Maybe it’s the anti-Hopium!

  16. Would the Obots and the AAs be so willing to give this guy so many hall passes if he instead indulged his “white half” as much as he did the other?

  17. I love the economics stuff AND the history stuff (I studied both in college).

    One interesting question I have with this analysis is: What if any correlation is there between these broad economic price trends and the underlying social / cultural conservatism vs. liberalism in society?

    Each of the periods of disruptive dynamism mentioned were followed by eras characterized not only by “order, harmony, progress and reason” but also by (arguably) relative social conservatism and political realignments in which political liberalism was either slowed considerably or staunched entirely. To wit:

    1. The Renaissance / Reformation Era correlates with the rise of nation/states, national churches
    2. The Enlightenment Era correlates with “Enlightened Despots” and early empire building of European States
    3. Victorian Era correlates with increasing rigidity of social / gender roles, and rise of multi-national empire building

    I’m painting with VERY broad strokes of course

  18. Terrific post, BB – thanks for the in depth stuff – yes, my brain goes numb with the economic info – hopefully Dak will help us out

  19. Quite interesting There are many short and long waves in economic history — worldwide as well as in our own short history. It will be interesting in a few years to see where we really were (are) at this point. I think Dakinikat may be doing some work in this realm, too.

  20. I liked McCain because I think he is more of a democrat than Obama will ever be. I also think things would have been better had he been president. At least McCain was willing to listen and learn from others while Obama isn’t. He knows everything. With McCain as president there was a chance for the Democratic party to rebuild itself but now I think it is too late. I really don’t see how it can survive Obama.

  21. I agree with bb. The real election took place in the Democratic primary. And the people wanted Hillary. Unfortunately, her nomination was stolen from them. And, IMO, the entire country will suffer for it.

  22. Yep, Downticket, stick a fork in the Democratic Party and call it done. Sad sad sad.

  23. Elderj: That is probably a question only Kat can answer. All the economic stuff makes my eyes water.

  24. Frenly,

    That is a very interesting question. I only read parts of Fischer’s book on-line, so I don’t know if he discussed the issue of ideology in times of stability and chaos. It certainly would make intuitive sense that liberal ideas would come to the fore in difficult economic times though. I’d like to read the entire book eventually.

    Fischer is a very interesting writer. I own one of his books, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. It is about how different waves of immigration from the British Isles affected cultural attitudes in different parts of the U.S. popluation. Many of these cultural attitudes are still affecting us today. This was evident in the 2008 election when elitists in in the Northeast and the West Coast were pitted against the “bitter” working classes (often made up of descendents of the Scotts Irish wave of immigration) of the Midwest and South in both the primaries and general election. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read that book carefully yet either.

  25. oh no. Not spambot Jamie Holts!

    Great article, interesting though economics is certainly not my strong subject.

  26. the dems have been out of control of congress/senate since 94 or 3 .. whenever newt took over. If they couldn’t rebuild in that time … they never will.

  27. Most interesting post, BB.

    “Fischer says that European historians have written extensively about these historical waves, but U.S. historians have not. Americans tend to focus on the present and future rather than long-term historical trends.”

    I wonder whether we’re willing to give up the title of “New World”. We seem more and more tarnished. Might make our interest in history grow a bit and our obsession with youth fade a tad.

  28. Ms. Holts must have changed her IP just like the Wonktards do.

  29. That’s the same thing I was thinking, myiq.

  30. CNN has an article today: Economy could lose 2M jobs in ’09 – report
    Conference Board says there’s no sign that labor market will improve any time soon.

    Now, since it’s CNN (aka Obama Cheerleading Squad) it makes me wonder if they are over-estimating the job loss in order to “help” Obama appear successful if the loss is less than 2 million.

    They also have a “The bust is a boon” look-on-the-bright-side article about lower housing costs and lower interest rates. Yeah, that’s only working out for the folks who didn’t buy a house during the boom. Those other poor sods will just have to settle for losing their homes.


  31. Well, ABG followed me to my blog. His comment:

    “I am curious to see if you will follow your Conflucian friend and delete instead of responding.”

    To what? Your desperate, pathetic cries for any type of attention?



  32. This is OT but very interesting.

    Yesterday, we learned that Bush had been pursuing a covert op against Iran’s “nuclear facilities” for the past 15 months. I said then that I would bet a lot of money that this covert op had been inflaming the ME and had made the situation in Iraq and Israel worse.

