the great crash of 1929 - galbraith

the great crash of 1929 - galbraith

Posted in the Walla Walla Forum



#1 Jan 9, 2009
The Great Crash of 1929 (Paperback)
By John Kenneth Galbraith
The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1939 has been an unending source of mystery, fascination, and disinformation for the past four generations. As you’re reading these words, there’s a huge push on by conservative think-tanks and wealthy political activists to reinvent the history, suggesting that Roosevelt prolonged the Depression or that New Deal programs were ineffective. At the same time, folks like David Sirota are valiantly pushing back with actual facts and statistics, showing that Roosevelt’s New Deal was startlingly effective, particularly when compared with the Republican policies of 1920-1929 that formed the bubble that crashed in 1929, and the Republican failures to deal with its consequences during the last three years of the Herbert Hoover administration (1929-1933).
To really understand what brought about the great crash, however, it’s most useful to read an historical narrative written by one of the world’s preeminent economists when that world-changing event was still fresh in his and his readers’ minds.“The Great Crash” is that book, first written by Galbraith in 1953-54 (and published in 1955) and updated for modern readers in 1997 (the author is now deceased).
Reading The Great Crash is an eerie experience; it’s as if somebody had taken the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years – particularly the W. Bush years – and written a screenplay about them, just changing the names. The parallels between the Republican zeal for deregulation and “free” markets of the bubble 1920s and the bubble 1990s and 2000s are shocking, particularly given that Ben Bernanke’s PhD theses was on the Republican Great Depression and there is no shortage of so-called “experts” on the topic in the Bush administration and both political parties.
Still, in retrospect, there it is. And its damn near impossible to read this book without coming to the conclusion that when the current generation knowledgable of the Republican Great Depression of 2007-201? dies off, as the generation that remembered the RGD of 1929 has largely recently died off, history will again repeat itself. There will always be greedy men and women, and there will, in all probability, always be Republicans trying to elevate greed into a noble philosophical construct.
There was even, in late 1929, the era’s own Bernie Madoff – a fellow by the name of Clarence Hatry. All the players are there. An incompetent president, regulators willing to look the other way, libertarian ideologues who think they’ll change the world for the better (and get rich at the same time), Democrats and free-market skeptics yelling, a hype-driven press, insiders making out, average people getting wiped out. It’s all there.
And, perhaps most interesting, because this is history, we get to find out how it turned out, what helped and hurt, and extrapolate from that what we should be doing now.
The Great Crash is a quick Saturday afternoon read at a comfortable and well-written 194 pages. It’s difficult to put down once you start; it reads like a novel. And you’ll be infuriated, entertained, and – ultimately – enlightened and better prepared to deal with the further downturn that is certainly coming.

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