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Common Sense

The Financial Crisis of 2008 was the worst since the Great Depression. Editor-in-Chief DREW GOWING remembers the attitudes that led and delivered us from both.

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Clergymen in Gunlock Utah via Ansel Adams / Dorothea Lange; Oakland Museum of California


Editor's Letters

My grandfather, Don E. Ashworth, was a banker. In addition to being the comptroller for the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, he was also one of the co-founders of the Nevada State Bank; which over half a century later remains the largest state-chartered commercial bank in Nevada.

Entering the work force at the onset of the Great Depression, Gramp, a self-taught accountant, extolled the virtue of education, eulogized the benefits of hard work, and through his example thus epitomized the look and feel of success to a privileged and enterprising posterity.

His luxurious and ultra modern Las Vegas residence was offset by a working farm in Southern Utah, and his two homes combined to represent the best of the 20th century. The manse ran parallel to the Vegas Strip and seemed more like a penthouse suite than a private residence with a sparkling pool, waterslide, and outdoor cabana creating our childhood playground.

The farm, however, situated closer to the beginning of the century than the last, came with Telemark cattle, orchards of fruit trees, and my personal favorite—the tractor! Each summer I was handed the keys and commissioned with mowing, maintenance, and most importantly – the management! I was the 'decider,' and for two full weeks every summer determined who could ride along and when.

There was canning, apple picking, and bread making of course, and each grandchild was given a summer job. But our authority, we quickly learned, was hitched to our cooperation with each other, and ultimately to an appreciation for and accountability to the land we served. There was one chain from farm to table, and every critical link relied upon and connected all the rest.

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Mary Lynn Ashworth by Ansel Adams / Dorothea Lange; Oakland Museum of California

The 2008 Financial Crisis is considered the worst since the Great Depression. The collapse of our large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and the downturn in stock markets throughout the world has resulted in a $1 Trillion dollar deficit from which the United States will never fully recover. And as we continue to lose our homes, savings, jobs and status as the world's leading super power, I’m struck by the shift of the social landscape on the most basic levels of society.

The institution of marriage for instance has experienced a decline in its infamous divorce rate for the first time in fifty years. We no longer posses the luxury of not getting along anymore, and instead are huddling together to settle our conflicts and survive. The rate of volunteerism has soared into the very stratosphere of altruism with 2 out of every 10 Americans now taking up a cause. Indeed, we are matriculating into the very men and women the great economist John Maynard Keynes spoke to and believed in when he said, “The social object of skilled investment will be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future."

It’s been many years since I’ve been to the farm, though a long lost cousin recently found me and stirred our forgotten and super fantastic memories to the surface. Whether we were dining with Gramp at the Golden Gate in his fancy booth with its very own phone, or down in the dirt working the land digging a trench for an hourly wage, I realize now that our many privileges never preceded the actual project, task, or principle at hand. Even when commissioned with the very precise and painstaking task of washing his 1970 Cadillac Sedan de Ville during my last summer visits to the farm, Gramp would always stay with me right to the end. “It’s all in the rinse,” he’d say, holding the hose while I learned the technique. “Everything comes out in the rinse.”

Henry Bowler via Ansel Adams / Dorothea Langel Oakand Museum of California
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