As To Our Present Recession

This editorial must be received by the reader, not as an attempt at expert economic advice, but as the reflections of a common man on the existing social and economic conditions and difficulties.

The Standard Bearer usually does not pretend to offer advice in political and economic affairs as such, still less conceives it as belonging to its task to solve economic problems.

In the first place, its chief purpose is to discuss questions that belong to the domain of theology, and to enlighten our people with regard to the Reformed truth in distinction from many deviations and aberrations from its confession. This does not mean that the Standard Bearer has nothing to say as to the spiritual-ethical principles that underlie all life, also in the sphere of economics. But it does imply that its purpose is not to discuss and weigh in the balance different social and economic theories and develop one of its own.

Secondly, in distinction from many other publications in our day (too many, no doubt), the Standard Bearer does not pretend to have any economic experts on its staff, that could speak with any degree of authority on such questions as those that pertain to our present economic system, its weaknesses, its possibilities, its failures, and to a probable better system than the present one.

And thirdly, the present social and economic problems are, evidently, so difficult of solution, that even the very experts seem to know no way out and sometimes speak in language of despair, expressing the fear that at any moment we may expect the downfall of the entire social structure and the end of our highly exalted modern civilization. It would seem rather pretentious, then, for a mere layman in the field of economics even to suggest a possible solution.

But even a layman sometimes has opinions of his own. And this article pretends to be nothing more than the opinions of a layman.

There are certain facts that are rather outstanding in the present confusion and that may be pointed out without fear of contradiction.

The first is, that the present “recession” differs only in name from the “depression” during the early part of this present decade. There is politics in the term “recession.” It is a more hopeful word than “depression.” After all, “recession” is only temporary. The program of “prosperity” is presently to be continued. But even during the earlier “depression” we were constantly assured that “prosperity was just around the corner.” And I think that all are agreed on this point, that we are again in the midst of a period of depression, perhaps worse than that which caused the downfall of President Hoover. It rather looks as if the short “breathing-spell” of “prosperity” will, in the future, become known as a “recession” in the “depression.”

The second fact, perhaps not so generally admitted, but becoming more patent to all as the days go by, is that the so-called “recession” is essentially the same as the late depression and is merely a continuation of it. It was interrupted for a spell. As I expressed it once during the “breathing-spell,” what appeared to be prosperity returned was nothing but a patch of sunshine between two storms. But really we are still in the same “depression” as in the early years of this decade.

This implies, and I mention this as the third fact, that even the Roosevelt administration has offered us no solution of the present economic difficulties. I do not say this as a Republican, for I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. In 1936 I voted for Roosevelt; and I would, no doubt, have voted Republican, had, in my opinion, the Republicans presented a candidate of whom one could confidentially feel that he were able to fill the position of president of the U. S., but this again, in my opinion, they did not; and had they, besides, offered a solution of the economic difficulties, but also this, once more in my opinion, they did not. All they could say, and they said it with a vengeance, was that the Roosevelt remedies were no good. Well, although I still believe that Roosevelt was right in taking hold of the matter and in doing something for the unemployed, and although I feel it is rather unbecoming for his predecessor to go through the country ridiculing the present administration in stump-speeches, I never did think and I do not believe today, that the Roosevelt measures can possibly prove to be a solution of the present problems. No Rooseveltian combination of capital letters of the alphabet will finally and definitely settle things. If you fill a hole by digging another, you still have a hole. And it seems to me that this figure can properly be applied to the efforts of our present administration. Only, the hole that is being dug is much deeper than the hole that is being filled. I am afraid that the ultimate result will be two holes.

Fourthly, and this is my personal opinion, there is at the present time no one that appears to have a solution. It is true that the Republicans still assure us emphatically that the present administration is leading us in the direction of a terrible catastrophe. But, although I rather carefully attended to all they had to say thus far, I have not heard of one that had a positive, constructive program that offered hope of a solution.

We will have more to say on this subject next time, the Lord willing.