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The Great Depression

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Posted on Apr 10, 2011, 5:53:17 AM PDT
1923: A Memoir $1.19 on Kindle
Average Customer Review
4.9 out of 5 stars (8 customer reviews)
It's a personal as well as a social history. Smith has the knack of bringing the times to life in a way that few writers can manage. It's the ability to tell a story, the knowledge of when to move on & not labour a point.
--The Bookbag

1923 is a book that succeeds in two ways with ease, both as a personal memoir of a life lived in a volatile age and as a record of that age for all time. --The Current Reader

Chapter One
The Beginning
When I was born on a cold, damp day in February 1923, we were not a happy family. We were not a well-fed family when I first cried out for my mother's breast. Nor were we a loving family when I fell asleep for the first time in my crib, beside my parents' bed. On the day of my birth, my father was not glad-handed by his friends for siring a male. When I came into this world, he was already an old man in his late fifties. If my father had any friends, they would have been elderly and unimpressed at his impecunious virility. As for my mother, she was a much younger woman. She was in her twenties, jaded by marrying both above and beneath her station. My arrival was one more proof to her that she was trapped in a marriage that had long ago lost its luster. My mother was being asphyxiated by the cliché: too little, too late.

Posted on Apr 9, 2011, 7:50:25 PM PDT
1923: A Memoir $1.19 on Kindle
Average Customer Review
4.9 out of 5 stars (8 customer reviews)

Chapter One
The Beginning
When I was born on a cold, damp day in February 1923, we were not a happy family. We were not a well-fed family when I first cried out for my mother's breast. Nor were we a loving family when I fell asleep for the first time in my crib, beside my parents' bed. On the day of my birth, my father was not glad-handed by his friends for siring a male. When I came into this world, he was already an old man in his late fifties. If my father had any friends, they would have been elderly and unimpressed at his impecunious virility. As for my mother, she was a much younger woman. She was in her twenties, jaded by marrying both above and beneath her station. My arrival was one more proof to her that she was trapped in a marriage that had long ago lost its luster. My mother was being asphyxiated by the cliché: too little, too late.

Posted on Jul 12, 2009, 12:54:12 PM PDT
"The argument about what pulled the US economy out of the Great Depression ended a long time ago."
Oh, I beg to differ. I think it is an ongoing debate, intensifying, not dead and buried.
This horse is not dead, but a thoroughbred.
Thanks for the reading references. Always interesting.
I find it hard to believe that there is a bigger, better role for Washington and central government. I would much rather see power come back to the States, to individual towns and parishes, and see a vastly reduced central government. It always seem to attract 'planners' on a grand scale, many of them perfectly sincere, and there are always people who seem to think that MORE, not less government, will solve all our problems. I just don't buy it.
I think the evidence, in the economic news, hardly puts the current technocrat regime in a position to be proud of themselves.
Oddly, there is an abandonment of individual responsibility going on.
Everybody wants "the government" to fix it.
BTW, without the American constitution (which FDR would have liked to have thrown out the window) it is indeed a valid question where the US would have ended up. ("an American version of Stalin's communism, or Mussolini's fascism")
But to give the FDR the credit for that.... I'm sorry, I can't agree!
I have not reviewed any books for a while, and I'm behind on my reading, due another time consuming writing project.
How-ever...I'll be back with some more reviews in due course, and I enjoy the mental stimulus!

Posted on Jul 10, 2009, 1:31:16 PM PDT
BVA says:
The argument about what pulled the US economy out of the Great Depression ended along time ago. Massive fiscal stimulus and massive tageted industrial credit expansion managed by the Federal government during World War II ended the Great Depression. Read the following 3/18/09 book review by Jonathan Chait (at, and then put Amity's book back on the shelf and stop beating this very dead, dead horse!

