Essays on the Great Depression

Princeton University Press
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Few periods in history compare to the Great Depression. Stock market crashes, bread lines, bank runs, and wild currency speculation were worldwide phenomena--all occurring with war looming in the background. This period has provided economists with a marvelous laboratory for studying the links between economic policies and institutions and economic performance. Here, Ben Bernanke has gathered together his essays on why the Great Depression was so devastating.

This broad view shows us that while the Great Depression was an unparalleled disaster, some economies pulled up faster than others, and some made an opportunity out of it. By comparing and contrasting the economic strategies and statistics of the world's nations as they struggled to survive economically, the fundamental lessons of macroeconomics stand out in bold relief against a background of immense human suffering. The essays in this volume present a uniquely coherent view of the economic causes and worldwide propagation of the depression.

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About the author

Ben S. Bernanke is a member of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. He is on leave from Princeton University, where he is the Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Economics and Public Affairs. He is author of many publications and coauthor of the recent Princeton University Press book, Inflation Targeting: Lessons from the International Experience.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400820276
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 2012, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, gave a series of lectures about the Federal Reserve and the 2008 financial crisis, as part of a course at George Washington University on the role of the Federal Reserve in the economy. In this unusual event, Bernanke revealed important background and insights into the central bank's crucial actions during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Taken directly from these historic talks, The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis offers insight into the guiding principles behind the Fed's activities and the lessons to be learned from its handling of recent economic challenges.

Bernanke traces the origins of the Federal Reserve, from its inception in 1914 through the Second World War, and he looks at the Fed post-1945, when it began operating independently from other governmental departments such as the Treasury. During this time the Fed grappled with episodes of high inflation, finally tamed by then-chairman Paul Volcker. Bernanke also explores the period under his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, known as the Great Moderation. Bernanke then delves into the Fed's reaction to the recent financial crisis, focusing on the central bank's role as the lender of last resort and discussing efforts that injected liquidity into the banking system. Bernanke points out that monetary policies alone cannot revive the economy, and he describes ongoing structural and regulatory problems that need to be addressed.


Providing first-hand knowledge of how problems in the financial system were handled, The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis will long be studied by those interested in this critical moment in history.

In The Progress Paradox, Gregg Easterbrook draws upon three decades of wide-ranging research and thinking to make the persuasive assertion that almost all aspects of Western life have vastly improved in the past century--and yet today, most men and women feel less happy than in previous generations. Why this is so and what we should do about it is the subject of this book.

Between contemporary emphasis on grievances and the fears engendered by 9/11, today it is common to hear it said that life has started downhill, or that our parents had it better. But objectively, almost everyone in today’s United States or European Union lives better than his or her parents did.

Still, studies show that the percentage of the population that is happy has not increased in fifty years, while depression and stress have become ever more prevalent. The Progress Paradox explores why ever-higher living standards don’t seem to make us any happier. Detailing the emerging science of “positive psychology,” which seeks to understand what causes a person’s sense of well-being, Easterbrook offers an alternative to our culture of crisis and complaint. He makes a Compelling case that optimism, gratitude, and acts of forgiveness not only make modern life more fulfilling but are actually in our self-interest.

Seemingly insoluble problems of the past, such as crime in New York City and smog in Los Angeles, have proved more tractable than they were thought to be. Likewise, today’s “impossible” problems, such as global warming and Islamic terrorism, can be tackled too.

Like The Tipping Point, this book offers an affirming and constructive way of seeing the world anew. The Progress Paradox will change the way you think about your place in the world, and about our collective ability to make it better.


From the Hardcover edition.
A New York Times Bestseller

“A fascinating account of the effort to save the world from another [Great Depression]. . . . Humanity should be grateful.”—Financial Times

In 2006, Ben S. Bernanke was appointed chair of the Federal Reserve, the unexpected apex of a personal journey from small-town South Carolina to prestigious academic appointments and finally public service in Washington’s halls of power.

There would be no time to celebrate.

The bursting of a housing bubble in 2007 exposed the hidden vulnerabilities of the global financial system, bringing it to the brink of meltdown. From the implosion of the investment bank Bear Stearns to the unprecedented bailout of insurance giant AIG, efforts to arrest the financial contagion consumed Bernanke and his team at the Fed. Around the clock, they fought the crisis with every tool at their disposal to keep the United States and world economies afloat.

Working with two U.S. presidents, and under fire from a fractious Congress and a public incensed by behavior on Wall Street, the Fed—alongside colleagues in the Treasury Department—successfully stabilized a teetering financial system. With creativity and decisiveness, they prevented an economic collapse of unimaginable scale and went on to craft the unorthodox programs that would help revive the U.S. economy and become the model for other countries.

Rich with detail of the decision-making process in Washington and indelible portraits of the major players, The Courage to Act recounts and explains the worst financial crisis and economic slump in America since the Great Depression, providing an insider’s account of the policy response.

Writing in the June 1965 issue of theEconomic Journal, Harry G. Johnson begins with a sentence seemingly calibrated to the scale of the book he set himself to review: "The long-awaited monetary history of the United States by Friedman and Schwartz is in every sense of the term a monumental scholarly achievement--monumental in its sheer bulk, monumental in the definitiveness of its treatment of innumerable issues, large and small . . . monumental, above all, in the theoretical and statistical effort and ingenuity that have been brought to bear on the solution of complex and subtle economic issues."

Friedman and Schwartz marshaled massive historical data and sharp analytics to support the claim that monetary policy--steady control of the money supply--matters profoundly in the management of the nation's economy, especially in navigating serious economic fluctuations. In their influential chapter 7, The Great Contraction--which Princeton published in 1965 as a separate paperback--they address the central economic event of the century, the Depression. According to Hugh Rockoff, writing in January 1965: "If Great Depressions could be prevented through timely actions by the monetary authority (or by a monetary rule), as Friedman and Schwartz had contended, then the case for market economies was measurably stronger."


Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 for work related to A Monetary History as well as to his other Princeton University Press book, A Theory of the Consumption Function (1957).

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