    Today, I see this story: Iran urges Hamas not to accept cease-fire

    Iran is flexing its muscles, and contrary to what Bush and his idiot neo-cons think, it doesn’t need nuclear weapons to do so.

  33. ABG should start his own blog, so no one can censor him.

    The entire world should bask in the glory of his wisdom. Too bad we’re small-minded fascists.

  34. ABG on Tenn G. Woman said yesterday the only concession he is asking PUMA is to admit that the last laugh should be on the GOP and that the worst democrat (“Obama in the eyes of PUMA”) would be better than the best republican.

    He doesn’t get it. If Obama is more a Republican than a Democrat, the jokes on the Democratic party.

  35. As A lurker at a few chosen blogs, it’s interesting that ABG or HBG or EBG tries to post at each of them, and it’s always the same. He/she is not interested in listening, only pontificating and taking the blog to task for their “mistaken” beliefs. In short, he/she is lonely, and wants companionship, but is looking for love in all the wrong places. II would suggest that he/she would be a perfect fit for a Captain Spaulding visit, however, I like to think I’m more charitable than that….most days. What is Captain S doing this afternoon?

    BB really interesting post. I’m looking forward to any comments Dak might have. Thanks.

  36. Jmac – “Concession”? That’s hilarious. Why should we concede anything?

    He’s the one who has never, ever made one intelligent remark in defense of his beliefs.

    The hit counter appreciates his persistence. The rest of us, not so much.

  37. I almost got the feeling that the Republicans just put McCain up because they knew Obama was going to win anyway, and they didn’t want to “waste” running another candidate who’d have been stronger. McCain just seemed to be running a half-hearted whimsical campaign. It seemed kind of nuts to me.
    And anyway, the GOP knew that when Obama won, they were going to get a Republican president anyway….

  38. what’d I say? I’m in moderation

  39. ABG is annoying but he’s not evil. He’s intelligent and reasonably polite, but his schtick gets old really fast.

  40. Love your new little gravatar, Myiq.

    Absolutely, Staunchwoman – an orange could have won against the Republican’s this year. 🙂

  41. New?

    I’ve been using this one for a while.

    You should see Captain Spaulding giving a friendly wave.

  42. Obama is not going to listen to Krugman. He even practically dissed him in a dismissive comment when a reporter asked about what Teh One thought about Krugman’s ideas — as noted by one of the many wonderful Conflucians on this blog just a few days ago. (Sorry, but I can’t remember who .)

  43. BB, simply a great post. I love stuff like this. We get so caught up in the 24 hour news cycles that we forget to put things into proper perspective. While we can’t always say history foretells the final score, but it will always get us in the ballpark. Very nicely done and thank you.

  44. MSN is now pondering if perhaps 401Ks probably aren’t the best retirement vehicles after all. You think?

  45. PUMA – I was one of the ones who said he was dissing Krugman. However, someone who was listening to Oba-Moi (yuck!) said the tone was more like, “Please throw me a line, I’m drowning!!!”

    So I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Krugman called his bluff and said, give up the $300 billion you’re wasting on tax cuts and other crap, and put it into infrastructure projects that WON’T fade away after two years.

    I can’t believe how bad Obama is. I really, really can’t. He is exceeding my expectations of do-nothingness.

  46. Abg should realize nobody believes that anymore. Any d is better than any r is the kos mantra, but after accepting stooges from casey on, they howled they’d never vote for hrc. Everybody has a line they won’t cross, however hypocritical or nonsensical. And now making a virtue of the lesser of two evils has brought bush a third term. Yippee

  47. myiq – maybe ABG is polite to you. You’re a man.

    He tends to be a bit less polite to people of the female persuasion. You should catch him over at TGW sometimes – his true obnoxiousness shines through.

  48. The thing is the $3000 business credits seem pretty worthless without a drive in demand for whatever good or service the business community is offering. The individual tax credits may or may not work. Quite frankly an extra $50 will probably do nothing if you are worried that you may be losing your job next week or if you don’t have the job to begin with to have your withholding adjusted(supposedly there is going to be some mechanism to fix this).

    Even the infrastucture projects at this point may not be enough to save us. The timing is off. It should have been done with the first wave of stimulus(but Obama and his band of free marketers wanted everybody to have cash instead).

