The Weekly Quill — The Quintessential Quill Intelligence Interview Series with Dr. Lacy H. Hunt

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“Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. It is made by or stopped by the central bank.”
Milton Friedman

In June 1969, the face of the nation changed 35 times a day. Life magazine stunned the country with a controversial cover story titled “Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll, June 1969.” The photo of Calvin R. Patrick of Houston, Texas stared back at a bewildered and divided populace. The Private First Class in the Army was 18 years old when his life was cut short. The article started out with, “The faces shown on the next pages are the faces of American men killed, in the words of the official announcement of their deaths, ‘in connection with the conflict in Vietnam.’ The names, 242 of them, were released on May 28 through June 3 [1969], a span of no special significance except that it includes Memorial Day. The numbers of the dead are average for any seven-day period during this stage of the war.”

Two weeks after the late June release of Life’s story, the summer’s heat apexed in Dallas, Texas, hitting 102.9 degrees and Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin, Jr. had just embarked on a historic journey. The mood of the country was hotter than the weather. The saving grace: The U.S. economy was humming along, a vital element preventing the social unrest from boiling over. The unemployment rate that Memorial Day was 3.4%, the lowest since November 1953, and economic output had been positive for more than eight years.

A newly minted Ph.D. in Economics, Lacy Hunt, had just joined the Dallas Federal Reserve. There, he would bear witness to the first onset of contraction since the one ended in February 1961, when he had just started his journey through higher education at Sewanee: The University of the South. Within six months of his starting in 1969, the unemployment had ticked up a full percentage point, to 4.40% in the same November as the largest anti-war gathering in U.S. history. The mass of humanity, estimated to be between 250,000 to 500,000, marched fourteen blocks from the foot of the Capitol to the grassy hill beneath the Washington Monument. The U.S. economy entered recession that month.