“Old Bill” Suggests—
Few people read the book of Haggai nowadays and some, because it is of only two chapters and the second shortest book in the Bible, are hardly familiar with the name. It contains one of the clearest descriptions of the oncoming of a depression—and the logical cure for one—that have ever been written.
“Ye have sown much and bring in little; ye eat but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
In other words, it was 1919-20 or 1928-29 over again. Then came hard times, for when people are not thrifty their gains do not abide. The specific crash came in the shape of a crop failure—“the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.”
There were other than purely physical reasons for the crop failure. The temples had been neglected amid all this worldly prosperity, but that makes the analogy even closer, since grossness and neglect of the spiritual side is the normal concomitant of easy money. It was like the prohibition era here.
There was caused in retribution “a drought upon the land and upon the mountains and upon the corn and upon the new wine and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon man and upon cattle and upon all the labor of the hands.”
Well, they listened to the prophet, and without more ado went to work on the temple. After they had worked for nothing for a while, one can guess, the next wages, instead of “being put into a bag with holes,” must have looked as if each coin were important as the moon!
It is hard to read exactly what took place, but the leadership seems at the same time to have become less grafting. Ultimately, when people and leaders had recovered from wanting something for nothing, Haggai pointed out that the seed was still in the barn, the vine and fig tree ready to bear, and that good times were returning. And they did.
There are many systems for preventing depressions, but none so far for curing the public psychology which underlies their inevitability.
ROYAL F. MUNGER.