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President Herbert Hoover

     Linda Nyquist remembers growing up during the Hoover depression:
     In my own home as a child, Hoover was really the anti-Christ. My working-class parents held Hoover directly responsible for so much suffering in the Depression, and, of course, they exalted Roosevelt to saint status. The industrial area just on the south edges of town here in Seattle was called "Hooverville." As a nurse, my mother all too often saw patients dead on arrival at the hospitals as the result of starvation . She and my father always felt that Hoover disdained workers and that he somehow felt that they deserved their lot. On the other hand, my father felt that workers, particularly unionized workers, were largely responsible for building America. Nonetheless, neither wanted me to have a "trade" - and were quite willing to do whatever was necessary for me to have a long and good education at their expense. However, as my father sent me off to Stanford as a freshman, his parting words were "Don't forget your roots, and remember to support the working classes." I have not.

     My comment: I have a number of colleagues who grew up during the same period, and I attribute their left-wing politics to that experience. However, the above assessment of Hoover is quite unfair. He was essentially a very kind man, but he misjudged human nature, thinking that humans were good and could unite in a cooperative spirit to help each other.
     There are good humans capable of such help, as is exemplified by Médecins sans Frontières (see subsequent posting from Martin Storey) and the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, they are just the leaven in the coarse dough of humanity.
     Hoover also misjudged the nature of the economy, thinking that, left alone, natural processes would solve its problems. This set him sharply apart from the Keynesians, with the consequent differentiation between the Hoover Institution and Harvard economists.
     Hoover belatedly introduced some reforms, which Roosevelt took over and claimed credit for. However, some economic historians maintain that it was World War II which saved the American economy.
     Hence my deep concern. We live in a prosperous America, but its crazy pop culture is spiritually akin to the jazz age, making me think that our soul is suffering from a disease. Is this prosperity like that of the 20s, the prelude of another depression? While we all hope not, ghosts are lurking in the background.
     In Moscow toward the end of the Soviet period, I was staying at the Metropole Hotel. Following the Soviet system, I was placed with a stranger at a dinner table. He turned out to be a young German businessman. I asked him how business was. He gloomily gave me his sad report, and then offered the only solution: "There will have to be another war". I was left speechless.

Ronald Hilton - 10/21/99