Credit in the Gilded Age


I’ve been reading The Gilded Age, by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. It’s amazing how little the Washington they depict–the lobbyists, the appropriators, the schemes–has changed. This passage, however, put me in mind of our current credit and banking crisis:

Beautiful credit! The foundation of modern society. Who shall say that this is not the golden age of mutual trust, of unlimited reliance upon human promises? That is a peculiar condition of society which enables a whole nation to instantly recognize point and meaning in the familiar newspaper anecdote, which puts into the mouth of a distinguished speculator in lands and mines this remark:–“I wasn’t worth a cent two years ago, and now I owe two millions of dollars.”