Wasting Away in Hooverville - Jonathan Chait, The New Republic - March 18, 2009, Wednesday

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression By Amity Shlaes(HarperCollins, 464 pp., $26.95)

Herbert Hoover By William E. Leuchtenburg (Times Books, 208 pp., $22)

Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America By Adam Cohen (Penguin Press, 372 pp., $29.95)

Selections from Jonathan Chait's New Republic book review:

"Now here is the extremely strange thing about The Forgotten Man: it does not really argue that the New Deal failed. In fact, Shlaes does not make any actual argument at all, though she does venture some bold claims, which she both fails to substantiate and contradicts elsewhere. Reviewing her book in The New York Times, David Leonhardt noted that Shlaes makes her arguments "mostly by implication." This is putting it kindly. Shlaes introduces the book by asserting her thesis, but she barely even tries to demonstrate it. Instead she chooses to fill nearly four hundred pages with stories that mostly go nowhere. The experience of reading The Forgotten Man is more like talking to an old person who lived through the Depression than it is like reading an actual history of the Depression. Major events get cursory treatment while minor characters, such as an idiosyncratic black preacher or the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, receive lengthy portraits. Having been prepared for a revisionist argument against the New Deal, I kept wondering if I had picked up the wrong book.

"Many of Shlaes's stories do have an ideological point, but the point is usually made in a novelistic way rather than a scholarly one. She tends to depict the New Dealers as vain, confused, or otherwise unsympathetic. She depicts business owners as heroic and noble. It is a kind of revival of the old de haut en bas sort of social history, except this time the tycoons from whose perspective the events are narrated appear as the underappreciated victims, the giants at the bottom of the heap.

"Mostly Shlaes employs wild anecdotal selectivity. At one point she calls the pro-labor Wagner Act "coercive," and elsewhere she alludes to the subtle anti-Semitism of a newspaper column criticizing opponents of the National Recovery Administration. Shlaes ignores the vastly greater use of violent coercion on behalf of employers, or the immensely more common use of anti-Semitic tropes against the New Deal. Does Shlaes think that workers were more coercive than capitalists, or that liberals were more anti-Semitic than conservatives? The book does not say, but clearly she wants her readers to come away with this impression."


"Moreover, the classic right-wing critique fails to explain how the economy recovered at all. In one of his columns touting Shlaes, George Will observed that 'the war, not the New Deal, defeated the Depression.' Why, though, did the war defeat the Depression? Because it entailed a massive expansion of government spending. The Republicans who have been endlessly making the anti-stimulus case seem not to realize that, if you believe that the war ended the Depression, then you are a Keynesian."

My (BVA) favorite quote from this book is on page 14 (hardcopy). "Of course the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations may have had no choice but to pursue the policies that they did. They may indeed have spared the country something worse--an American version of Stalin's communism, or Mussolini's fascism." That's the most accurate conclusion in Ms. Schlaes book.

Posted on May 1, 2009, 7:53:26 PM PDT
How do you explain the jump in unemployment as a result of the re-imposition of tight money policies in 1937?

How can you not note this shift in policy that increased unemployment when mentioning that the New Deal did not lower unemployment?

Posted on Mar 10, 2009, 6:31:05 AM PDT
I had a meeting with a Democratic Senatorial candidate last night, and we were talking about this very subject. Mr Elbert Lee Guillory, a really fine gentleman, with extensive knowledge of the Great Depression era, pointed out one sad fact: In this district, the illiteracy rate is reckoned to run at a staggering 45%. I had no idea it was that bad. How, he asked, can we even hope to teach the issues of History, and the challenges and choices that confront the electorate today, when people are so vulnerable to the first charismatic Huey Long populist demagogue that comes along...?

Posted on Mar 10, 2009, 6:00:24 AM PDT
I'm sorry, I posted before I saw your last entry. I shall order both those books. Thank you.

