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tv   [untitled]    May 6, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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crossed ♪ ♪ he is the one who told all the crooks get lost ♪ ♪ adlai love you madly ♪ and what you did for your own great state you're going to do for the rest of the 48 ♪ ♪ didn't know much about him before he game ♪ ♪ but now my heart's a ballot that bears his name ♪ ♪ listened to what he had to say ♪ ♪ and i know on election day we're going to choose the gov that we love ♪ ♪ he is the gov that nobody can shove ♪ ♪ we'll make the gov the president of the u, the me and the usa ♪ >> if you look at current ads, rick strum, for example, did a pop-up video-style ad in the nature of vh-1, so you can kind
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of see reflections of american culture being used to promote various candidates. youtube and other internet video distribution sites have been instrumental actually in changing how we capture ads. before when we would capture ads, we were kind of dependant on what people would donate so we might not get a complete run of ads. for example, one political party might donate their materials in a given year and the other one wouldn't. now we can get a much more complete -- complete set of videos because we can go out and capture that material ourselves rather than being dependant on donations from campaigns or television stations when they are done with the material. that being said, we would like -- we'd still like to get donations of material from the original source because it's generally higher quality. i think the value of the collection, one or two political ads, anyone can get those these days off the internet or record
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them off your tv if you've gott still got older recording devices or a new tivo, but when you an ad, a number of ads like this, 95,000 together, you really get a sense of the depth and breadth of information that's being presented by the candidates, and i think that i'd like visitors to get an appreciation for -- for our collection in that sense. stay tuned all weekend long as american history tv features oklahoma city, oklahoma. learn more about oklahoma city and c-span's local content vehicles at c-span.org/local content. next month we'll feature wichita, kansas. you're watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. the organization of american historians and the national council on public history recently held their annual meeting in milwaukee, wisconsin.
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american history tv spoke with several of this year's attendees. next, jessica lepler of the university of new hampshire and alice o'connor of the university of california santa barbara discuss the panic of 1837 and other economic crises and explain how they relate to the 2008 financial crisis. this is about a half hour. >> american history tv is at the annual meeting of the okayization of american historians in milwaukee, and we are joined by two historians who will be speaking about economic chris ease in american history. jessica lepler teaches history at the university of new hampshire and alice o'connor, a historian at the university of california santa barbara. thanks for being with us. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> let's start early in history with the panic of 1837, professor lepler. what was the panic of 1837?
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>> the panic of 1938, that phrase refers to a rather long period of time t.referred to seven years of both a financial crisis and really hard times that followed it, well into the 1840s. but my focus has really been on the experience of panic which happened between march and may of 1837 and was rather remarkably similar to our own crisis in a lot of ways. it was a credit crisis built out of real estate speculation and consumption of goods, and sort of very similar experience to what a lot of people have just lived through. >> and similar also in that it was an inherited crisis for for martin van buren. >> well, martin van buren. andrew jackson was president and then his vice president van buren took office on the same day in london and new orleans the panic began, so, yes, it was an inherited crisis, but it was a crisis inherited within an
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administration. martin van buren was andrew jackson's right-hand man, so he wasn't exactly ignorant of the situation that was going on. >> what would the economy have been like in 1947? what was the driving engine of the u.s. economy? >> well, the period between the 1827 and mid-1830s was one of enormous growth. it was an unbelievable period of american development and the backbone of it was really cotton. the slave pan operations, panded west at a remarkable rate on to land confiscated from native americans and that engine connected to the markets of liverpool and the text time factories in england really drove the economy. england actually supported the american economies in the 1820s and 1830s as sort of the financial backers so internal improvements, building of canals and railroads in the north and the could the top markets of the
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south drove the american economy. >> when students try to craw parallels between the crisis of 1837 and the 2008 crisis, where do you see the best merging of the past? where are the two similar? >> well, they are similar in a bunch of ways. in some ways i think it's more interesting to think about how they are different. they are remarkably similar, credit crises built on property and new forms of credit instrumentation but they are very different in that the slave economy is really behind the version of the 1830s version. it's interesting because the language that people used to describe the crisis that they were living through is in some ways remarkably similar to our own. when we were living through the 2007-2008 sort of early periods of our own hard times, i kept seeing references to meteorological crises and medical crises, and this is the same sort of language that 19th century americans used, except 19th century americans didn't
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yet have a sense of capitalism or the economy or a gdp or anything that we use as markers to try to figure out how our own economic system works so it's both similar. people grappling with the problems of losing their fortunes overnight. >> yes. >> and incredibly different. >> professor o'connor, for this session on crises, economic crises in american history, what do you plan to make as your main focus? what do you bring to the discussion? >> in my particular contribution, i mean, the panel itself is talking about why it is not only that economic crises matter in history and what they are and how they relate to one another, but why is it that narratives of economic crisis matter, and some of the things jessica was just saying i resonate with and are part of the rationale for this panel
