Archive for February, 2020

SundayMagazine.org will take three weeks off, because NYT Sunday Magazine did the same in February-March 1920

On February 21, 1920, New York Times readers were greeted with this message:

 

The magazine’s hiatus didn’t last too long, only three weeks, returning on March 7. Albeit in a diminished form, as the editors warned, with fewer articles than before.

Coming exactly 100 years ago to the week that America’s second-largest newspaper chain McClatchy filed for bankruptcy, it’s a reminder that America’s newspaper industry has often seemed down — but it’s never been out. No, not even in the 2010s and 2020s.

In fact, during the past few years, the largest increase in newspaper and magazine print subscriptions has actually been among Millennials. That left-leaning generation not only sees fact-checking and journalism as a bulwark against Trump and the right, but they’re often into pre-digital throwback technologies, responsible for the 14-consecutive-year increase in vinyl record sales.

 

SundayMagazine.org will resume the week of March 7.

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Written by Jesse

February 18th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

ABC of Foreign Exchange

From 1870 to 1914, most Western countries adopted the gold standard, with the primary intent to keep inflation in check. It set a standard value for a country’s currency based on an equivalent value of gold.  The U.S. began doing so in 1900.

World War I changed all that. Most nations temporarily suspended their gold standards, to print way more money to pay for their surging military costs. The U.S. returned to a gold standard again in 1919, the year after the war ended. Not every country which previously had a gold standard followed suit, though, which created some big problems for international trade circa 1920:

The point here is the confusion of the exchange of currencies produced by the breakdown of the monetary system… Why is that greater just now than at any other time? It is because of the difficulties of the keepers of international accounts who have to deal with fractions without a common denominator.

Exchanges of currencies used to be managed by the use of gold. When different currencies would buy equal amounts of gold, the currencies were of equal value in the same place… But gold can now be got for currency at par only in the United States. In other countries gold is at a premium, and if the gold is at a premium the currency given for it must be at a discount.

On only the second month of FDR’s presidency in April 1933, he tried to counter the Great Depression by ordering Americans to trade in their gold for dollars, which (unlike gold) they could actually spend to hopefully jumpstart the economy. As a result, the U.S. created the gold stash at Fort Knox, Kentucky, which exists to this day at a value of more than $6 billion.

Because the U.S. government now held most of the world’s gold, other countries gradually began using the dollar as a benchmark by which to value their currency, rather than gold as they had before. Even today, despite fears that the Chinese yuan could someday replace it, the U.S. dollar remains the peg by which foreign exchanges are measured.

The U.S. discontinued the gold standard in 1971.

Thanks to the article History of the Gold Standard by Kimberly Amadeo in The Balance for much of this information.

ABC of Foreign Exchange: Most Important Crisis in History of International Trade Has Caused Dramatic Upset in Financial Capitals of World (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 15, 1920

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Written by Jesse

February 12th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Economy / Finance

The Next War

In 1920, Harvard government professor Albert Bushnell Hart accurately predicted Germany and Italy might launch another world war. His prediction that it may occur within five years was a bit pessimistic — it actually took 19.

When you turn to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the patient has taken not ether but hasheesh [sic], and is either submerged in dreams or raving with terror and fury. Germany undoubtedly wants peace for the present, but, as a vigorous and intellectual German has recently written: “We Germans in general remain sound and complete; so much the world will certainly experience in the future.” Nobody can believe that the German people have been made a peace-loving nation by their defeat.

He was right about Germany, which later became one of the three main Axis powers in World War II, along with Japan and Italy. Speaking of which, Hart was also concerned about Italy too.

The cry which went through the world in 1917 was that civilization was dying unless the Western powers could band together “to make democracy safe” and, much more directly, to make safe their capitals, ports, factories, mines, and fields. For this, 2,000,000 American soldiers crossed the sea, and by their actual fighting and their presence turned the balance. And who can fail to see that democracy is still at least unsatisfied, even in the democratic countries of Great Britain, France, and Italy? Public opinion in those countries is still a boiling pot; nobody can say with any confidence what party or what political group will be in power and make the decisions in those three countries five years hence. And all those countries are in a dangerous, and some in a desperate, financial situation.

So what do to if international tensions boiled over into a worldwide conflict again? Hart’s answer reflected a perceived inevitability:

What would we do in those circumstances? What could we do, but what was done in 1917? Declare war and trust in Providence!

He was right… for better or for worse.

The Next War: Demoralized but Bellicose World May Come to It in Five Years, Unless the League and Universal Training Are Adopted as Protection (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 8, 1920

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Written by Jesse

February 6th, 2020 at 12:01 pm