Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

A New Deal – In Silhouette

December 15, 2011

A NEW DEAL — IN SILHOUETTE

Of course you must have seen them. Either in your own house or in that of your grandparents or in the window of an antique shop or in books about the American Revolution. For a century and a half ago, silhouettes were as common as snapshots are today. Everybody, high and low, rich and poor, had himself silhouetted, and such mighty personages as George Washington and Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great and Benjamin Franklin were silhouetted until they must have been as sick and tired of the own shadow-pictures as George Gershwin must be of his “Symphony in Blue.

The process was exceedingly simple. Everybody could make silhouettes. All he needed was a willing subject, a white screen, a candle, a piece of black paper and a pair of sharp scissors. The rest depended upon his native or acquired ability to catch the shadow of his victim and reduce it to the right proportions. for all I know, the craze for these fascinating shadow pictures may return tomorrow. For the stage is all set for a return of M. de Silhouette. No, he was not some sort of prehistoric photographer, a vague ancestor of that famous M. de Daguerre, who gave us the daguerreotype and modern photography. M. de Silhouette was a financier of great repute and the New Dealer of the reign of King Louis XV of France.

*     *     *

This is the way that amiable nobleman turned himself into one of the immortals. For when all is said and done, what a greater fame can a man achieve than to make his name part of the current vernacular?

It was during the middle of the Eighteenth Century, France, having been most thoroughly ruined by the dynastic wars of the Great King Louis (whose royal mansions in Versailles were so recently repaired by the generosity of our own Mr. Rockefeller), was about as bankrupt as any nation can be without ceasing to function altogether.

Even in Versailles, where nobody ever learned or forgot anything, a few of the brighter spirits discovered that 1,000,000,000 times zero still makes zero. Evidently, it was time that something be done and be done right away.

Looking around for a bright young man to swing on the dangerous trapeze of finance, the choice fell upon a certain Etienne de Silhouette, a native of Limoges, a former secretary of the Duke of Orleans and member of the royal commission that had settled the Franco-British difficulties in Acadia in 1749.

Young Etienne had been an industrious student of British financial affairs and had translated a good many English books on finance into French. In short, a sort of brain-trust all by himself.

In March, 1759, he was put at the head of the finances of France with unlimited power to do whatever he pleased, provided he go His Majesty’s kingdom out of its desperate difficulties. This appointment was made at the suggestion of the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The dear lady was not famous for her morals. But she had a good brain. If she and de Silhouette had been given free rein, they might, between them, have saved France from the Revolution.

*     *     *

But of course the poor New Dealer could accomplish absolutely nothing unless first of all he tackled the problem of the privileged classes. He did his best. He tried to reduce all pensions of all the hangers-on of the court. He proposed to tax the lands of the nobles. He suggested that everybody spend just about half of what he had done thus far, and that there be an end to the wasteful luxury of a court which benefitted nobody but the Versailles pastry-cooks, the Paris jewelers and the light ladies of both cities.

The idea struck the court as something so unusually funny that all of fashionable society began to do things “a la Silhouette,” which was a polite way for doing them “on the cheap.” Thus far, everybody had had his portrait painted by a regular painter. But now of course they could no longer afford to do so, and they had their pictures cut out of a piece of black paper. They had it done “on the cheap” or “a la Silhouette.”

And when the joke had lasted long enough, they booted poor Etienne de Silhouette out of his high office, and the good old times came back right away, and the New Deal went into discard, and Etienne de Silhouette died as the forgotten man, and Marie Antoinette and her boy and girl friends had a perfectly swell time laughing their pretty heads off over this pedantic bore with his everlasting howls about he coming disasters and calamities.

And then they all went to jail and made lovely little silhouettes of each other’s pretty little necks.

And then they had their pretty little necks cut off by the guillotine.

And that is the story of the New Deal of the year 1749 and of Monsieur Etienne de Silhouette.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Dec 19, 1934

Meet the Commentator
Hendrik Willem
VAN LOON

Van Loon wrote The Story of Mankind, a wonderful history book geared toward children:

Read online or download a free copy at this google link.

America’s Self-Correcting Form of Government

December 14, 2011

Image from RKA History Resource Data Bank

A SELF-CORRECTING SYSTEM

AN UNVARYING symptom of economic recovery in the United States is a rebirth of confidence in our form of government.

In periods of major depressions pessimism recurs concerning our political and economic setups.

Hard times bring an overproduction of fallacious remedies and crackpot proposals.

The recent series of Supreme Court decisions have clarified the atmosphere.

Raymond Moley, in a recent symposium on various schemes for changing our form of government, made an effective plea for the Democratic idea, saying:

It (democracy) is essentially a self-correcting system of government. It does not contemplate the hardening of society into a single form. It is not subject to the capricious instincts of a single individual as in Fascism. It does not contemplate, as a major premise, the deadly uniformity that Socialism postulates in its proposed organization of economic life. It does not, as does Communism, contemplate the abolition of established institutions through a mere transference of autocratic power. In essence it is a system sufficiently flexible to conform to the requirements of human beings who have reached a stage of literacy and of organized intelligence.

The Gibraltar-like strength of the American system is in its flexible capacity for growth and progress.

A reading of history shows that in depressions we merely take one step backward before taking two steps forward.

Intelligent management of affairs involves a capacity to diagnose the true causes of depression and a determination not to be fooled by irrelevant attempts to raise extraneous issues.

The dissipation of the fog of silly reasoning by the lucid opinions rendered by the court creates the conditions suitable for a new era of accelerated progress and quickened economic recovery.

Rochester Evening Journal (Rochester, New York) Jun 18, 1935

RAYMOND MOLEY- from The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

In Jan. 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Moley to assemble advisors to develop programs for his presidential campaign; Moley selected mainly Columbia professors, who became the “Brain Trust.”

Moley wrote speeches and advised FDR in 1932-33. He resigned in Aug. 1933 over conflicts with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, but continued to advise and write speeches for FDR on a part-time, non-paid basis until 1936, when he grew disillusioned with New Deal hostility to business and FDR’s increasing involvement in foreign affairs. In 1933 Moley became editor of Today magazine, remaining after the 1937 merger with Newsweek, until 1967. In 1941 he began a nationally syndicated tri-weekly newspaper column. He wrote 19 books.

Moley was a senior advisor to Republican presidential aspirants Wendell Willkie, Barry Goldwater, and Richard Nixon. In 1970 he received the Medal of Freedom.