I’ve come to the (brilliant) conclusion that the Book of Mormon teaches us about social economics. I’m not talking about Alma 11 where the “Nephite coinage [is] set forth.”* I’m talking about the Pride Cycle we all talked about in seminary. The righteous are humble, they begin to prosper, they start to become prideful, and then they get shot down either by war, famine or pestilence. There were a lot of pestilences in ancient times.**
When I learned about that in high school, all I ever thought was, “Come on, Nephites. Haven’t you learned anything from the LAST pride cycle?”
And yet, every time I read the Book of Mormon, they do it again and again and again.
Oh wait. So do we. We get all caught up on how prosperous we are and go buy fancy cars, live within our credit means, and expect the government to take care of our retirement funds. The history of humbling recessions and depressions is long:
1797: Bank of England’s deflation disrupted commercial and real estate markets. Lasted 3 years.
1807: Jefferson’s Embargo Act devastated shipping-related industries. Lasted 7 years.
1819: Foreclosures, bank failures, unemployment. Lasted 5 years.
1837: Bank failures and lack of confidence in paper caused this panic. Lasted 6 years.
1857: The railroad bubble burst after the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company failed. Lasted 3 years.
1873: Post-Civil War speculative bubble burst after the largest bank in the U.S. failed—price of silver went down. Lasted 6 years.
1873: (Yes, it’s the same year.) This was a worldwide depression caused by the collapse of the Vienna Stock Exchange. Lasted 23 years.
1893: Reading Railroad failed; stock market collapsed, banks collapsed, run on the gold supply. Lasted 3 years.
1907: Monetary contraction after a run on Knickerbocker Trust Company. (Sounds like the coolest “panic” to me.) Lasted 1 year.
1918: Hyperinflation in Europe after WWI; production went down; unemployment went up. Lasted 3 years.
1929: Great Depression; stock markets crash worldwide, banking collapse. Lasted 10 years.
1953: Federal Reserve restricts monetary policies because of inflation fears. Lasted 1 year.
1957: Recession caused by budget deficit. Lasted 1 year.
1973: Oil prices were quadrupled by OPEC and government spending went up to fund the Vietnam War. Lasted 2 years.
1980: Price of oil increases following Iranian Revolution; real estate market crashed under the weight of 17-18% mortgage rates. Lasted 2 years.
1990: Industrial production and manufacturing-trade sales decreased. Lasted 1 year.***
2001: Dot-com bubble burst; September 11th attacks; accounting scandals. Lasted 2 years.
2007: Housing market collapse leads to bank collapse and now the government thinks it can save us. Lasted ?.
This list is simply a timeline of the U.S. Pride Cycle. The current recession is a good thing, see? It will remind us that we shouldn’t go pick fights with the Lamanites so much and we shouldn’t get all excited about our fancy clothes.
In reality, it will teach us the difference between speculative and real values; sick industries will die (unless the government prolongs their life support); we’ll stop thinking that the amount of money in the world is unlimited; and we will no longer think that we have the right to two cars in every garage and a large-screen TV with DVR in every room.
The media makes this sound like the worst recession since the Great Depression and paints a dark picture of doom and gloom. Stop reading the media and try to get perspective. Try reading something like this: Carpe Diem.
(P.S. If you want to see some of the sites I’ve been reading lately, go here: Larrie’s Tumblelog. Includes everything from stories about magic goats to TIME’s gloomy report on the “terrible” recession of the 90’s.)
*Why do we need to know that they had a senine, seon, shum and limnah of gold? I’ve always wanted an onti of silver. Maybe there’s a story problem somewhere in the verses.
**It’s a little different than fake pestilences like bird flus where we begged the government to save us with Tamiflu vaccinations developed by a company where Rumsfield held millions, hmm…
*** In 1991, the media told us that “there is no question but this is the worst economic time since the Great Depression.” It lasted EIGHT LONG MONTHS. Yikes.