Posted on Mar 10, 2009, 5:47:13 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2009, 1:28:38 PM PDT
"One quote in the midst of an economic crisis does not disprove the fact that unemployment went down from its 1932 heights"
No, but one cannot just conveniently ignore it either. It points to serious problems with the whole New Deal. All of it. 1932 onwards. Many of which policies and/or mindset are in evidence today, 2009.
Scary stuff.
"I'm sorry, but you keep referring to three (sometimes four) anti-FDR books as if they are gospel."
No book is gospel, as far as I'm concerned, and all should be carefully weighed in the light of other evidence. Five things:
1) the concept of an "anti-FDR book". I wonder how helpful that is. I have used those terms myself before, pro-FDR and anti-FDR, but I fundamentally wonder how true that is. All books contain factual, historical information, beyond dispute, and then comes the subjective "interpretation". I just wonder to what degree people tend to "cop out" of reading a book,and to do this, they just conveniently plaster a label on it. It's "anti-FDR", ergo, not worth reading. I would have thought the statements I quoted were well worthy of investigation, rebuttal, or further research. You chose to simply ignore them.
2) Alright then, if all four books I mentioned are unworthy, would you care to list for me some "Pro-FDR" books I might be allowed to rely on....? And maybe quote from?
3) You use the term "The rich". Who, exactly are the rich? Some stereotype cigar smoking wealthy capitalist worth billions? Or the hundreds of thousands of small employers, employing from two to a couple of hundred people? What many would say form the backbone of business America? Class warfare is not helpful. I see many stirrings of old, old, populist class inflammatory rhetoric, which should have no place in sensible discussions today. If anybody will bring us out of this mess, then it will be the "rich". The butcher, the baker, the candlestickmaker. Ordinary Americans, who get up early and go to attend to their businesses.
4) No, I don't make FDR out as a bogeyman. I would rather describe him as an insincere, remarkably incompetent, closed minded dilettante, something of a Mama spoiled, manipulative playboy, a (this fact is widely acknowledged) abysmally poor and uninterested scholar, whose whacky policies (let's try this...oops!...well, hell, let's try THAT...) did much to extend the Great Depression, not end it. (What kind of fiction writer could dream up a better farce: the President of The United States, in his pyamas in bed as per routine, scoffing his fried eggs, with his loyal cabinet minions hovering in obsequious attendance, dreaming that he is setting the price of gold and controlling prices from his bedroom, acting - and spending millions$$$ - on yet another fine academic theory, which in fact had already been tried and tested and refuted in other countries?) A muddler, with a good radio voice, and a perverted genius. A genius for figuring out how to bamboozle Americans, and garner votes through underhanded, devious means, such as blatant patronage. Vote for me, and here's millions of tax payer dollars in aid. Oppose me, and it will cost you. As simple, and thuggish, as that.
5) You say the hero of Yalta, the savior of Eastern Europe, the denier of the Katyn massacre, Stalin's gullible bosom buddy, is dead.
I wish. No, he is not. He is alive, widely revered, and 'flipping the bird' at researchers and authors such as Amity Shlaes, Jim Powell, Gene Smiley, Thomas Fleming, John T.Flynn, Arthur Laffer, etc, etc, every time some 'reviewer' one-stars their book with such piercing intellectual comments like (I quote):

" The author has cherrypicked her information to write a history that supports her ideological bias that government intervention in the economy is always bad, conveniently leaving out information that does not support her ideology. Useful to read to find out what the anti-FDR Republican party believes; not useful to read if one desires a true history of the 1930s."

As long as people still... will NOT read history, and still resolutely CLOSE their minds to good books which offer a fresh perspective on his FAILED policies... then we are more than likely going to forge ahead and make the SAME mistakes. Too many people garner most of their knowledge of that era from the occasional Hollywood movie.
The Grapes of Wrath, etc.
Yes, you are right: There WERE excesses and abuses,of people, principles, and the constitution of the United States, but on BOTH SIDES.
"The Rich" were certainly not blameless. The New Deal was certainly not all bad. Many sincere (albeit maybe also naive) people meant well.
But I propose we take a long, hard look at our "conventional wisdom", at our knowledge of History, our popular conceptions, and the record of 'Saint' Franklin D. Roosevelt...
(hold it! My keyboard just started to smoke...)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2009, 10:11:12 AM PDT
J. Crane says:
It has been awhile since I looked some of the particulars of the period. Morganthau advocated balancing the budget, which helped to send the economy into the 1937-8 recession. According to David Kennedy, the New Deal was largely over by 1938, as FDR lacked the political capital, will power, and vision to see that even more federal spending, not less was needed. FDR did a terrible job handling the 1937 recession. The decision to prepare for war and hence increase spending started the recovery that led the US out of the depression.
My main sources:
Kennedy, Freedom from Fear
Brinkley, End of Reform