    At this point I’m thinking that his best bet is to expand programs to help during this period. Expand food stamps, expand medicaid, expand SCHIP, expand programs that provide discounted electric to people in need,) His plans are too timid right now when at this juncture we need bold.

  49. ABG struck me as the kind of hopey changey person filled with frustration that we don’t share his world view. He doesn’t generally get too impolite until his frustration level goes to threat level orange.

  50. CWaltz – That’s just what Krugman is suggesting.

    We’ll see if anyone asks Obama about how Krugman responded to his challenge. I’m sure Obama is hoping the press corpse will just let him eat his waffles.

  51. MadamaB:

    I’m familiar with ABG at TGW:

    That guy Rumproast is all over myiq2xu.
    Happier Black Guy | 01.12.09 – 1:47 pm | #


    That guy at Rumproast wants my bod.
    myiq2xu | Homepage | 01.12.09 – 2:12 pm | #


  52. Just a reminder that Hillary will be on C-Span 2 tomorrow:

    Congress will continue confirmation hearings for Pres.-Elect Obama’s administration this week. Nominees attending hearings on Tuesday include Hillary Clinton for Sec. of Sate (9:30am ET), Dr. Steven Chu for Sec. of Energy (10am ET), and Arne Duncan for Sec. of Education (10am ET).

  53. The people who got us into this mess got 700 billion dollars and we get $50 a week. Okay, now I have hope for the future.

    The only hope and change I look forward to is hope that he does not win in ’12 and that will change who is in the oval office.

  54. Yeah – Bush and Obama work together:

    -“President-elect Barack Obama has teamed up with President George W. Bush for what could be the last major action of this presidency.

    At Obama’s request, Bush has agreed to ask Congress for the second $350 billion of the $700 billion financial bailout. ”

    Wasn’t Obama just complaining that the first part of the bailout didn’t go where it was suppose to go?

  55. That sounds like an appropriate graphic – BO as Marie Antoinette saying “let them eat waffles.” Maybe the more photoshop gifted could give it a go.

    Back to topic. The designation of the Victorian period as one of prosperity makes me ask the question: Prosperous for whom? Anyone who has read Dickens is aware of the grinding poverty in England. There was also great poverty in the U.S., especially among the immigrant classes, ex-slaves and Native Americans. And there was poverty in other areas of the world, including those “fortunate” subjects of “civilized” empires.

    If things had been so prosperous for an overwhelming number of people, we wouldn’t have had the union and other social-economic movements that actually did spread prosperity to working class people until the reactionaries began to prevail under Reagan.

  56. I hear that Amy Siskind will be on CNN today re: Ms-ogyny magazine

  57. OMG – Bush tells Obama not to have any self-pity about the “burdens of office”. Even if the economy happens to tank on his watch:

    “The phrase ‘burdens of the office’ is overstated,” Bush said during the last scheduled news conference of his presidency. “Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It’s just pathetic, isn’t it, self-pity? And I don’t believe President-elect Obama will be full of self-pity.”

  58. LOL Myiq!

    Jmac – This is the first day since I’ve gotten this job that I’ve actually wished I didn’t have it…I would so love to stay home and watch Hillary. I am extremely curious to hear what they ask her and what she says.

    The Financial Times stated, “World Awaits Clinton Doctrine.” Isn’t that interesting, since Bush’s foreign policy was called “the Bush Doctrine.” Shouldn’t Hillary be espousing “the Obama Doctrine?”

    I find it fascinating that the Financial Times is not expecting that Obama will be in charge of foreign policy. Have they been reading The Confluence?


  59. TRK

    Actually it’s closer to $50 every 2 weeks. From what I’d read basically they’d change the withholding on people’s federal return for 4-5 months. Dak says that the NY Times says they are going to create some other sort of mechanism for the unemployed so they get the refund but who knows? The plan doesn’t appear to be that thoroughly thought out and it sounds like few details had been hammered out and vetted for opposition.

  60. Jmac – Of course Bush doesn’t feel the office is a burden. He just doesn’t care about anyone but himself and “his base,” the elite. And they’ve all been having a great ol’ time for the past eight years.

  61. Delurking —
    Who is Captain Spaudling?

  62. from CNN:

    Bush said that as a “Type A” personality, he’ll want to keep active after he turns the White House keys over to President-elect Barack Obama next Tuesday.

