And in these terms, a moderate, U-shaped recession is, frankly, boring. As a Slate colleague said to me, there’s no glory in just having a couple of banks fail. We want history. We want to go where no generation has gone before. We want to bounce grandkids on our lap and tell them folksy anecdotes about 70-percent-off sales, the Dow being 50+ percent off its all-time high, and the day print media died.
In the abstract, the prospect of a Greater Depression is intriguing. Over the past 80 years, we have successfully mythologized the 1920s and ’30s. Now it seems as if it would be an exciting time to live through, if only to be a witness to history.
He’ll be all right, jack:
Disclaimers are, of course, in order. I’m an urban, middle-class young person with a full-time job. I don’t have a mortgage or any investments to speak of; the Dow’s drop doesn’t kill my retirement fund, nor does the real estate panic chip away at my home equity. This is a symptom of youth, just like the aforementioned desire to be part of a new Great Depression. I am an outlier, existing on an atypical fringe of American society. That I’m a journalist doesn’t help—the more dramatic the narrative, the more exciting my job. Eventually, I will be just as much of a cheerleader for the Dow’s historic rebound rise as I was for its awesome fall.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been a bit thrilled by the idea of being part of a revolution (though not, ideally, a bloody and violent one), but I’m realistic enough to know that a revolution would be a dreadful, messy upheaval that’d squash that excitement sharpish – which is why I’m not out fanning the flames of discontent.
Poor Chad, on the other hand, is too young to understand that, even if the downturn gets no worse, it’s already history. If he wants stories with which to regale his grandchildren, better that he should recount that telephones used to have cords, and once upon a time there was no Google.