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2009, 9:45:20 AM PDT
J. Crane says:
One quote in the midst of an economic crisis does not disprove the fact that unemployment went down from its 1932 heights. I know that it occurred spasmodically, I never tried to imply that it was all smooth sailing after 1933. The 1937-8 recession occurred, and it was a setback. I'm sorry, but you keep referring to three (sometimes four) anti-FDR books as if they are gospel. You can practically hear the axes grinding the background as you read them. What should FDR have done? Watch the soup lines grow? Leave it in the hands of Wall Street? They helped create the mess in the first place. I have little sympathy for hearing sad tales about the rich getting taxed to support a system they have benefited from in order to get rich. It is part of being in a community. We survived the "yoke" of liberalism into the 1950s and 1960s and the US grew to unprecedented heights. Rehashing how bad things were from 1937-1940, and making FDR out to be a bogeyman won't disprove that. I have listed many positives of the New Deal, and American liberalism. I don't need to rank them. This is not baseball.

Posted on Mar 9, 2009, 7:42:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2009, 7:47:25 AM PDT
"Okay, so it was unimportant that unemployment fell?"
As far as I can see (I could be wrong) the recovery in unemployment was not sustained. It was spasmodic, and much of the trouble has to be placed with FDR and his policies. You seem to be making a blanket statement saying FDR solved the unemployment problem. I just don't think that is historically correct. There's more to it. Let's look up some references for that.
1) First of all, there's Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau's statement:
We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong... somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises...
I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started.... And an enormous debt to boot!"
(Philip Morgenthau, FDR's Treasury Secretary, May 1939)
2) From "Rethinking the Great depression" (Gene Smiley)
There is a LOT of fascinating information in this book. Smiley is the 'numbers' man. There is a lot in this book I could quote you might find helpful, but suffice just this quote:
(page 125) "By the beginning of 1940 the American economy was roughly back to where it had been in mid-1937 - and still a long way from full employment. The recovery after the 1937-1938 depression was slow, just as the recovery after the end of the NRA was slow. In nearly two years of recovery between July 1935 and may 1937, the unemployment rate had declined from 21.3 to 12.3 per cent, BUT the unemployment rate in May 1937 was still far above full-employment levels with considerable idleness of buildings and machinery...." Smiley comes across to me as dry, but fair and objective. He points, in a scholarly way, not with an "axe to grind" to many doubtful FDR policies.
3) In "FDR's Folly" (Jim Powell) we read:
(page xiii) "All the highly publicized relief programs and public works projects couldn't make up for the damage inflicted by New Deal taxes, restrictions, antitrust lawsuits, and the rest. Indeed, the more money the government spent on relief and public works, the more tax revenue needed, and the more damage done to the economy..."
(page xvi) "I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the Great depression as we know it was avoidable. Better policies could have prevented the bank failures which accelerated the contraction of the money supply and brought on the Great depression. The Great depression could have been over much more quickly.... Chronic high unemployment persisted during the 1930's because of a succession of misguided New Deal policies...."
4) From "New Deal or Raw Deal" (Burton Folsom)
(page 242) "In 1938, five years after Roosevelt took office, the League of Nations, as we have seen, reported an average of 11.4 per cent unemployment for the 16 nations it surveyed. US unemployment, at 19.8 per cent, was almost twice the rate for the rest of the world. Was the better US strategy for recovery a 79 per cent top income tax rate, a doubled national debt, unbalanced budgets, the only undistributed profits tax in the world, and only slow tariff reform -all of which roosevelt delivered- or tax cuts, balanced budgets, and immediate tariff reduction, all of which Roosevelt promised?"

