Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around: 121 years Ago

I'll betcha that the newspapers of the times are full of stuff about the Blizzard and the the bust and drought that came afterwards.

"Westward expansion was encouraged by the railroads that served the region. It was supported by the satisfactory price and encouraging foreign market for wheat, the money crop of the Plains. For 10 years, from 1877 through 1886, the farmers on the Plains had the benefit of an abnormally generous rainfall, leading many to assume that climatic conditions had changed and that the rain belt had moved westward to provide adequate rainfall for the Plains. Confidence was followed by unrestrained optimism that engendered wild speculation and a rise in land prices. Lured on by these illusions, the settlers went into debt to make improvements on their farms while small-town leaders dreamed of prodigious growth and authorized bond issues to construct the public improvements they felt certain would soon be needed.

The collapse of these dreams came in 1887. The year opened ominously when the Plains were swept by a catastrophic blizzard in January that killed thousands of head of cattle and virtually destroyed the cattle industry of the open range. The following summer was dry and hot; crops were poor; and, to compound the woes of the farmers, the price of wheat began to slide downward. The dry summer of 1887 was the beginning of a 10-year cycle of little rainfall and searingly hot summers. By the autumn of 1887 the exodus from the Plains had begun; five years later, areas of western Kansas and Nebraska that had once been thriving agricultural centres were almost depopulated. The agricultural regions east of the Plains were less directly affected, though there the farmers suffered from the general decline in farm prices.

Although the disaster on the Plains bred a sense of distress and frustration, the lure of good land was still strong. When the central portion of the present state of Oklahoma was opened to settlement in April 1889, an army of eager settlers, estimated to have numbered 100,000, rushed into the district to claim homesteads and build homes.

The collapse of the boom and the falling prices of agricultural products forced many farmers to seek relief through political action. In 1888 and again in 1890 this discontent was expressed through local political groups, commonly known as Farmers' Alliances, which quickly spread through parts of the West and in the South, where economic problems had been aggravated by the shift following the Civil War from a plantation system to sharecrop and crop-lien systems. The alliances won some local victories and contributed to the discomfiture of the Republicans in 1890. They were not, however, an effective vehicle for concerted political action; and in 1891 the leaders of the alliances formed the People's (Populist) Party.

Benjamin Harrison was the President, poor guy.
It does sound like stuff that has be going on today don't it.
Reckon we are hard wired with dumb?


BB-Idaho said...

Just about every party, theorist, businessman and consumer has been blamed for the economic mess so far. A fellow arguing a point in the blogosphere summed it up well, when he noted:
"The ironic aspect of this is that a deregulated, free market becomes very much a economic version of the right’s “moral relativisim”, where anything goes and if it makes a profit today, its all right. Its doubly ironic that Republicans have pushed for cracking down on social moralism and removed rules governing economic “moralism”…."

drlobojo said...

A very good insight.
Human beings are innately moral yet they must be "regulated", business is innately amoral but should not be regulated? It does seem to approach an immoral position does it not?