Home > "Hardship and Hope" by Victoria Sherrow - Book Review

"Hardship and Hope" by Victoria Sherrow - Book Review

January 7th, 2019 at 08:56 pm

Hardship and Hope- America and the Great Depression walks you through day to day life as the stock market collapses, jobs are lost, welfare runs out, the government throws out experimental programs, the programs bring hope, economic hardship persists, productivity jumps to support the war, and we remember the legacy. It addresses topics on many levels such as individual entertainment, racism, unions, ideological shifts, and survival methods.

Where I found it:
I found this book while browsing the very limited financial section of my local library.

What I learned:
Hardship and Hope was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. First, I think we are headed towards another severe depression. It was encouraging to see the human endurance. That when your surviving off the coal dropped from trains and eating mostly cabbage, you can still survive. It made me realize that humans can do anything.

Secondly, I learned accounts where government welfare saved people’s lives. Many New Deal programs were unconstitutional, funded by debt, and not terminated after the crisis subsided or set a bad precedent for future government programs. In the moment, Americans felt that capitalism and democracy had failed and allowed the legislative and executive branches beat out the judicial branch and have destroyed much (or even most!) of the intent of the constitution.

Despite my hard feelings for how Roosevelt dealt with the crisis by sacrificing what America is, a Harry Hopkins quote really stood out to me “People don't eat in the long run, they eat every day”. When faced with the Great Depression, the New Dealers weren’t thinking about the long run, they were trying to save the lives of families all across the nation. I guess this book helped me remember both sides of the story so that I can be better balanced when faced with proposed welfare programs that violate what America stands for.

I have a few problems with this book. For one, math people will be driven a little crazy because it compares sums to percentages and hourly wages to weekly wages. Without looking up population data or labor statistics of the day, many of their numbers are useless. Even the appropriately stated numbers are hard to put into comparison because we have no baseline for how much things were worth prior to the depression. The other problem that some of the points are presented in ways I disagree with, such as praising unions for ensuring that as profits are increased, wages are increased etc. The libertarian inside of me was definitely rubbed the wrong way at times. I thought it was healthy to see it from a new angle though. Overall, I was actually impressed at the presentation of facts without a political message. Sherrow did a pretty good job at staying neutral.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick (only 110 easy print pages) glimpse into the past so that they can live a better future. I don’t know that this particular book is any better than others on the topic though. If your library doesn’t have it, try a different one or look up some research papers. I just like that it is short and walks you through the depression fairly chronologically.


Text is Financial Book Reviews by Milly and Link is
Financial Book Reviews by Milly

4 Responses to “"Hardship and Hope" by Victoria Sherrow - Book Review”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    Is there a reason you dropped 15 book reviews in a day? One or two a day would have been more likely that people would read them instead of being overwhelmed by them. While I know that you are not actually a spam blogger, this still felt very spammy to see them all on the first page.

  2. LuckyRobin Says:

    James--I know she is part of the community. But she usually just posts once or twice a month on the blogs, one or two articles, and not 15 times in one day which is a little much on the reader end of things and seemed out of character to her norm. Even if a person writes it all at once it would seem like you would get better readership by spreading out the posting of it over several days. Normally I'll read her articles because they are well written and thought out, but when I see a massive dump like this I pretty much run away screaming, LOL. Whereas one a day, I'd likely read them all that way. That's all I'm saying. And yes, if that's what she wants to do, so be it, but it does feel spammy even if it is not actual spam. I just wanted to know her reasoning behind it, because I am curious as it seems a counterintuitive method for actually getting people to read what you wrote, which is the whole point of blogging, really.

  3. Milly Says:

    Sorry for the extremely slow response. I guess I figured it would be less "spammy" to drop them all off at once as opposed to making a reader feel like they need to read each and every one. I definitely did not read all those books nor write all those thoughts at once!
    It actually makes me really happy to see you frustrated with my "dump". It means that you actually wanted to read them. Wow! Flattering. Thank you.

  4. Milly Says:

    James: The Federal Reserve wants to raise rates so that it has ammunition to fight the next recession, but when they tried, the stock market dropped and they caved in. They have been growing the balance sheet at rates comparable to their official quantitative easing days because the overnight rates keep getting too high. They know they are stuck in cheap money policy.
    What I don't know is how much people care. We are showing signs of weakness, yet very few have moved away from the dollar. Will we cross that invisible confidence threshold where enough leave to cause more to reconsider and leave which causes a rush for the door? I don't know. Will we instead follow the path of Japan and just have decades of lost productivity, but no crisis? Who knows?
    If a dollar crisis does happen though, people won't rush in and prop the dollar up like 2008's liquidity crisis. The feds think they can wish away a crisis with guarantees, but if the dollar itself is the problem, I don't see that working. In 1998, wall street bailed out a hedge fund. In 2008, the government bailed out wall street. If the next crisis is the government, the International Money Fund might be the next level up, but they are slow and China is mixing up the power balance. I don't see this going well.
    These are thoughts for a completely separate post though. I hope to someday get around to writing it, but my track record is definitely declining...

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