Food for thought? And I'm not ignoring the rest of your post. I'm happy to go into that,one issue at a time perhaps.
You say: "many positives occurred that free market anti-FDR partisans ignore, or pass over as inconsequential."
I have sympathy with that statement. Perhaps it would help if you would make a list, and note, in order perhaps of preference, the 'positives' that you feel are being ignored?

Posted on Mar 9, 2009, 12:49:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2009, 12:49:40 AM PDT
J. Crane says:
Okay, so it was unimportant that unemployment fell? Or, just dumb luck on FDR's part? Do I use the word "stability"? It seems that you would rather not address the rest of my post and focus on rehashing the 1937-8 recession. You don't like FDR, fine. No one is requiring that you do like him. He is dead after all. The New Deal occurred and FDR gets a lot of credit for it, and that seems to upset some people. He was not an evil man secretly out to enslave us under the yoke of big government. It was not socialism then, and we do not have socialism now. It does seem unfortunate that employees receive a minimum wage now, that children are not allowed to work in factories when they are 12 years old, that the elderly are not the poorest among us, that corporations cannot use goons and the federal army to bust up unions, and that stock brokers don't get to use inside knowledge to manipulate stock prices (sarcasm). Government is not perfect, and no one (who is sane) is saying that it is, but the United States is well past the small, laissez-faire government of the Gilded Age.

Posted on Mar 7, 2009, 10:36:10 AM PST
Amity, I really enjoyed your book. Excellent read. I want to go and write a review, just curious about some things.
Got a few questions if you don't mind:
1) why is it that you did not use numerical source numbers/notes in the text? Many of the other writers on this subject do, and it makes for very easy referral. I know you have some "bibliographic notes" at the back, but they are vague, and not the same.
I would be one of those readers who really use source numbers embedded in the text, and often go off and look up the source!
2) On page 396 you say: "The New Deal edifice is solid enough, but it doesn't form the best basis for the national future."
That surprised me. As the final line from an author who has just spent 395 pages showing up all the weaknesses of the New Deal?

Posted on Mar 7, 2009, 10:27:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 7, 2009, 3:09:39 PM PST
Hello Mr Crane,
"Unemployment in 1932 equaled 25% and fell to 14% in 1937. "
it's probably a trifle risky to lean too hard on one statistic, and then draw sweeping positive conclusions from it.
"Unemployment rose during the 1937-38 recession because Roosevelt, who was not a great economic thinker, listened to conservatives within his administration and tried to balance the budget by CUTTING BACK on government spending."
There's more to it than that. I think you might enjoy Gene Smiley's book "Rethinking the Great Depression".
The "Depression within the depression" (1937 to 1938), is carefully evaluated (pages 116 to 132).
(page 117) "Most did not expect a depression within a depression, and certainly no one expected the ferocious decline that occurred. But the new depression brought the economy back to where it had been in 1934 and shook everyone's confidence in the economy and the New Deal."
Page 118 goes into the two primary causes of the contraction: the actions of the federal Reserve System, and the rapid rise in wage rates and labor costs during the great unionization drives in early 1937.
Amity Schlaes (chapter 11, Roosevelt's revolution) is very interesting also in the respect of the "tax prosecutions" (e.g. page 311) and the uncertainty it brought with it. Reluctance to invest, take risk, and expand. Stable government sure helps. I think you would have a problem attributing "stability" to FDR's 1937 shenanigans. See also her chapter 13 ("Black Tuesday, again"), page 339. It refers to the Economist magazine describing the American problem as "institutional obstructions to a free flow of capital", which I'm sure will raise hackles, but also says this:
(page 339) "Roosevelt's aides were perturbed, for they were seeing the president behave as he had around the time of the London monetary conference. He could not make up his mind which problem was the worst, or which must be addressed, and in what manner. And he could not see that it was important to be consistent..."
See also page 340: "On the other hand there were the budget balancers. One of them, at least on some days, was Roosevelt himself. For as Anne O'Hare McCormick wrote in 1937...Roosevelt was still "the Dutch householder who carefully tots up his accounts every month and who is really annoyed, now that he is bent on balancing the budget, when Congress can't stop spending..."
Frankly, I like Keynes comment: "it is a mistake to think that businessmen are more immoral than politicians..."
You have to chuckle at that one.
Happy reading

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2009, 3:15:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 6, 2009, 3:20:31 PM PST
Ben Curious says:
Government's job is to maintain order, internal and external, and to provide a stable currency????????

