2019, 1999, 1928 Or 1825?

Politically also, this year scores mediocre marks outside the United States (magnificently governed, with Federal spending only 3% of GDP) and Britain (also well-governed under Stanley Baldwin, though Keynesianism was creeping in at the edges under the malign influence of John Maynard Keynes himself). Some other countries, notably Argentina under its democratically elected President Marcelo de Alvear “the Argentine Coolidge” were also infinitely better governed than they have ever been since. On the other hand, you would not want to be living in Germany (the Horst Wessel Lied was composed in the following year), let alone in the Soviet Union.

1928 has a huge advantage over its two modern competitors in the cultural sphere. Music meant Cole Porter, Noel Coward, and Louis Armstrong, while the “classical” repertoire included Ravel’s “Bolero.” Literature had Evelyn Waugh (Decline and Fall), Aldous Huxley (Point Counterpoint) as well as D.H. Lawrence (Lady Chatterley’s Lover), Bulldog Drummond (The Female of the Species), and The House at Pooh Corner! As for the film, that had “Wings,” several early talkies, and the debut of Mickey Mouse. Only art had an off-year.

Then we have 1825. Yes, everybody was poor, and medicine and plumbing were unspeakable, but the world population was only 1 billion, and industrially we are present at the creation of the Railway Age, with the Stockton and Darlington Railway opening that year – as does the Erie Canal. Scientifically, Faraday discovered Benzene, but he was just getting going, while Cauchy, inspired by the sublimity of the new legitimist monarch Charles X, discovered Cauchy’s Theorem and the Cauchy Distribution, which I believe to be the function underlying Wall Street’s movements. The infinite possibilities of industrialization were in their dawn, and with Lord Liverpool, as prime minister, Britain had the best government it has ever enjoyed. British fiscal and monetary policy, based on the Gold Standard and a plethora of country banks, were better than they have ever been since, although taxes were still fairly high to service the Napoleonic War debt. The United States was also blessed with John Quincy Adams, while Austria with Francis I and Metternich and France with Charles X and the Comte de Villèle were also notably well run.

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(The Bear's Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of "sell" recommendations put ...

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