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A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters Paperback – June 4, 2013
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“A fascinating historical narrative. . . . This revisionist account is eminently readable, in large part because Nelson offers flesh-and-blood examples rather than relying on abstractions.”
“Lucid. . . . This astute account of economic disruption and disaster through the Great Depression is a useful and engaging perspective on our propensity for repeating our financial mistakes.”
“This might not qualify as 100% pure revisionist history, but it is certainly unconventional history, and hooray for that. . . . History focusing on the losers instead of the winners is especially effective. . . . A Nation of Deadbeats is especially timely, coming as it does during a nationwide and worldwide economic slowdown of at least four years duration and counting. . . . Even if those debtors are sometimes the victims of circumstances beyond their total control, they nonetheless can start ripples in the economy that become tidal waves.”
“Exceptionally readable. . . . [Nelson] has painstakingly extracted the sensational details from the mucky ore of the history of financial crises in the U.S., welding them together. . . . Well worth reading—particularly as it is larded with entertaining characters and powerful citations.”
—New York Journal of Books
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Most Americans know little about this country's numerous financial panics other than what they may have heard about the Great Depression.
Fact is, most economists don't know much about this nations various financial panics either. As far as most of them know, there really hasn't been a true panic since the early 1900s. Most professional economists had pretty much ignored the subject because they thought America had somehow figured out how to avoid them mainly through the creation of the Federal Reserve that was developed after the Panic of 1907.
"The 1908 response to the 1907 crisis again raised the fundamental question that every panic had posed: What was American currency? Was it backed by gold? Could it be an international currency with the status of the British currency, British sovereigns, and the sterling bills of exchange?"
"The banker's acceptance, or BA, was the Fed's solution to the problem of how to create an American promise that could earn interest and be spent everywhere. Economists seldom mention objects, but this little American object laid the groundwork for the triumph of American money in the world."
"Every crisis is unique, with origins that differ one from the other.Read more ›
As this quote from numbers suggest, all communities have a problem of providing ways for people to acquire what they need. Before money was reliable, all of this was done by barter-based trade and direct taxation. When money came along, it wasn't always dependable. Despite that, credit quickly created ways to stretch purchasing power to transfer ready spending power into the hands of those with lots of illiquid assets.
If all that sounds technical, it is. Professor Scott Reynolds Nelson is able to write about it in much more entertaining and interesting ways than I just did. He also links events and relationships together in ways that will remind you of following a humorous scavenger hunt. In doing so, he tries to avoid simply following the script of one theoretical perspective or another ... to simply tell you what happened in a way that focuses on some dramatic event that caused credit to collapse, as well as the American economy.
In doing so, he gives readers another set of lenses to understand the more universal characteristics of the rotten mortgage crisis of the late Bush years.
At bottom, credit crises are based on people overplaying a rising market with ever-growing piles of debt. If the prices stop rising, it all collapses ... usually to much lower levels than would otherwise have happened.Read more ›
Scott Reynolds Nelson is a professional historian. This book is oriented to the general public, not historians. This makes it interesting and readable. [Sidney Ratner wrote a more complete economic history but its not readily available.] This book examines the panics of 1792, 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, and 1929. They were basically caused by a failure to repay debts. [No mention why people couldn't repay their debts. Crop failures?] Nelson's father worked in repossessing goods that were bought on time but not paid for; this was his introduction to the credit business. Did Woolco perish because of management failures? Or were they too victims of a sinking economy? [Nixon's devaluation of the dollar led to rising prices and stagnant wages.]
The reason for discounting promissory notes then was to avoid the usury laws (unmentioned in the `Index'). The current economic depression was caused by a lack of regulation and margin requirements (p.251). This was not an accident! Wall Street abolished most of the New Deal securities legislation since the 1980s and rediscovered why there were passed in the 1930s. But it was too late by 2008. But many made fortunes by swindling investors. This book covers a lot of American history that you probably never learned about in school. Yet economics go back to the discovery of America (a shorter route to the Indies) and its colonization to provide raw materials to Spain, Holland, England, France, and Russia. Human activity requires the production of food, clothing, housing, and the tools for this work.
The best way to judge any book is to look up the subject that you are familiar with and read it. Agree? Then you will probably like the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very ambitious book which many people will like if they don't mind all of the details, most of which really add nothing to the analysis. Read morePublished 3 months ago by doug korty
Absolutely a masterpice. One of the excellent book that I read in my life. I read a lot of books about fed, american economy, but this is more different than them. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Yusuf Kalyoncuoğlu
Wasn't at all what I thought it would be, more of a history back to colonial times. Thought it would relate more to the recent financial markets crisis.Published on June 7, 2014 by Dan Campbell
Provides explanations for so many facts memorized in history class. I felt it really deepened my understanding of US history. Read morePublished on March 11, 2014 by Len Lester
I've ready many books on financial problems in the US but this one was just too difficult to get through. After mulling through it for about 100 pages, I admitted defeat.Published on February 6, 2014 by L. Green
I was enjoying this book until he stated that the New Deal did not do much to help the economy because unemployment rose between 1929 and 1933. Read morePublished on December 9, 2013 by Glenn Locke
The main reason I gave this only 3 stars is that I was hoping for a detailed analysis of the 1920-21 financial crisis. Read morePublished on July 28, 2013 by Mark Sutter