Depression, War, and the Cold WarWith all eyes on the precarious global economy, 20th-century economic history has never been more relevant. Interpretations of the defining economic episode of the last century — the Great Depression — are plentiful (and often contradictory), but the economic history of the balance of the century, especially the 40-year period known as the Cold War, has not been the subject of very much serious scholarship. 

Cuba prisonersAmnesty International has released their 2009 report on “The State of the World’s Human Rights.” Dealing with topics ranging from “abuses by armed groups” to “worker’s rights,” and covering countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the various segments of the report add up to more than 500 pages of detailed descriptions of human rights abuses. It is perhaps a sad commentary on the state of the world that there are enough abuses to fill such a massive tome, but there may be more than meets the eye to some of what this tome contains.

Capitol HillNeoconservatism, Pat Buchanan has written, is “the Arian heresy of the American right.” The Arians denied the humanity of Jesus, disputing the “Hypostatic Union.”  Neocons are wrong, often tragically wrong. But they are wrong about lesser things. Neoconservatism is to politics what artificial turf is to baseball. But that trivializes its disasters. I would not want a neocon commissioner of baseball, but he would do less real damage than neocons in the White House, Congress, and the Department of Defense have already done.

This weekend I saw Angels & Demons, the controversial film directed by Ron Howard and based on Dan Brown’s book by the same name. The movie is a sequel to the equally controversial The Da Vinci Code, also directed by Howard and written by Brown.

Lords of Finance Once upon a time, when the world was still on the gold standard, four men destroyed the financial order of things by engineering, by accident or by design, the collapse of the world’s economy. What is now known as the Great Depression is textbook history for every schoolboy, along with the names of the politicians — Hoover, FDR, and their counterparts overseas — who grappled with the challenges of the greatest economic and financial meltdown the world has yet seen. But the men truly responsible for the Great Depression — and, by association, for the revolution in government and finance that came about as a reaction — have, for the most part, eluded the scrutiny of the historian’s pen.

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