An interesting thing has been happening lately: Sober people have begun using the phrase "since the Great Depression" with surprising frequency. As in, "X economic marker hasn't looked like this since the Great Depression."
Americans' personal savings? Lowest rate since the Great Depression.
Housing slump? Worst since the Great Depression.
Proposed overhaul of Wall Street practices? Most sweeping since the Great Depression.
This recession we're in? Predicted by some to be the worst since the Great Depression.
Mortgage crisis? Worst financial shock since the Great Depression.
Are we actually heading toward a sequel to the Great Depression? I'm obviously not qualified to say, but the possibility is at least being talked about in polite circles.
So what I've been wondering about is this: If we were to enter another depression, what would it look like? The world has changed a lot since the 1930s. Even people living in poverty tend to have big-screen TVs, iPods and decent computers. It's hard to imagine that a 21st-Century depression, in its physical particulars, would look much like the 1930s depression did.
We've been baking bread lately. No, not for purely economic reasons -- The Lovely Sophia can't get Jamaican hard dough bread out here in PA so we've been baking our own -- but it is much cheaper than buying store-bought bread. In a new depression, will people bake their own bread? Will restaurants fail? Will we begin seeing mostly older cars on the road as the depression wears on and people stop buying new ones? Will styles and fashions change to reflect the new economic reality?
I'm interested in your thoughts. Tell me what you would imagine a new great depression to look like.