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partly because it's our way, i think, of acknowledging that historians have something unique to bring to the understandings of economic crises and why they matter, not only in the degree to which historians can really step back and get a fully conte conteco conconnection actual sense of the big moments that are underlying the moments of panic and moments of crisis, but historians, narrative is our tool. narrative is our tool of making sense of the past, so we have a particular understanding of why it is that narratives more matter in helping people to make sense of in all sorts of different ways the very bewildering events that are happening all around them, in helping people to in that way try to wrest some control, whether they really can or not, over, again, these bewildering events that are disrupting their
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lives possibly but also in bringing some understanding to how narratives are used for political purposes. not just narrow electoral purposes, although they absolutely are used for electoral purposes, the politics of blame is something that's a big theme in jessica's paper, and you can't avoid it in thinking about the upcoming election. who is to blame? whose crisis is this? suddenly the crisis has become barack obama's crisis. suddenly it became martin van buren's crisis. that's a political process. >> one of the common themes in that narrative is the banks. >> absolutely. >> this time around and in 1837 and, of course, in 1933 under fdr, right? >> yes, absolutely. >> i mean, banks are -- and not only, you know, have banks been at the core of these crises, but in many moments of crisis and panic in particular. economic crises that begin with
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moments of financial panic or financialized panic, you know, have banks at their core, and -- and have different aspects of the whole banking system and the whole system of global finance at their core. in fact, one of the themes really that sort of draws all these together is the global nature, the global origins of these crises which is often a revelation to students. >> yes. >> because they think, well, globalization, that happened yesterday, you know. >> and professor lepler is talking about the slave trade and the textile trade from england. >> oh, yeah, and the credit that sort of enabled canals to be build and railroads to be built and lands to be purchased and slaves to be purchased. >> would that credit have come -- >> it came from england. i mean, it came from banks like the rothchild and the bearings, the big banks in england and the bank of england kind of controlled the credit market in
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all the of that. banks were a big part of the credit crisis because for a long time historians have focused on the bank runs but that's the end. the bank runs are a culmination of a long period of people really being uncertain and banks as an argument for causation were just as political as arguing that martin van buren was somehow responsible. the wigs argued for martin van baurn's responsibility and the democrats argued for banks and merchants and these international forces, so even when we try to think about it as banks being at the center of it, that's a political argument that got shaped during the financial crises themselves. >> in the 2008 crisis, we didn't really have too many runs on banks per se. >> mm-hmm. the government stepped in largely to rescue a number of financial institutions. i was struck by in 1837 that there was -- there was certainly a call for the government to step in. is that a common theme
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throughout -- throughout the financial crises in history? >> well, it's interesting. in 1837, it's often thought that there were these big bank runs, but there actually weren't that many bank runs. the banks themselves the shut themselves down trading money for specie, gold and silver coin before there could be widespread bank runs, so there weren't many widespread bank runs at that point either but the call for government intervention was, again, a politicized argument in the 1830s. those who wanted government intervention were those who disagreed with martin van buren and andrew jackson's policies. those who didn't want government intervention agreed with the existing policies which were already an interventionist measure to try to bring back more gold and silver currency, so i do think calls for government intervention in one way or another are sort of transhistorical by the 1830s moment is different because the political parties are new. the idea that the federal government had any role in the banking system was relatively new. i mean, even financial crises
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were not new but in a very booming economy of the 19th century which was going to transform america, the scale was really different. >> going back to 2008, this narrative that you talked about in terms of what history focused specifically on the bank's role in 2008 and how that fits into the narrative of past economic crises. >> well, in fact, interestingly holding the banks accountable and essentially framing this as a crisis that began as a financial crisis and that remain in some ways as a financial crisis that can be resolved through fixing the financial system, through bailing out the banks or stabilizing the banks or somehow stabilizing our system of finance and reforming it is in itself a somewhat narrow way of framing the issues even though very, very big issues are involved, but what
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that doesn't pay attention to is what is it that caused this financial instability in the first place? absolutely that's connected to the banks in the larger process of economic reform and financial deregulation over the course of several years and the restructuring of capitalism that we've been seeing over the course of several decades now. but it's also absolutely deeply rooted in the problems of inequality that essentially put people in a position of being so vulnerable themselves to this whole process of subprime lending, this whole process of essentially debt-financed ways of getting by, not ways of simply getting away, just ways of getting by, that remains really unaddressed when you simply frame the crisis as a crisis of credit as, you know, a
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great gigantic credit crunch that somehow has to be fixed through government intervention. >> i wanted to ask you about that. do you have something to add to that? >> yeah. i was just going to say that this idea of people not being able to sort of deal with the crisis as it's happening is -- is something that in 1837 was really remarkable because it ended up shaping the way people thought about economics for the next century and a half. they started the crisis with the strong arguments that individuals were responsible for their economic lives, the self-made man of the 1830s was sort of, you know, an important trope that played a really big role in getting people to invest in the economy, but during the crisis they start to argue that they are not responsible, that self-made failure is sort of divorced from self-made success, and so in some ways it's the reverse argument happening in the 1830s, whereas during the crisis they start to look for bigger forces, and that process kind of leads to changes in
