Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Investing in the METAVERSE Stocks Universe - 8th Dec 21
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: I Expect 15-20% Returns For 2022 - 8th Dec 21
US Dollar Still Has the Green Light - 8th Dec 21
Stock Market Topping Process Roadmap - 8th Dec 21
The Lithium Breakthrough That Could Transform The Mining Industry - 8th Dec 21
VR and Gaming Becomes the Metaverse - 7th Dec 21
How to Read Your Smart Meter - Economy 7, Day and Night Rate Readings SMETS2 EDF - 7th Dec 21
For Profit or for Loss: 4 Tips for Selling ASX Shares - 7th Dec 21
INTEL Bargain Teck Stocks Trading at 15.5% Discount Sale - 7th Dec 21
US Bonds Yield Curve is not currently an inflationist’s friend - 7th Dec 21
Omicron COVID Variant-Possible Strong Stock Market INDU & TRAN Rally - 7th Dec 21
The New Tech That Could Take Tesla To $2 Trillion - 7th Dec 21
S&P 500 – Is a 5% Correction Enough? - 6th Dec 21
Global Stock Markets It’s Do-Or-Die Time - 6th Dec 21
Hawks Triumph, Doves Lose, Gold Bulls Cry! - 6th Dec 21
How Stock Investors Can Cash in on President Biden’s new Climate Plan - 6th Dec 21
The Lithium Tech That Could Send The EV Boom Into Overdrive - 6th Dec 21
How Stagflation Effects Stocks - 5th Dec 21
Bitcoin FLASH CRASH! Cryptos Blood Bath as Exchanges Run Stops, An Early Christmas Present for Some? - 5th Dec 21
TESCO Pre Omicron Panic Christmas Decorations Festive Shop 2021 - 5th Dec 21
Dow Stock Market Trend Forecast Into Mid 2022 - 4th Dec 21
INVESTING LESSON - Give your Portfolio Some Breathing Space - 4th Dec 21
Don’t Get Yourself Into a Bull Trap With Gold - 4th Dec 21
GOLD HAS LOTS OF POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE - 4th Dec 21
4 Tips To Help You Take Better Care Of Your Personal Finances- 4th Dec 21
What Is A Golden Cross Pattern In Trading? - 4th Dec 21
Bitcoin Price TRIGGER for Accumulating Into Alt Coins for 2022 Price Explosion - Part 2 - 3rd Dec 21
Stock Market Major Turning Point Taking Place - 3rd Dec 21
The Masters of the Universe and Gold - 3rd Dec 21
This simple Stock Market mindset shift could help you make millions - 3rd Dec 21
Will the Glasgow Summit (COP26) Affect Energy Prices? - 3rd Dec 21
Peloton 35% CRASH a Lesson of What Happens When One Over Pays for a Loss Making Growth Stock - 1st Dec 21
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: I Fear For Retirees For The Next 20 Years - 1st Dec 21 t
Will the Anointed Finanical Experts Get It Wrong Again? - 1st Dec 21
Main Differences Between the UK and Canadian Gaming Markets - 1st Dec 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Tea, Tramadol and Today's Great Depression

Economics / Inflation Aug 19, 2010 - 02:01 AM GMT

By: Adrian_Ash

Economics

Best Financial Markets Analysis Article"Even at home there is generally a cup of tea going – a 'nice cup of tea' – and Father, who has been out of work since 1929, is temporarily happy because he has a sure tip for the Cesarewitch..."
  - George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London, 1936)


SEVENTY YEARS AGO last month, just as the Battle of Britain began, tea rationing struck the seat of empire.

Really, Herr Hitler had gone too far this time!

Caffeine mixed with sugar, hot water and milk had fuelled the Industrial Revolution just as surely as did cheap coal and expensive sweat. From back-to-back slum to baronial pile – and starting long before London proclaimed Victoria the Empress of India in 1876 – the daily cares of imperial power had been eased every few hours by a "nice cup of tea". According to one 1749 record, a tradesman's family spent more on tea and sugar each week than they did on the basic staple of bread.

Yes, by July 1940, Britain's economic and military might had already slipped. But it took a real villain – an odd little vegan with a Chaplin moustache – to stem Britain's massive imports of leaf-tips, blockading her merchants both navy and banker.

"The worst thing to be brave about is the tea ration," confessed one air-raid warden in a letter written that September, as the Messerschmitt battled the Hurricane each day above London and Kent.

"Everything else can be managed."

