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Throwback Thursday: Beware October 24

Today, October 24, is the anniversary of not just one but two of the biggest U.S. stock-market crashes in history: Black Thursday in 1929, which heralded the Great Depression, and Bloody Friday in 2008, which hastened in the worst recession since then.

What is it about the 24th? Or maybe a bigger question: What is it about October? On Oct. 27, 1997, there was the “mini-crash” of the Asian markets, and on Oct. 19, 1987—“Black Monday”—the U.S. market saw its biggest one-day drop in history, 508 points.

Commonweal, without suggesting a correlation between month and market crash, has nevertheless commented over the years on these periodic (predictable?) plunges and on what they may say about our economic system overall. From this 1929 “plea for economic disarmament” by John Carter [.pdf]:

“This—the moral obstacle to economic peace—is the enemy which must be destroyed before the world can recover its health and before international society can recover its sanity on the basis of a few simple, wholesome economic ideas. These ideas can be boiled down to the principle that what is for the good of one is for the good of all, where now one’s meat is frankly regarded as another nation’s poison.”

Our editors have been harsh with those who would try to sugar coat the economic turmoil, as in 1987 [.pdf]:

“Despite the sudden collapse and subsequent writhings of the stock market, the American economy is fundamentally sound. That, at least, has been the view expressed by numerous officials and economic seers, starting with Mr. Reagan. It is unclear whether they really believe what they are saying or whether they are saying it out of a felt duty not to make things worse. In any case, it is nonsense."

And in regard to Bloody Friday, there was this article from Charles R. Morris:

“A relatively short but very painful purging of the current excesses over the next couple of years could put the country on the path to a major economic transition. Temporizing, papering over the problem for fear of unpopularity, will merely ensure that the crisis drags on, like a chronic infection, for years.”

As of this writing, the market is actually up about one hundred points. But it’s still a couple of hours to close, and there are still five business days left in the month.

About the Author

Ellen B. Koneck runs Special Projects at Commonweal and teaches in the Catholic Studies department at Sacred Heart University. You can follow her on Twitter.



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Oh Ellen. What kind of Prophet of Doom are you? How many great and lesser greats were born in October.

Including that singular person--my mother. 

And, of course, that most intriguing of holidays--Halloween!!. And what kind of heretic are you that you forget October is the month ot the Rosary. 

Is finance your only criteria? Have you not heard of Dives and Lazarus? Ananius and Sapphira??

And where is your ecumenism for Martin Luther and his 95 thesis place on October 31? 

Above all what good does it do if you own 1000 Google shares (now over $1000 per and lose your you know what!!!!!

The old Commonweal article on the state of the world economy in 1929 is fascinating, but it  doesn't exactly describe the world as I was taught about it.  Among other things, it says, 

"Germany … finds herself ten years later with the finest industrial plant in Europe, with unimpaired credit . . . with a small national debt and a relatively small reparations debt; yet she considers herself very harshl used".

The way I learned it, the great Keynes himself was so appalled by the treaty of Versailles that he wrote one of his masterpieces predicting that the German economy could not sustain its reparation obligations and would eventually fail.  It did fail in the early thirties, paving the way for Hitler.

The Commonweal article also seems to think that competition is intrinsically immoral, and, I grant you, on the surface it does seem that the success of one group requires and aims at the failure of another.  But this happens all the time in sports contests, and nobody calls sports intrinsically immoral.  

If economic systems are most like machines (and I suspect that they all are), then is there room for charity *in the system itself* as this naive article seems to imply?

Note that the date of the article is October 23, 1929.   The author has no idea that there is impending economic doom, only that the players are often unjust and ungenerous.

In Ca we  also talk about earthquake weather.. more fake science?

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