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economic thought. >> i wanted to ask you both about this. it both came out of the depression because we had parents or grandparents who went through the depression, although those memories are fading as our parents and grandparents die off, but among the sort of social things that you hear the lessons of the depression, i'm not talking about the economic lessons but sort of the frugality, the idea of resilience, of building savings, do those still exist today? are there social lessons that we're learning from the 2008 crisis, for example? >> well, i mean, i think that is another story in many ways of historical revisionism. i mean, we are still finding out what the lessons are. >> of the depression? >> and what the nature of the great depression was. >> that's right. >> so you see this debate literally happening before our very eyes. one version of the great depression, which traces its roots to a whole series of
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structural problems in the economy, that had to do with what's, you know, what's happening in the agricultural sector, with what's happening in the global economy, versus a version of, you know, what happened to cause the great depression that says, no, actually it started as kind of a credit crunch, you know, the great contraction as milton friedman put it, and then through a variety of mistakes on the one hand on the part of the federal reserve which mismanaged the crisis from the get-go, and then government so-called interference which prolonged the crisis, is that's what caused the great depression. so that version of the great depression is being replayed right now in arguments that say, well, what happened was government stepped in and bailed things out and then the obama administration made things worse by this economic stimulus package, by not allowing the
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free market to reign, and, therefore, the crisis becomes obama's crisis, so in many ways we're still finding out the so-called lessons of the great depression in, you know, the way we're managing the crisis now. i point to one other thing that i think is very, very important. you might recall that at very beginning of the great recession and what to do about the great recession. >> 2008. >> in 2008. >> 2007. >> really actually there's a big question of when all this started, but early on in the obama administration, there was a lot of talk about 1937, and the great lesson of 1937, supposedly the consensus lesson of 1937 is that what you do not do in times of great economic recession is go too quickly to the politics of austerity. that's the great lesson of the roosevelt recession in 1937, and for a while, for quite a while
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early on, you know, that was -- seemed to be the prevailing consensus. that has clearly disappeared as we have turned to the politics of austerity, as the politics of austerity have certainly become dominant in our own political discussion and absolutely in the broader political global discussion about the european debt crisis and what to do about that, so it's interesting to see how lessons kind of rise and fall in the course of a few short years, as especially economic crises extend. >> but it -- >> or months, in my case. >> months. >> as the panic of 1837 intensified because there was no communication, and in those months narratives of even the same author change d from hanna farnum sayre lee wrote a column called "three experiments of living, living within the means, living up to the means and living beyond the means. >> personal means.
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>> yes. this is about a personal family and how you should govern your finances, and it comes out in december of 1836 and it's a r runaway best-seller and at the end of the crisis in may she comes up with another book and the lesson of the second book isn't about how your individual choices can prevent your family's downfall. it's about how you're trapped in a big net, a big spider cobb web she calls it, and you can try to do things to help your family, but you can't control the system, so like even in a few months the same author could -- could change her mind. >> you touched on this a little bit earlier. hats way we measure economic success, both individually and -- mainly let's focus as a nation. has that changed over the course of 180 years, 175 years? >> of course it has. i mean -- >> i mean in, terms of statistics. >> >> in terms of the course of a nation, in the 1830s they didn't necessarily think in those terms, so political
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economy has a field hadn't really developed into economics yet, and they didn't measure economic growth as a component of what they were supposed to be studying, of what counted as a successful nation. they were still thinking in individual terms generally, and so domestic economy, political economy, novels -- there's been a lot of work in the last few years about how all the genres of measurement, genres of discussion, are really narrative in form and are intertwines with one another. it hasn't become the model that we have i of today, so when historians apply models of today on the 1830s to try to figure out whether the economy was successful, it's sort of a fiction because it's just -- there's just no way for us to know. they didn't collect the data that would be useful for us. >> certainly by 2008 we've got plenty of ways to figure this out, unemployment and gdp and things like that. >> well also recession. i mean, literally the definition of recession in terms of the
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length of time one is in periods of economic growth, and there are debates among -- remain debates among economists about how you should measure, you know, how you should date recessions, when they begin and when they end but also how they should be measured as well. >> if i could just jump in, i think that one of the most interesting things i've read recently is about stature as a measure of economic success. >> social stature. >> no, people stature, actual height, literally height. >> really? >> people born in the late 1830s and early 1840s were actually shorter than people who had come before them and people who came later. hard times took a physical tool on people's bodies. >> one thing is about the unemployment and you wrote about the myth of man session, dealing with women and the economic crisis, and this has come up as an issue in the campaign. >> it certainly has. >> what do you mean by when you use the term man session?