Are you communist????

Without government we would have no corporate charters, no private property rights, no contract law, no patent or intellectual property rights, no billions of dollars in contracts for private firms.

Go back to school and learn my friend.

Do you even begin to understand how many laws the governments in Eastern Europe had to pass after communism collapsed before they could begin to practice capitalism?

Get a clue. Why do you think--duh--there are so many lobbyists in Washington and ever state capital? Capitalism DEPENDS on the government.

Posted on Feb 28, 2009, 10:19:46 AM PST
J. Crane says:
Every time period is unique. We are not going back to the 1930s. Aspects of the New Deal, Great Society, Reaganism, Welfare Reform, etc. are now embedded into the American governmental structure and psyche. Decisions being made now are based on the lessons and mistakes of this past knowledge and experience. In defense of the New Deal: First, many, many mistakes were made. But, many positives occurred that free market anti-FDR partisans ignore, or pass over as inconsequential. Many New Deal job programs hired private contractors to build the major projects of the decade. The CCC did not build the TVA. Unemployment in 1932 equaled 25% and fell to 14% in 1937. That happened by accident? Unemployment rose during the 1937-38 recession because Roosevelt, who was not a great economic thinker, listened to conservatives within his administration and tried to balance the budget by CUTTING BACK on government spending. In an economic sense what was WWII for the U.S.? It was a HUGE government spending program (with high taxation) pumping money into the economy to build war material and creating jobs (increasing the size of the armed forces). The economy revived during the war and unemployment plummeted. We experienced our greatest period of prosperity (1950s-1960s) under the remnants of New Deal programs and regulation (Soc. Sec., SEC, Wagner Act, etc.). If you want to turn back the clock to the McKinley era, where big business was unbridled (but also subsidized and protected by tariffs), where we had sweat shops, child labor, 12 hour work days, low wages, unsafe working conditions, etc., where people "worked hard", keep dreaming.

Posted on Feb 24, 2009, 3:59:42 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 24, 2009, 4:07:18 AM PST
Agreed. All well said.
As for, "something more sinister in their underlying goals"
Um. Do I suspect correctly you are thinking along the lines of maybe:
"pretend to be concerned about fixing it" but, in reality...?
I'm trying... to keep an open mind on it all. But I must admit, right now, as of 2/24/2009, I'm a bit flabbergasted. Not sure how serious I can take a president who on the one hand is spending like a train of Robin Hoods on steroids, and on the other is expecting us to take him seriously when he talks about halving the budget deficit by the end of his first term. As for this talk about "taxing the richest 2 per cent of Americans"... Amity Schlaes has a lot to say about that well worn saw, in "The Forgotten Man" (page 267 seems really right -smack- on the button of today's deja vue) and so have many other authors. "The End of Prosperity" (Laffer) and "The Myth of the Robber Barons" (Burton Folsom), to mention but two.
Seems to me we are right back to the 1930's in many ways. Dear Mr Obama wants us to see him as another Abraham Lincoln. Will we end up seeing him more as another FDR?
Right now, I'm seeing populist, demagogic, vote winning platitudes.
The top 2 %? Let's just say, we're going to cane the small business classes, the entrepreneurs, the risk takers, the potential employers... and rattle their confidence at the worst possible moment. Again...

Posted on Feb 23, 2009, 4:06:19 PM PST
Business can deal with "good news" and "bad news," but only risk aggregators like insurance companies can deal with uncertainty, and even they only handle natural disasters or unintended human actions (car wrecks). No business can survive the artificial uncertainty created by not knowing which way the denizens of big government are going to swing the cudgel or the subsidy next.

