Three Ways Through a Greater Depression

If you follow the news – specifically the financial news – you’ve probably started hearing the D word thrown around casually. Perhaps a little too casually. The notion seems more than a little crazy at first glance. The original Great Depression is ancient history by now, and our understanding of economics and the ability to model and shape the economy is much, much better than it was in 1929. Right?

Well, yes. But the virtual shutdown of 40% of the entire economy for over a month is not something that was ever considered by anyone’s models, until now. COVID-19 is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call a “Black Swan” Event – an event so unlikely that current models don’t account for the possibility of its occurrence. So when it does, it does maximum damage to societies and economies.

The numbers are starting to come in, and they don’t look great. The Federal Reserve itself, after adding shutdowns into their modeling, is projecting a 32% unemployment rate, which is much worse than the peak of the Great Depression. [source

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

― Harry S. Truman

We here at are optimistic about a rapid and strong recovery, but in the event that we find ourselves in Great Depression Part Deux, we’ve done some gedankenexperiments to bring you some ideas for getting through it.

Table of Contents


If the Depression could be marked by one motto, it was this: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” – meaning that you simply refuse to waste anything, including scraps of food, and that you never buy anything unless you absolutely have to.  We’ve become so accustomed to living on an ever-moving treadmill of acquiring and disposing of stuff, that the idea of living up to this motto seems daunting.

Fortunately, we have a modern conception of this idea that is much more suited to our lifestyles known as the Minimalist movement. You can check out some basic principles of minimalism here.

Take Pride

One interesting thing about the Great Depression was that although people suffered great poverty and privation, they very rarely acted like it. Maintaining one’s sense of pride in self was regarded as a great virtue of the time. Women stuck in tents or Hoovervilles would keep the home as neat and tidy as possible, even if it meant sweeping a dirt floor. Men would put on a suit, complete with hat and humble black necktie, in order to stand in line at the soup kitchen.

No matter how dire things looked, pride in appearance and a sense of optimistic acceptance were de rigueur of the time. It helped to center people to the conditions of the time and live more contentedly despite the bleakness around them.


I bet a good chunk of you are already rapidly rediscovering the Joy of Cooking, if for no other reason than being forced to by home quarantine. If so, keep it up. Cooking skills can become very, very useful in a wrecked economy. During the Depression, being able to create delicious bread, soups, and myriad combinations of beans and rice was a necessary balance struck between a tight budget and happy tastebuds.

You can start today, by something as simple as mincing a clove of garlic and tossing it into a 79 cent box of macaroni and cheese. From there, you can always take a gander at Clara Cannucciari’s excellent YouTube channel on Depression-era cooking.

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