2012 February 3

The Master Resource Report 2012-02-03

Some Historical Perspective

Below is an excerpt from “The Go-Go Years: The Drama and Crashing Finale of Wall Street’s Bullish 60s” by John Brooks  published in 1973. After reading it consider if we are really that much worse off today. A little historical perspective is always valuable.

“All this resolution and high spirits fought upstream against one of the deepest moods of gloom to darken any American April since the Civil War. The first My Lai revelations were five months old; the dangerous and disturbing New Haven strike in support of the Black Panthers, which would spread quickly to campuses all over the Northeast, was to begin that same day, April 22; the stunningly unpopular invasion of Cambodia was eight days off, the Kent State University killings of students by National Guardsmen twelve days off. The gloom, compounded by signs of an approaching national economic recession, had caused a stock-market panic that, though far from over, was already comparable in a remarkable number of ways to that of October 1929. The Dow-Jones industrial average of common stocks had sunk relentlessly through almost all of 1969; then, after holding fairly firm through the first three months of the new year, it had gone into a sickening collapse that had carried it, by April 22, to a level some 235 points below where it had been at its peak sixteen months earlier. Much worse, the Dow did not begin to tell the whole story. Interest rates were at near-record highs, strangling new housing construction and making most industrial expansion impractical. The dollar was in bad trouble in the international markets, with foreigners holding American currency worth many billions more than the national gold hoard. One hundred or more Wall Street brokerage firms were near failure. As for the Dow, made up as it was of the old blue chips that had long since been deposed as sensitive and accurate market leaders, it was a pale, watered-down reflection of the real stock-market situation. A better indication is to be found in the fact that in May 1970, a portfolio consisting of one share of every stock listed on the Big Board was worth just about half of what it would have been worth at the start of 1969. The high flyers that had led the market of 1967 and 1968 —conglomerates, computer leasers, far-out electronics companies, franchisers-were precipitously down from their peaks. Nor were they down 25 percent, like the Dow, but 80, 90, or 95 percent. This was vintage 1929 stuff, and the prospect of another great depression, this one induced as much by despair as by economic factors as such, was a very real one.

The visible parallels to 1929, in the business and financial spheres, were enough to make a man agree not merely with Santayana, who said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, but with Proust, whose whole great book, read one way, seems to say that man’s apparent capacity to learn from experience is an illusion.”

Nature Commentary on oil supplies

Below is a listing of articles both pro & con on the Nature Commentary by James Murray and David King published last week. If you would like to obtain a copy of the commentary you can contact James Murray by e-mail: jmurray@u.washington.edu