    “I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach,” he said.

  63. Plural,
    What about shirtless on a Hawaiian beach like PE? ugh.

  64. Captain Spaulding is my guardian angel.

  65. no one will pay to hear him speak & I can’t even imagine who will buy ‘bush books’ ..

    I know You all were talking about his earlier , but has this been superceded ..?? by Obama law ? . .the article says 49 mins ago on google fwitsworth ..


  66. I think most people are hoping he would do just that.

  67. i.m really afraid it,s going to get a lot worse..

  68. Kim,

    What are they going to do with people who aren’t working and and thus have no witholding to reduce? Aren’t they the ones who need the most help and the most likely to spend the money?

  69. Madamab – It has to be the Clinton doctrine so if it fails the onus will be on her.

  70. sister of ye – the Victorian Era (really the industrial era) was extraordinarily prosperous for the vast majority of people although it was accompanied by a great deal of economic dislocation. Populations rose significantly and life spans increased. Death from starvation was an increasingly unlikely prospect (Irish potato famine notwithstanding) and incomes rose on average much faster than prices. For the first time people had income that was disposable, which led to the rise of commercial retailing.

    Ironically the idea of a living wage that would allow woman to be out of the workforce arose in this period. If men were paid enough, then women wouldn’t have to work to supplement the mans income, thus freeing her to give attention to managing the domestic economy (including child-rearing) – something that had been very much undermined in the early stages of the industrial revolution. Prior to the industrial revolution, women’s income earning work was always supplemental to overall family income since it was work that could be done at home while a woman was pregnant. Early industrial employment of women expanded this pattern which led to widespread exploitation

  71. Briana – it’s another WORM – he ums and uhs and takes both sides in an interview, then his team has to come out and say what he really meant.

  72. bb

    They haven’t gone into detail. I pointed that out when dak and I were having a discussion about the economy with the same question. That said, the NY Times says that they are aware and they plan on having a mechanism for those that don’t have a job.

  73. Bush is going to give a farewell address on Thursday night.

    Will he warn us about the military-industrial complex?

  74. plural – If Bush is a Type A personality, then I’m going to marry Obama tomorrow.

    Seriously, that guy is the most vacationing President ever. Who does he think he’s kidding?

    Briana – WTF? WTF? WTF?


  75. CWaltz– Thanks.

    Briana– If he really does close Guantanamo, that would be very good news. I hope it’s true and that he changes his mind about continue to allow torture also.

  76. I wonder where our new gulag will be if they close guantanamo?

  77. Briana, madamab & bb — I was just coming on here to tell you about this press release re: Gitmo — remember that post myiq did a while back about parsing words? He is signing the order that will direct the military to begin “looking into closing” Gitmo — it is NOT closing Gitmo — Gitmo could stay open forever under this “order” while the “looking into” continues. This is more words without substance from Obama.

  78. Oh, but I’m sure the Obot will be having Ogasms about it. They don’t care about substance.

  79. angienc – Wow. So really, this order is going to be “just words.” Nothing will happen.

    Thank you for setting me straight – I was about to start repeating “Ignorance is Strength,” “War is Peace,” and “I Love Big Brother!”

  80. The closing Guantanamo matters less than the continuation of the policies that led up to creation of Guantanamo. Sadly, I’m almost sure if Guantanamo actually does close it will be because we have moved the detainees elsewhere rather than we have relooked at detaining people with little to no evidence they are a threat.

  81. Angie,

    Quelle surprise! That sounds more like our Barack. Thanks for the update.

  82. Bottom line, Obama is a liar. He has done a 180 on so many important issues. I just don’t believe anything he says anymore.

  83. BB nice post. Long Wave theory is a classic in European historical circles since the great French historian Braudel first published his classic “ Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue durèe” in 1958.

    Building on Braudel’s central premise that “each time decentering occurs, a recentering begins” Braudel’s “long wave” was used by both social scientists and historians for decades.

    Braudel was interested in long term continuities. He traced the rise and fall of Venice for example, and attributed its rise to a Meditterranean cycle of economic dominance. This then shifted to the Atlantic cycle of economic hegemony, based first on British then on American trade (this is a bit vague-I’m just trying to remember it.)