Government's job is to maintain order, internal and external, and to provide a stable currency. Any growth in that mandate simply increases the ability of factions to use government for favored outcomes -- or worse, for experimentation like the crowd in control of DC during the 1930's.

I'd like to think that the current administration is simply repeating the mistakes of the 1930's but I am afraid that there is something more sinister in their underlying goals. If Hoover mistakenly used government in an attempt to right the economic ship, and Roosevelt cranked it up an order of magnitude, then the Obama administration is taking steps which seem calculated not to "fix" an ailing capitalist system but to convert it to a socialist system.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2009, 11:58:02 AM PST
Amity Shlaes says:
One scholar who did a lot of work on the market in the 1930s was Robt Sobel: A History of the New York Stock Market. There is a chapter plus in his book "The Big Board." Sobel points out that the SEC pressed criminal charges for the first time in August 1937. (page 305). GE went from a high of 64 7/8 for the year to 34. Sobel points out that big players on Wall Street did well at the expense of the smaller guy. These are factors that help to explain the Depression within the Depression.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2009, 8:26:32 AM PST
Hi Philip. Both "FDR's Folly" (Jim Powell) and "Rethinking the great depression" (Gene Smiley) will give you a lot of information on the causes. The actual "ups and downs" of the stock market are mentioned frequently. (see my reviews on both these books). "The Forgotten man" (Amity Schlaes), whose initial post we seem to have shamelessly hijacked (apologies, Amity), is another very good read, that interestingly starts off each chapter with date/unemployment/Dow Jones Industrial average. Just reminds me of a ticking time bomb.
I agree with you: it would be interesting to locate a book that firmly centered it's attention on the stock market in the 1930's. And then introduced all the political and economic developments, and how they affected the stock market.
With the three books I have mentioned, if your focus is heavily on the stock market, you will -indeed- be interpolating and having to ferret out the exact trends yourself. As a general observation, the 'lack of certainty'
and the 'lack of stability' are key ingredients. Blame a lot of that on politicians who were not economists...

Posted on Feb 21, 2009, 5:35:12 PM PST
Are there any books on the stock market during the 1930's? There are a lot of books about causes for the crash in 1929 but I cannot seem to find anything about what happened in the stock market in the 1930's. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009, 7:38:50 PM PST
C. Coryn says:
I certainly agree with your comments regarding bias, and I suspect that considerable work goes into getting it all accurate, which makes for a good historian. The Weems material is classic, as I believe he was the one who started the 'I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree', or whatever it was. And that Washington was saying prayers as he died, which his secretary who was there absolutely denies.

Happy reading


In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009, 6:43:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 15, 2009, 1:00:58 PM PST
Pass. I have not read Sutton. I'm currently half way through 'The Forgotten Man' (Amity Schlaes)
I'll do a review on it. After that on my list are:
The Great Depression - Pierre Berton
The Roosevelt Myth - John T.Flynn
and I need to do a review on "Day of Deceit" - Robert Stinnett.
Then I shall take a break from the Great Depression, and go off on a tangent. I actually fancy researching Mother Theresa's bio and prayer life I have been hearing about.
I would like to take you up on a point you make above. You say:"each writer presents it the way he wants it to be remembered". Often that is true, and the more's the pity. I think it's a pity when people plow a doctrinal furrow, and are tempted to arrange the events and motives to suit their specific conclusions. It's called bias, and it puts me off. I personally much enjoy writers who ask questions, and honestly pose the conundrums. Rather than hectoring us with the pearls of their supreme wisdom and judgment. I don't know if you have read "The New Dealers' War" by Thomas Fleming, (see my review)
who attracts frequent and intense criticism. In his defense, I have to say that a close read shows that he often openly admits to doubt, and openly admits when he speculates. (example: author of the 'Rainbow Five' leak). What I really enjoyed however is his excellent documentation of his source material.
His 'Notes' section is a work of art in itself. Very, very detailed. This fact -in my view- makes it much more difficult to accuse him of bias and false revisionism, when he basically throws down the gauntlet and says: "here's the evidence; check it for yourself; tell me where I'm wrong!" Contrast that with "The Forgotten Man", and you will see there is absolutely no comparison, where revelation of source material is concerned. Just endless quotes plucked out of thin air. And a frequently vague 'notes' section at the back of the book. That to me is a serious problem. Can I use the quotes in "The Forgotten Man" when I don't know where they came from, and what CONTEXT they were used in? No, not really. Not with the same degree of confidence as I can quote Fleming, who puts the source note numbers right in the text. So my point is that we, the readers, should be on guard against bias, (which I believe is the point you are making above) and should really 'demand' decent revelation of sources. To my view, this deficiency in "The Forgotten Man" is a serious one. Having said that, there is also much to enjoy.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009, 1:52:48 PM PST
C. Coryn says:
Hello Francis

