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Hogarth judge

November 2017

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Hogarth judge

A timely comment from a master of prose

The psychic effect of the depression, it seems to me, is generally a good
one.... It has taught people the difference between speculative values and
real values. It has hastened the death of sick industries, and proved the
vigor of sound ones. It has blown up the old delusion that the amount of
money in the world is unlimited, and that every American is entitled to a
police captain's share of it. Best of all, it has taught millions that there
is really no earthly reason why there should be two cars in every garage,
and a chicken in the pot every day.

A few years back we were all leaping along after the pacemakers, and making
shining fools of ourselves. Life in America had become an almost unanimous
effort to keep up with the Joneses, and what the Joneses had to offer by way
of example was chiefly no more than a puerile ostentation. So many luxuries
became necessities that the line separating the one from the other almost
vanished. People forgot altogether how to live well, and devoted themselves
frantically to living gaudily.

It seems to me that the depression will be well worth its cost if it brings
Americans back to their senses. Once they rediscover the massive fact that
hard thrift and not gambler's luck is the only true basis of national
wealth, they will discover simultaneously that a perfectly civilized and
contented life is possible without the old fuss and display.

- H. L. Mencken, The American Spectator, March, 1933

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