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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The key to prosperity is peace, December 29, 2008
This review is from: Lessons from the Great Depression (Lionel Robbins Lectures) (Paperback)
In the middle of today's panic economics with a new massive depression lurking at the corner, we should read again the works of Peter Temin, the eminent specialist of the cataclysmic Great Depression of the 1930s in the Western World.

Initial shock
Building on his previous book (Did monetary forces cause the Great Depression?) where he brilliantly attacked Milton Friedman's analysis, he presents in these `Lionel Robbins Lectures' his overall view of the catastrophic event: the initial shock, the causes of the depression and the (too) late recovery.
What changed fundamentally the Western world politically and economically was the First World War. It changed completely existing demographics, agricultural and industrial production and capital movements.

Gold standard
But, after the war, political leaders returned to the `gold standard' ideology to resolve international commercial and financial problems. This regime imposed fixed values of national currencies in terms of gold. Balance of payments deficits had to be adjusted by deflation (a change in the domestic price level), not by devaluations (a change in the exchange rate).
When in 1929 a severe economic downturn arrived, the wrong medicine was administered: deflation and contractionary monetary policies (tight credit) which accentuated the downturn and, in fact, discouraged economic activity. The outcome was a massive Depression.

Recovery
The decline was halted by clairvoyant political leaders and economists who understood that governmental intervention (like public works) and easy credit were needed as countercyclical measures. They adopted `socialist' measures: public regulation or ownership of the basic economic activities (utilities, banking), wage fixing and the introduction of the welfare State (a safety for everyone).

M. Friedman, B. Bernanke, Smoot-Hawley tariff
Peter Temin criticizes M. Friedman's (the Depression was not caused by banking panics) and B. Bernanke's (banking failures did not decrease aggregate demand) analyses as well as those who see the Smoot-Hawley tariff as the main culprit (the fall in export demand was only a small part of the story).

Today, the political leaders have learned their lessons. By massive capital injections by the State and easy credit (zero interest rates) together with public investments, they try to avoid a monstrous depression (up to a fall of 30 % in certain industries).

This book is a must read for all economists and for all those interested in the history of mankind.
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Initial post: Sep 18, 2010 9:23:53 PM PDT
el cid says:
great review style t/y.
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