Friday, July 9

Amity Schlaes, The Mayflower Madam Of Economic History

Amity Schlaes, "Obama threatens to follow in FDR's economic missteps". July 9

An expert on luxury lifestyle, high-end retail and exclusive service delivery in restaurants and professional services environments, Barrows consults with owners and managers and trains staff to improve brand experiences.

That fellow seems to possess but one idea, and that a wrong one.
-Doc Johnson

OH, to be a staffer trained by Sidney Biddle Barrows-Hoffman Herself to improve brand experiences! Which, if I recall correctly, polls say is why 73% of staff get into the fast-paced world of brand experience in the first place.

Okay, first, I googled the woman simply because I can never remember if it's "Sidney Biddle Barrows" or "Sidney Barrows Biddle" or "Sidney Burrow Biggles", which is how I think she should be remembered: as the last person in America where you even bothered to wonder how the three names they used to signify their rank were arranged. And you did so just to make sure the indictment wasn't quashed for technical errors.

It's unfortunate, really, that America was already over by the time she got her fifteen minutes; she woulda stood as the perfect metaphor for the Reagan economy, except you were sick of bringing her up because the nets were yammering about her ten minutes a night, every night, in their early efforts to attract the all-important Tabloid Mentality demographic. And today it would be interesting to note that while prostitution itself remains an object of moral opprobrium, all pimpin' had to do to become respectable was attach itself to the luxury brand experience.

Anyway, I clicked over to her Wikipedia entry, and at least now I'm relieved that being an expert on luxury lifestyle, high-end retail and exclusive service delivery in restaurants and professional services environments doesn't take so much of your time that you can't keep your own wiki updated. And I was reminded, parenthetically, that I often forget to give the 70s notion of restaurant operation--which faced down our unseemly democratic tendencies by bringing us the Server Who Introduces Himself By Name and Function As Soon As He Appears, the beauty-contestant's frozen smile and incontinent stream of over-familiarities as a substitute for quiet efficiency, and the idea that Customer Service Representative was just another name for Used Car Salesman--its proper place in the pantheon of Things We Should Have Realized Were Leading Inevitably To Ronald Reagan and Ruin, alongside Happy Talk News, Star Trek, and Barbara Walters. It's bad enough that you can't eat anything without wading through a Thesaurus entry ("Marinated Half-Grilled Pork Medallions in an Orange-Sandalwood Glaze, with Comfit de Marrons, Extra-Virgin Spring Greens, and finished with a Raspberry Mole Reduction"), but this has led to an entire generation-and-a-half imagining that Making Your Quotient or Adding On that Extended Warranty is not reason enough to go home at the end of the shift, run a warm bath, and cut your throat.

So, then; Sidney Burgess Biddie goes from providing a service some people could use, to peddling her memoir based on her scabrous excuse for Fame, to teaching waitstaffs how to convince the easily impressed that that dirty martini would be twice as nice with Grey Goose™. And this is considered an improvement.

And Amity Schlaes is considered an economic historian.
With unemployment high and the Dow Jones industrial average bumping about, the big debate this summer is how to prevent a double-dip recession resembling that of the late 1930s. Some say Washington should spend more, arguing that government austerity triggered the collapse in 1937 that erased previous gains. Others say that cutting spending now will strengthen the economy generally and preclude dramatic downturns.

Our question here is this: assuming, arguendo, that there was some reason to bring this up in the first place, or hock up a sinecured novella on the topic, why do we need to hear it again? Let alone twenty more times? Woman took her ivied English degree and her connections, not necessarily in that order, and perused the labor statistics for 30s, and wound up re-writing the same right-wing claptrap about the New Deal the previous seventy years had given us in spades. She noticed--as they all had--that there was a recession in 1937 (Sharp-eyed Lit Major!), and concluded--as they all had--that FDR had prolonged the Great Depression. The real effort in all this "research" was to find a set of statistics which left out the people the New Deal put back to work temporarily. Q.E.Fucking D!

She's added nothing to the record; she has no qualifications; she's been taken to the woodshed so often that only an aficionado of the genre could be bothered anymore. We've seen your cherry-red bum enough, dear! And so, of course, she has her own little minaret at the Post group, alerting the faithful to the latest threat to unregulated banking with the same old song and dance.

And this, of course, to an audience which largely equates any reference to Vietnam or Civil Rights in a discussion of current events as akin to injecting a lecture on fifteenth century modalities. Shouldn't this woman be explaining how it is her economic masters nearly brought down the global economy? Or, y'know, booking trips to the Greek Isles for lonely CEOs?

[Shit, I forgot: the Gershwin's Nice Work if You Can Get It, published 1937 and utilizing a popular English phrase of the day, as a pro-business commentary on the recession. The mind fucking reels, or would if one actually applied the mind to anything Schlaes says.]


Keifus said...

I applaud you folks who can find a response to this stuff.

I understand that Schlaes' belief is that it wasn't the vast deficit spending on the war that got us out of the depression, but that the government stopped being mean to poor old business. Which is probably worse than just ignoring the point.

(Business might be very sensitive, but as usual, an enterprise which makes huge numbers of people dead or miserable is greeted with sage nods, and those that, you know, try to help people, are some dire threat to our well-being.)

That's all a little long for an oxymoron, but "brand experience" is a choice one. Central to our times, even.

What is home without Plumtrees Potted Meat? Incomplete. With it an abode of bliss.

Anonymous said...

It just amazes me that the FDR haters ignore the fact that after the October 1929 stock market crash, the GDP continued to decline for over 13 consecutive quarters! The economy didn't just collapse and then remain flat -- it kept declining. The GDP finally started increasing in the first full quarter after FDR's inauguration, until the 1937 (about the time the Supreme Court invalidated the initial New Deal programs).

Similarly, the current recession began in December 2007, continued for 6 quarters and began increasing during the first full quarter after the stimulus was passed.

The Republicans' "suck up to business" policies did nothing but the stimulus programs immediately reversed the GDP decline.

Kathy said...

These days, when someone sneers "WWII fixed the depression, not FDR's policy" I have the pleasure of asking why, then, with TWO wars, are we in almost as severe a depression as we were in the 30's?

Usually the answer is your typical conservative contradictory word salad with a dressing of "We are NOT in a recession/depression!"

We are, but that fact is masked with the pittance unemployment payed by our Gov. Not enough to get ahead on, just barely enough to subsist and stay out of Soup Kitchens and Bread Lines.

Anonymous said...

Why should this woman be booking trips when she's perfectly happy turning tricks?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Amity Schlaes gradumacated from Yale a year after I did. I gotz a degree in Economics.

Amity has a degree in right wing suckupitude. I guess she makes more than me, so I am teh loser.

Unknown said...

I actually had someone say to me, "It wasn't government spending that got us out of the Great Depression, it was World War II."

In the immortal words of Meg Ryan in Joe's Volcano, "I have no response to that."

DocAmazing said...

Shlaes demonstrates that one need no nothing of either history or economics to be an economic historian.

DocAmazing said...

One need not know anything, either.

Unknown said...

I wonder how Amity counts the soldiers in WW2? She counts the CCC workers and similarly governmentally employed as unemployed to "bolster" her claim that FDR made the depression worse. So where do those governmentally employed soldiers fit?

and WW2 shows that FDR just did not use sufficient stimulus

tech98 said...

I actually had someone say to me, "It wasn't government spending that got us out of the Great Depression, it was World War II."

They mean WW2, when there was rationing, price controls, major government control of industrial production and sharp rises in income tax rates (top rate 94%)? That's the glibertarian retort to the effectiveness of the New Deal?