    Later on the long wave or great wave theory of long term continuities, was used in American “World System Analysis” or the story of hegemony’s rise and fall. To quote one of its best known analysts (Thomas McCormick)

    From its colonial beginnings America served as a political-military battleground for the European inter state system and as an integrated spatial extension of European capitalism. The Republic itself was born in an unstable, war ridden, international system, international system, poised on the brink of global War and of Britain’s ascent to global hegemony, and at a time when a stagnating world economy was trying to expand so explosively that the United States share of its export and reexport profits would bring within its own grasp economic independence as well as political autonomy.
    From that moment to this, America’s transformation from colony to colossus — from periphery to semi periphery to call to hegemony — was not simply the linear product of domestic dynamics but the dialectical consequence of external constraints and demands from the international system.
    Never isolated, always integrated, the spatial expansion, economic development and political nation building of the United States would be powerfully influenced and partly determined by the long waves of economic expansion and contraction and the global division of economic labour; and by the long swings of political centralisation and decentralisation and the global rhythm of stability and instability.
    Recognising the conjunctures and disjunctures of the interstate and World Systems enormously facilitates our analysis of American foreign affairs…. the awareness of hegemony’s structurally derived impermanence makes it easier to view the contemporary decline of the United States in a comparative framework (for example by comparing the United States of today with the Britain of a century ago) and to understand more keenly the essential paradox of hegemony. Decades of playing global policeman weaken the economic underpinnings of hegemony itself.

    Its relevance today is to the new international order- which includes new world actors and the building of a new international system to include China, Japan, Malaysia and India.

    The question is-Will the US and Europe fall into economic irrelevance in a similar way to Venice?

  84. I’m watching CNN. No sign of Amy Siskind, but now they are talking about whether the Foreign Relations Committee is going to give Hillary a hard time. John Kerry says they will be fair and objective.

  85. Obama’s latest stand on Guantanamo is that he’s going to issue an executive order right away ordering…well, I’m not clear on what he’s going to be ordering. It sounds like he’s going to order that preparations start taking place for the closing of Guantanamo, which absolutely no timeline of when it’ll be closed. In essence he’s ordering people to start thinking about what to do with Guantanamo. Now everybody – hold your breath!

  86. Just lost my post, but will try again.

    Re: NY Senate seat: I heard on the radio today that Paterson IS considering Gillibrand. Given his comment on Nightline last week that he “will not be bullied, and would like to choose someone who could be the next HRC in 8 years,” I find that promising. Gillibrand is a strong independent thinker who appeals to upstate conservatives and Dems alike. She is not afraid to take a controversial stand (eg: voted against the bail out 2x because it lacked enough oversight), and hold her ground. She was also loyal to HRC to the end.

    Also: a new PPP poll shows that Peter King (Republican, Long Island) would be very competitive against CK in a future Senate race in blue blue blue NY, so that can’t help her case. I hope Paterson makes the courageous choice and chooses a legitimately chosen representative for the state.

  87. BB: Why would the Foreign Relations Committee bother to do anything more than a rubber stamp? Wouldn’t that be a smack to the newbie?

  88. It’s Hillary and they have to make absolutely positively certain she’s qualified for the job. The bar she’s jumping over is much higher than anyone else’s!

  89. laurie – I believe that the US and Europe will fall into relative economic irrelevance partly because of the costs inherent in maintaining political, military and economic hegemony, but also because of the undermining of those things which led to it in the first place.

  90. This is OT, but I just received another thrilling message from the BO camp, this one from Michelle personally inviting me to “Your call to service”.

    “But this is about more than just a single day of service, it’s the beginning of an ongoing commitment to your community. —
    It will take ordinary citizens working together with a common purpose to get this country back on track. This national day of service is an important first step in our continuing commitment.”

    I told her, among other things, that I was glad to see that she had discovered the concept of service. Of course, a lot of people I know have made it an integral part of their lives all along. I also wondered when was the last time she was picking up trash in the ghetto. (pour moi, this past year.)

    My ‘call to service’ came when I was a child.

    I thought about saying that I’d sign up as soon as I finished with my plastic surgery and new wardrobe. First things first, after all. Gotta look good when I go out there for my photo op!

  91. Fran> You should totally have said that! Haha.

    I don’t get any e-mails from BO’s camp, just from Hillary’s. And I’m sorry to say the last few messages have come from the Big Dawg, asking me to support Barky and to give money to the DNC. I keep responding that what he asks of me is extremely unlikely to happen.

