Is this bailout then “History's Most Expensive Orgy”?
September 29, 2008
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great American author who coined the term "Jazz Age", characterized the decade of 1920s as a time when "a whole race [was] going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure" in his telling essay "History's Most Expensive Orgy". To him the twenties were an age of art, an age of excess and an age of satire.
Today, we are wondering if the Paulson-Bernanke $700 billion bailout of the incompetent and moribund banks and financial services firms will upend that record? Is this bailout, then, going to become history's most expensive orgy? Will this decade, be remembered as the decade gargantuan excesses that ultimately put an end to the American capitalist system, as we know it?
Nineteen twenties revolutionized the world of fashion and saw the development of a new kind of a music called Jazz. Some social scientists and authors have equated the twenties with loose morals and expanding sexual liberties in American society. One could, if he or she wanted to, define the American society, in broad terms, in the nineteen twenties as a "promiscuous society".
All that changed with the crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. It would be almost fifty years and not until the early nineteen eighties that free market, laisser faire capitalism would return again.
While no radically new form of music came out during this decade and women's fashion houses kept churning the same stuff, the American financial society in particular and global financial society in general became promiscuous in a way that it had never been anytime in history. All that will change now. Laisser faire capitalism is once again broken, if not dead. With or without the new New Deal - the Paulson-Bernanke package - it will be a Herculean task to resuscitate it again.
How long will the wait be this time?
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "History's Most Expensive Orgy". in : Baritz, Loren (ed.). The Culture of the Twenties. Indianapolis : 1970. (p.413 - 423).
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