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>> well, this is one of the things, again, kind of going back to this whole idea about how individuals but also out of more of a kind of structural and political level, how economic crises are narrated, so early -- again, fairly early on in the great recession, there was a lot of talk about this being unique in being a so-called man's session, and the idea was generally speaking in economic downturns you do see a period in which men are, you know, the first to lose their jobs in part because, you know, they are the ones who hold the jobs, especially if it's an industrial downturn. but, again, the argument is that in the past men also are early the -- the first to recover, and the argument was that what makes this great recession unique is men not only are they suffering more, but their economic hardship is more prolonged and more severe than the economic
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hardship being suffered by women. again, this is how the argument went, and this is how this whole notion that this is unique in being a man session as opposed to somehow a woman's session. it's a bizarre term quite frankly. >> it is, yes. >> and it's also a way of playing politics, it's a way of furthering other agendas, because in many hands the so-called man session was a way of drawing attention to the way the economy but also politics have become feminized and how special interests, women in particular, were making a special claim on the administration to need -- supposedly to need special assistance in the great recession, none of which was particularly true. i mean, i think the whole man session idea is not a very helpful way of thinking about the economy, but what it does draw our attention to is something that we frequently see in the experience of severe economic downturn, a long-term
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economic hardship, and that is that it has tremendous -- it's tremendously disruptive of family life, of individual lives in terms of the way they think about their place in the world, in the way they think about where they should be and the way they think about bred winning and their own sense of responsibility, absolutely their own sense of manliness, but frankly their sense of, you know, womanhood as well. >> absolutely. >> at this point because so many women are bread winners in their own family, and so we -- i argued in that piece, but i also think that this is the case, that a lot of cultural anxieties about changing gender roles within the economy are being played out in the way we are framing the current recession just as they have been played out over and over and over again in the way people make sense of these big economic crises. >> absolutely. >> and i know jessica sees this in her work as well. >> in the 1830s the same
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situation. >> yeah. >> crises cause incredible disruption in people's lives, and they struggle to try to figure out how to make sense of them, and gender is one way in which these gender roles change as a course of financial crisis. in the immediate -- immediately preceding the panic of 1837, a bunch of new york working men had a big flour riot. they literally threw flour out of the windows of warehouses, and as my friend josh greenberg argues, it's because their sense of masculinity was threatened. they couldn't provide for their families. >> it was a wage -- they were arguing over wages? >> they were arguing over the price of flour. they were being played less and less proportionately because the price of flour was going up and up and people ate a lot of bread. this is was the era before people were expected to have square meals and balanced diets
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and an era before any sort of social net, so if a working man didn't make a wage that could buy barrels of flour to feed their family, there was no food, and people just starved. that was part of life in the free market world of the early 19th century. >> another 24 years or so before the civil war would start before the panic of 1837, right? >> yeah. >> how long did the effects of that crisis impact american life? >> well, you know, there's some argument among economists over exactly when it ends. some people say it ends in 1843 or so. some people say it ends with the mexican war, a little later on, big expansionist boom brings more land and a lot of federal spending into the economy, but, you know, i think it hurt people for a really long time, and it didn't just hurt people in america. it was a global economic sort of turning, and in england the 1840s were known as the hungry '40s by the end of the 19th century, early 20th century because it was such a period of
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starvation. >> and in looking at that lesson from 1837, where are we now in taking it up to the 2008 crisis? >> well, in fact, this is, again, yet another theme. we keep drawing attention to the continuities, and i think we all want to caution that this is not the same thing happening. >> that's true. >> but again a very, very important theme are the long-term impacts, especially of these extended periods of crisis. in fact, there's a lot of research being done now about the -- the effects, especially for young people who are about to ender or who have recently entered the labor market, who have lost their jobs, who have had to take, you know, have had to downside early on in their career. there's a lot of research done about how the impact of that is not just felt for a couple of years. it's literally -- it follows you throughout your career, especially the experience of long-term unemployment, but i would argue you absolutely see
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it at the end of life -- at the end of the working years as well. i mean, people who are close to retirement age, who have had to kind of throw that out the window, whose economic security has been completely undermined and who find themselves, i mean, really on the brink of experiencing hunger. >> that's right. >> rates of hunger have gone up tremendously over the past -- over the past few years, as has reliance on what used to be called food stamps, but rates measured and measurable rates of hunger have absolutely gone up which has long-term impacts, especially in terms of child nutrition, so there are many things we can xwleen glean from the past but know we're paying closer attention to the long-term issues. >> we have a couple of minutes and i'll ask you more broadly and we're here with

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