Little wonder that two ounces per week per person caused so much pain. For as all junkies know, there's no fun in repeatedly counting the last cigarette in the pack. Especially not when your taste for even the mildest of hits has been given free rein in advance. Which is just the habit Britain had picked up during its Great Depression.

By 1932, Britain's per capita consumption of tea had almost doubled compared with 1900 to nearly three ounces per week. Come 1936, reckoned the International Tea Committee, Britain was drinking 53.5% of world output – up from 48.4% eight years earlier, and no longer sipping but gulping the stuff – even as India's plantations colluded to crimp production in a bid to raise prices.

Why this binge on tea's little pick-me-up? Kicking through the dust in the archives, it seems there was little better to do amidst the gloom of the Thirties' depression. Regular doses of freshly brewed tea offered a simple way of passing the time – and the stronger, the better – as unemployment peaked at 1-in-5 of the insured British workforce.

"We are all floating somewhere on a full tide of tea," wrote J.B.Priestley in his English Journey, touring from Southampton to Durham and drinking tea at most points between in autumn 1933 – "not the clear, almost sparkling infusion, but a murky stew, made with water that either never quite came to the boil or had been boiled out of all freshness and fun, in a teapot not allowed to recover from its last dark brew.

"God only knows where we are bound, but the tannin inside us does not encourage us to feel too hopeful."

1930s' British writing is crock-full, in fact, with teapots and saucers. Even high modernist (and Irishman) Samuel Beckett found a way for his 1938 hero, the eponymous (and workshy) autist of Murphy, to swindle 1.83 cups of tea out of every one bought from his favorite chain of caterers, somewhere between Hyde Park and Holborn in London. George Orwell's journal of Depression England, meantime – detailed in The Road to Wigan Pier – is simply drenched in the stuff, with over-brewed tea buoying the misery of each four-to-a-room doss house he visits.

"The people are in effect living a reduced version of their former lives," notes Orwell of the un-working class and lower-middling sorts, amongst whom he lived for perhaps two or three months in early 1936. "But they don't necessarily lower their standards by cutting out luxuries and concentrating on necessities; more often it is the other way about – the more natural way, if you come to think of it.

"Hence the fact," says the Eton-educated Socialist, "that in a decade of unparalleled depression, the consumption of all cheap luxuries has increased."

What cheap luxuries might now draw the depression dollar in the decade before us? Back in the '30s, say Orwell and Priestley, it was nights at the cinema, ill-fitting suits, fish-and-chip suppers, make-up, a bet on the horses, and the odd jaunt on a motor coach – "how the ancient Persian monarchs would have travelled, had they known the trick of it."

More telling – not least against fourpence a pint of weak beer – "aspirins [were] seven a penny," reports Orwell. Whereas, in the early 1980s, the return of mass unemployment in northern England was met by a flood of cheap heroin as the Soviets failed to take and hold Afghanistan. America's urban poor got cocaine and baking soda. Whereas today in Palestine, where youth unemployment runs to 50% or more in Gaza, the cheap off-patent painkiller Tramadol has become a common way "to forget our daily worries and problems...our hard psychological situation," as one 25-year old told the Associated Press this spring.

"There was no work, plus I had to take care of 11 people, including my wife," said a 45-year old user to The Independent. "All people could do was sit around in the street and drink tea or coffee."

No, joblessness doesn't mean good people will resort to drugs, theft, prostitution or tea. And naturally, none of these depressive cheap thrills are inevitable in either the US or Britain – not according to those seers who failed to foresee today's financial crisis.

"Quantitative easing is a program that should be vastly expanded," says one. "We don't need one of expansionary monetary and fiscal and banking policy; we need all of them," says another. "While the Fed sits there in its self-inflicted paralysis, millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes and their hopes for the future," says a third.

Their prescription? A fresh flood of over-brewed painkillers, stamped at the printing shop (or its "electronic equivalent" as Ben Bernanke put it in 2002) and dispensed wherever the quacks diagnose a surfeit of savings or too little debt. For all we know here at BullionVault, it might well help ease today's pain. But as 2007-2009 proved, palliation with cheap money will only make withdrawal tougher when the next blockade strikes. Which it will, tax-payer owned needle exchanges or not. 

By Adrian Ash
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay | Free Report: 5 Myths of the Gold Market
Formerly City correspondent for The Daily Reckoning in London and a regular contributor to MoneyWeek magazine, Adrian Ash is the editor of Gold News and head of research at www.BullionVault.com , giving you direct access to investment gold, vaulted in Zurich , on $3 spreads and 0.8% dealing fees.

(c) BullionVault 2010

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in