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I thought it might be good to have a place to discuss the Great Crash of 1929. I'm hoping to re-read John Galbraith's book on the subject in March (and I know rebeccanyc has already done so) - are there any other good books on the subject, popular or otherwise? Are there any clever economists out there who want to enlighten us? Can we really draw parallels with the current crisis?
Here's a rather good audio slideshow from the BBC to get things started.
And now I've found even better goodies from PBS, which includes a very useful list of further resources on the topic.
OK, I'll take the bait!
I thought this was a terrific book: informative and very well written, with a wicked, dry sense of humor. However, I will add the caveat that in the book I'm currently reading, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, the author, David M. Kennedy criticizes The Great Crash 1929 as being less than accurate, and this has been seconded by urania in message 7t on another thread who said Galbraith is considered a better historian than economist.
That being said, I found many parallels to today's situation: a giddy belief that stock prices could only go up, an overreliance on credit to buy stocks, the creation of complex investment vehicles that nobody could understand, etc.
This book spurred me to read more about the depression and its aftermath, and what led me to Freedom from Fear was this article in the New York Times. This list, by Kennedy himself, is also interesting.
I have been motivated both by The Great Crash 1929 and by these lists to buy Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen and I hope to read it soon. This whole period of the 20s through the 40s interests me not only for its potential parallels to today but also because it is the period when my parents were young and I am hoping to get a better understanding of the world in which they lived.
I don't know a thing about economics but have parents who lived through all of this, so I'm going to be reading this thread with great interest. If the Galbraith is indeed more historical than economic in its focus, is it accessible to someone who doesn't have an economic clue?
I would say it talks about both historic and economic topics -- the point I was trying to make is that some of the economic points it makes may not, according to some economists, be completely accurate. I don't have an economics background at all (dropped out of my intro economics course in college), so I had to read some sections of the book carefully to understand what Galbraith was trying to say, but the book is aimed at the intelligent general reader, which of course you are. And, I would repeat, Galbraith is a stunning writer.
I'm about to go to bed but just found this thread. I'll try to find some good articles over the next few days (might be Monday...and term starts next week) the compare the 1929 crisis and this one.
I am no economist, but having just finished The Great Crash, I can highly recommend it, if you want to try glean some understanding of that period in economic history (and reflect on the glaring similarities with our present crisis).
Of course, no book is going to be able to present the facts without some hint of blame or partisan favoritism, although Galbraith tries valiantly to disengage himself from this. It must be recognized that political sides interpret history differently, and it remains to be seen if any government can ultimately affect change in economic tides with policy changes, and if so, are they able to accurately identify the path required beforehand.
Certainly, the conservative Hoover government is cited as making some critical mistakes as the economic crisis deepened. The conservative pundits will argue that Roosevelt prolonged or deepened it further with his policies - but I remain cynical that either sides of the spectrum was able to control or manage the huge mess that was their legacy for the following ten to fifteen years.
I don't think (in my naive and uneducated opinion) that the book should be criticized based on economic accuracy - Galbraith does not try to establish causation or provide theories, but rather relies on reporting the economic facts of the period, with the very helpful aid of the retrospectoscope!! He discusses the credit crisis and the bubble of optimism beforehand that we recognize in today's markets.
I suspect that economic theory about the cause of the Great Depression is very open to interpretation, as it is not a hard science.
I was surprised that he did not attempt more analysis of the economical causations. He does not even dwell on his passing reference to Winston Churchill's fiscal policy as one possible cause - with his reversion to the gold standard in the decade beforehand.
I thought Galbraith was a talented writer and a witty and engaging entertainer.
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