  92. BB,
    somehow, I doubt J.Kerry will be fair and objective: wasn’t there a riff between him and Hillary when she refused to promise him the SoS job and he then endorsed BO? Although, since he is now under the bus, that could work in Hillary’s favor… we will see

  93. DYB: You should probably just join the Foundation website and ignore the Hillary one’s for the time being. I get a few emails from Chelsea now.

  94. Pat Johnson, on January 12th, 2009 at 12:31 pm Said:

    bb: If that Iowa caucus “win” was legitimate I will buy you a dinner at Boston Legal! That alone set the stage for the rest of the campaign. The press fell all over itself and the dye was cast.

    Again, the loss of objectivity and some serious investigative reporting went the way of vaudeville. Gone forever.

    After experiencing the caucus steam roller — I would agree that Obama’s “win” in the Iowa caucus is very suspicious. Obama BOUGHT the WA State Democrat party — and allowed the Obama thugs to rule and dominate. I expect that this happened in all the other caucus states.

    It was not the wish of the majority that Obama win — but mostly the majority of people had no chance to make an informed decision.


    Back to the ARTICLE.

    I am very interested in mega trends and waves — thanks for writing this article. I am going to read this book.

    Another trend — women’s human rights. During the dark ages — the witch trials when millions of women were murders — that began the era of women knowing their place — and women becoming women’s worst enemies. Several women researchers and writers have been studying the documents from the witch trial era. The effect of the witch trials continues to our time. It was the incoming era of the Patriarchy and the big three religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The men even argued that women were not fully human beings — later men would argue that Native Americans were not human beings.

    Somehow these trends might fit together — and does the human moral consciousness evolve? We have a technological evolution — but is there a moral evolution as well?

    Lots to think about —

  95. Laurie,

    Thank you so much for your comment. I love history, but I’m not that well read. Fischer of course mentions Braudel in his book. But he says that “American reviewers” responded to Braudel’s book “with expressions of surprise, bewilderment, and outright disbelief.”

  96. Northwest Rain,

    That is another interesting question. Of course women always suffer most when there is economic turmoil and social disorganization. I’m actually planning to write another post soon on some data I recently found on-line about Patriarchal attitudes in the U.S. vs. other countries.

    I do believe we have had some moral evolution over the centuries. I have read quite a bit about the history of child abuse, for example. A few centuries ago, harsh and abusive treatment of children that today would be considered horrifying was the norm. We have definitely made some progress on that front, although we still have a ways to go. But the treatment of women and children are still at the bottom of society’s priorities.

  97. BB:

    You have mail

  98. I ordered Tipping Point & David Hackett Fischer’s book on the Wave theory. It sort of seems that these two books could go together.

    Also another book is on my wish list — “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets”. By William Bonner & Lila Rajiva. Now damned it that doesn’t sound like an “End Times” title????????

    MOBS — yep — the idiots who voted for

    the MESSIAH

    the MARKETS that crashed.

    Anyone read this book??

  99. Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets? OK, now I have to go look that one up at Amazon. Apparently Malcolm Gladwell totally cribbed from one of David Hackett Fischer’s books for a whole section of his latest, “Outliers.”

  100. BB — I am looking forward to your upcoming articles.

    Confluence is probably one of the best if not the BEST websites. The articles are all must read — I am busy reading and lurking mostly.

    Genealogy is also one of my interests — and yes child abuse — the things that were considered normal way back when — are not acceptable in civilized countries today.

    There has been some progress in recognizing mental health as a chemical imbalance in the brain — in the past family members with mental health problems were locked in the attic or placed in horrible state institutions. (Old census forms give an insight into the counting of patients in metal hospitals).

    But what hasn’t evolved are the primitive religious sects/cults — that seem to believe that god told them to beat their kids (or wives). Plus the psychological abuse found in fundamentalist sects.

  101. Apparently Malcolm Gladwell totally cribbed from one of David Hackett Fischer’s books for a whole section of his latest, “Outliers.”

    Thanks for this tip — it is always good to know about cribbing — because when something sounds familiar. . . .

  102. Gladwell’s books are mostly compilations of the work of others in service of making his point. I’m a little suspicious of him, because he tends to pick and choose the studies that support his ideas. He does get interesting ideas out into the mainstream though.

