Monday, April 18, 2016

You Must Remember This

I just read Amity Shlaes best-selling history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man.  Well, read and looked at--it's now available as a graphic novel.  This solves the problem afflicting most books on economics: too many numbers, not enough pictures.

The book is a revisionist look at those tough years, told from a generally free-market point of view.  It's been embraced by many, and attacked widely as well.  I guess we shouldn't be surprised--people debate today's economic problems, why shouldn't they debate the worst collapse in America's history?

This comic book version introduces us to all the familiar--and less familiar--names of the Depression: Hoover and Roosevelt, of course, but also Mellon, Morgenthau, Lilienthal, Tugwell, Frankfurter, Ickes, Keynes, Insull and the book's narrator/hero, Wendell Willkie, who might have taken us down a different path but lost to Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election.

The story moves chronologically from the 1929 crash to the precipice of World War II.  Along the way, we get stuff such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the PWA, the TVA, the NRA, the Wagner Act, Schechter Poultry, Social Security and the Court-packing plan.  Both Hoover and Roosevelt tried a lot of stuff to deal with a harsh economy--no matter how you view what they did, we have to ask why did the bad times last so long?

The trouble with the comic book version is it's a comic book version.  In under 300 pages, it tries to tell a tale told in detail in a book that was all text and a couple hundred pages longer.  If you don't have some familiarity with what's going on already, the story can become bewildering, even incoherent.  Characters and incidents come and go quickly, and it's not always clear how they fit into the big picture.

So two cheers for trying to re-tell the tale in an easy-to-read fashion.  Adapted by Chuck Dixon, and illustrated by Paul Rivoche, it is fun to look at.  But as a revised version of a revisionist story, it'd probably be best to go to the original.


Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter