What's happened to my country?

Shades of the 1920s, as another era of capitalist excess ran aground.

Shades of the 1920s, as another era of capitalist excess ran aground.

The foreign correspondent had been abroad for years when the American economy tanked, and when he returned home, he was appalled by what had happened to his country.  He asked his brother, an economic statistician, what had happened.  And, as a journalist, he did his own research.

He found that “the country had hastily erected a gigantic business and financial edifice on shifting sands.  Credit had expanded recklessly. . . . [Business leaders] kept the swollen profits, and after looking out for themselves with handsome salaries and bonuses, they had thrown much of the remainder into the feverish market.

“Few Americans apparently realized this.  . . . [M]ost people, victims of the myths of 'rugged individualism' and 'competitive free enterprise' [did not] see that finance capitalism had largely replaced industrial capitalism in our country.  . [T]he way to get rich was to 'get into the profit end of wealth production,' not of the production of goods. . . . [T]he mass of our people got only the crumbs.”

The journalist was the late William L. Shirer, best known as the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  He was abroad during the Crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression.  His description appeared in the first volume of his autobiography, 20th Century Journey, which was published in 1976.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan

Daniel Jack Chasan is an author, attorney, and writer of many articles about Northwest environmental issues.