    I just ordered Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets. I can’t resist books about crowd behavior.

  103. hi, some what late responding … first week of classes and being bombarded by calls, emails, etc.

    I’ve never seen this hypothesis before but it really seems quite plausible. Everything seems to recycle and vary around a basic trend. I have to tell you, I’ve been quite concerned about things I’ve seen recently for a number of reasons. First among them is Americans don’t seem to be able to deal with crisis and austerity any more. Hurricane Katrina aftermath showed a complete inability for many folks to deal with a major event. Sitting around and waiting for the government to respond while panicking is not something that would suggest we can survive anything like the ‘end of a wave’. I actually felt a watershed period coming. My Lama and I talk about it frequently but I have to say it’s based less on the analytical side of my brain and more on instinct. Too me, too many things seem to be coming to a head including so many elections being gamed, so many people being so misinformed about things, and again, just general inability to cope outside modernity. I guess to really see these waves, I’d have to see his methodology. I’m assuming it’s based on some kind of regime switching identification typical of time certain kinds of time series analysis, but it’s hard to look at a summary and validate it. Again, on an instinctual basis, I’ve been hunkering down and preparing for a lot of folks to be out of sorts as many of the comforts they’ve come to known come crashing down.

  104. oh, and as far as Obama’s so-called policies … most are still hazy but the few I’ve nod way to much to the right wing meme that FDR’s new deal really didn’t help the economy.

    I’ve got some analysis that I’m going to put up when I can about the coming crisis in the federal deficit. Most of this is due to Dubya of course and his misspent tax cuts and such, but it’s looking REALLY bad. I’m thinking the discussion obama has opened up on social security and medicare is a result of the numbers I’ve just seen from the CBO. They have our federal deficit as % of GDP looking very banana republic by mid century; even without the stimulus pkg. and given dubya tax cuts expire.

    I agree with Krug and have been saying this for over a year, we’re in for a Japanese style stagnation for around 10 years on the up side.

    Anyway, like I said, let me get through the first few weeks of the semester. Total rush time for me right now.

    still suggesting black armbands for this month:

    death of one person, one vote
    death of democracy
    death of the dnc
    death of LGBT rights
    death of women’s rights
    death of reality-based media and vote …

    you name it

  105. oh, and watched Dubya’s last media stand … this is a man that needs serious meds

    why does this country insist on electing know nothings that promise everything?

    when will we learn?

  106. BB-on family history, perhaps the best book is Lawrence Stone’s Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (1977) . It’s the kind of book which, if you only read one on the subject, then read that one.

  107. BB-
    Fischer of course mentions Braudel in his book. But he says that “American reviewers” responded to Braudel’s book “with expressions of surprise, bewilderment, and outright disbelief.”

    Historians don’t always give credit where credit is due. Perhaps in 1958 they didn’t like Braudel.

    But to quote the great and wonderful Lawrence Stone:
    In an aside to an article written in 1989, he mentioned “the invasion of American History departments by missionaries from the great French school of historians known loosely as the “Annales School”. Inaugurated by an exchange programme initiated by the Department of Princeton in 1968, the “trickle has now grown into a floood”. The changes which took place between 1965 and 1975 were “nothing short of amazing”.

    However as far as I can see the long wave theory was mainly picked up by Pol Science, in the eighties.


  108. Very interesting, Laurie. Thank you. It’s so nice to be on a blog where there are so many knowlegable people to get feedback from. I’m in developmental psych. If all keep putting our heads together, maybe we can make a small difference in the tough times to come.

  109. Hi Dakinikat,

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Naturally, when I wrote this I was thinking of you. I almost just sent the original article to you, but then I thought it would be better to write about it myself and get your reaction.

    I share your concerns about the ability of Americans to deal with hard times. We do have a history of doing that–let’s hope we can rise to the occasion. But the Obots might have to learn how to listen to their elders instead of dismissing us. At least my generation heard about the Great Depression firsthand. And we have plenty of survivors around–like my folks.

    Obama is George W. Bush all over again. Can he learn to listen? Does he have any potential for growth in office? I sure hope so!

  110. Dakinikat,

    I have to go back to school on Wednesday, but it should be an easy week with a three-day weekend at the end. Back to the grind!

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