In recent months the hysteria about swine flu has been whipped into a fearful frenzy. Is there need for concern or is this little more than a power play?
Well, I have found an excellent book that adds real depth and perspective to this discussion. What makes this work even more intriguing is the fact it was written to chronicle the evolution of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and resultant societal implications.
The Great Influenza reads like a well written apocalyptic novel but is even more disturbing as it is a well researched, well written history of this pivotal moment. However, what really makes this a spellbinding, scary read is the similarities with the current political conditions in the United States today.
Never before was I aware of how close we came to full suspension of liberties, the rule of law, and the Constitution. As President Wilson embarked on his “holy crusade” and “divine appointment” to transform the world with a victory in Europe during World War I, and then the establishment of the League of Nations, he became myopic to a point that nothing, not even the greatest pandemic in recorded history, could deter him from the course chosen.
Another aspect of this book I found intriguing was the societal implications and long term effect of the draconian policies of the Wilson administration as well as the pandemic. From the rise of the unions to the creation of the League of Nations, from the negating of religions place in society to the rise of the medical and pharmaceutical industry the collision between narrow focused political ambition and natural disaster forever altered the course of history.

If you wonder how we as a nation arrived at the point of such a financial cataclysm I suggest Breaking The Banks In Motor City as a late night read. The insider trading, governmental intrusion into realms of unconstitutional authority, bank bail outs at tax payer expense, gross ethical violations, and unconscionable greed witnessed this past year with bank, insurance, and automobile manufacturer bailouts pale in comparison to what took place between 1925 and 1933.
This delightful little book, written by the president of the Society of Automotive Historians, Darwyn Lumley chronicles the collapse of a financial giant in Detroit, the dramatic consequences of this collapse, and the resultant rewriting of the rules pertaining to the role of the federal government. It is a stunning portrayal of the danger of capitalism unfettered from moral constraint and a government unleashed from the constraints of being a servant of the people.
Roy Chapin, president of Hudson and Commerce Secretary to President Hoover, is also heavily involved in the decision making process of the Guardian Group, one of the largest banking combines in Michigan. Board members at this banking group include a Senator, Edsel Ford and other leaders in the automobile manufacturing industry.
Through skillful marketing the American consumer is duped into exchanging thrift for buy now, pay later ownership of consumer goods such as automobiles. Then they are enticed to become a two car family. The resultant profits fueled by speculation in the stock market and loose fiscal policies of the federal reserve result in an unprecedented debt based growth.
The downward spiral begins with a saturated consumer market. In turn this fuels production curtailments, which fuels layoffs, which fuels loan defaults, which fuels bank failures, which fuels more lay offs and business closures. To stave off the inevitable the government steps in with infusions of capital to save banks deemed to large to fail.
I highly recommend this book as a means for adding historical perspective to the debate about the current economic conditions as well as governments proper role in resolving these crisis and the role they play in creating them.

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