What really happens in life is all homogenized, and each writer presents it the way he wants it to be remembered I guess I remember reading a book by Franklin Steiner on the Religious Beliefs of the Presidents, and he recalls researching the history of Washington as presented by an early biographer, the Rev. Mason L. Weems. Weems completely distorted and misrepresented Washington in his books, but circumstances had it that his books were those accepted by the popular culture and taught in the schools for years, and became the popular legend.

I also remember reading one of Anthony Sutton's books on FDR, about him coming out of Wall Street into government. He's written quite a few books I see, is he biased or does he do a balanced analysis, do you know?



Posted on Feb 13, 2009, 5:34:08 PM PST
I agree. A good sound free market economy is all about the production of goods and services. People working hard.
Investors and risk-takers/entrepreneurs on the one end, and the working masses at the other end.
To reduce the incentive for EITHER side to get stuck in, is inviting problems.
"The Myth of the Robber Barons" (see my review) is an interesting read, and eloquently points out that government can all too often subsidize inefficiency, and COST consumers. Yes, I agree: let the inefficient banks go bust. Let the inefficient car makers go bust. That sounds so harsh, so uncaring, so cruel. But it's the only way to send a clear message: shape up, people!
Right now, we are rewarding monumental inefficiency. At taxpayer's expense. We are penalizing the smaller, upcoming, more aggressive, more efficient, more dynamic companies. But there is more at work here.
1) There is that strange "entitlement" philosophy. A FDR creation. The workers are "entitled" to jobs, security, homes, etc.
NO government is able to make good on those promises. But, it was a vote winner for FDR, and it is the same today.
2) Abdication of responsibility. People look to the government. The government will fix it. Mr Obama will fix it. Maybe he will pay my electric bill. How 'bout my groceries? My mortgage?
3) I find the dynamics of FDR's "Brain trust" fascinating. The intellectuals. That famous trip to Russia, to meet with Uncle Joe Stalin. What happened then in the 1930's is being re-played today: the gathering of the idealists. The mixture of 'some knowledge'
that regards itself as 'all-knowing'. That becomes SO convinced of it's 'all-knowing' status, that it becomes intolerant of dissent, and opposing views. That starts to undermine the democratic process with a degree of double speak and trickery.
When does 'some knowledge' cross that line and become 'arrogant'? When does 'some knowledge' become really bad for the country? Almost dictatorial? When "Big Government" feels it has to be seen to be doing something -anything- and has to be seen doing it with the intensity and the projected air of self confidence with which those same politicians wooed the star struck voters.

Thank you for the book recommendation. I shall add it to my reading list. Right now I am working my way through "The Forgotten Man", with which I do have some issues! I hope to review it in due course.
And, yes, I'm lost why more people are not fascinated with the original FDR "New Deal". When we have politicians today trumpeting the "New New Deal", and more central planning. What staggers me is the implicit assumption in articles I read and speeches I hear, that 'most everybody' OF COURSE accepts that:
1) The New Deal was great. FDR was the greatest president ever.
2) BIG government is GOOD. BIGGER Government is even better.
3) And anybody that does not accept the two premises above, is a member of the angry fringe. Poor thing.

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