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The Great Crash 1929 Paperback – 29 Oct 2009
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About the Author
John Kenneth Galbraith, born in 1908, was one of the twentieth century's most influential economists. He produced dozens of books and hundreds of articles on economics, politics, foreign policy and the arts, his most famous including the popular trilogy on economics, American Capitalism (1952), The Affluent Society (1958), and The New Industrial State (1967). He taught at Harvard University for many years and was also active in politics, serving as an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
James K. Galbraith, born in 1952, teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin, and is the author, most recently, of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too (Free Press).
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Yet again if any politician in government or in the opposition in this country or the United States had read this book, or any other book perhaps on the Crash of 1929 they might have realised numerous similarities. In the early years of the Depression the British Tory-Liberal Coalition under MacDonald made policy in "fear of the markets." They cut taxes and slashed so called "wasteful expenditure," mainly on welfare. To satisfy the City a "budget of austerity" was introduced-familiar? This had the obvious effect of prolonging and deepening the Depression and causing even greater hardship for those who could least bear it. As Parker describes the British Tory government like their Republican counterparts in America had no answer to the Depression save "do nothing." That was because they were disciples of laissez faire and the classical school of economics or better known as liquidationists. Snowden, the Tory Chancellor preferred to reduce the deficit than spend on job creation schemes. Fortunately, their successors in title today are not so blind to history. But in the 30s, as today, management in manufacturing was weak, production methods were outdated and when banks collapsed without rescue like Credit-Anstalt in Austria there were very serious economic as well as dire political consequences for the people of central Europe. In those days Britain was out produced by Japan and India: little has changed.
The key lesson that appears from this narrative is that the government in Britain was in hock to the market. The market ruled and the government did its bidding. Some might say it had no choice, but a singularly wise statesman across the Atlantic who had high respect for the rule of the Common Law and understood economics as well as banking law, better than many on Wall Street, used his constitutional authority to prevail over the markets. So the question today, as then, in the context of this narrative is: does a democratically elected government go along with the market's dicktat cowering and pandering to those who caused the market crash in the first place or does it exercise its democratic mandate to protect the Queen's subjects? One is reminded of that old Chinese saying that he who rides the back of the Tiger usually ends up inside.
to learn from past mistakes and keep on repeating the same errors. it is the best antidote to political and economic hubris that I have ever read. It should be compulsory reading for every school student.
"The singular feature of the great crash of 1929 was that the worst continued to worsen. What looked like one day to be the end proved on the next day to have been only the beginning." (p130)
"Nothing is so voracious as a losing business" (p179)
"During a future speculative boom, the status quo will cause men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound"
It also has to be noted that Galbraith's writing style is incredibly succinct and to the point. Many other authors would take twice as long to cover the same content.
All of this makes the book a pleasure to read and its analysis and conclusions very worthwhile.