The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself

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James Grant’s story of America’s last governmentally untreated depression: A bible for conservative economists, this “carefully researched history…makes difficult economic concepts easy to understand, and it deftly mixes major events with interesting vignettes” (The Wall Street Journal).

In 1920-1921, Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding met a deep economic slump by seeming to ignore it, implementing policies that most twenty-first century economists would call backward. Confronted with plunging prices, wages, and employment, the government balanced the budget and, through the Federal Reserve, raised interest rates. No “stimulus” was administered, and a powerful, job-filled recovery was under way by late 1921. Yet by 1929, the economy spiraled downward as the Hoover administration adopted the policies that Wilson and Harding had declined to put in place.

In The Forgotten Depression, James Grant “makes a strong case against federal intervention during economic downturns” (Pittsburgh Tribune Review), arguing that the well-intended White House-led campaign to prop up industrial wages helped turn a bad recession into America’s worst depression. He offers examples like this, and many others, as important strategies we can learn from the earlier depression and apply today and to the future. This is a powerful response to the prevailing notion of how to fight recession, and “Mr. Grant’s history lesson is one that all lawmakers could take to heart” (Washington Times).
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About the author

James Grant is the founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, a leading journal on financial markets, which he has published since 1983. He is the author of seven books covering both financial history and biography. Grant’s journalism has been featured in Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Jim Lehrer’s News Hour, and CBS Evening News.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Nov 11, 2014
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781451686487
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Money & Monetary Policy
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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James Grant’s enthralling biography of Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House during one of the most turbulent times in American history—the Gilded Age, the decades before the ascension of reformer President Theodore Roosevelt—brings to life one of the brightest, wittiest, and most consequential political stars in our history.

The last decades of the nineteenth century were a volatile era of rampantly corrupt politics. It was a time of both stupendous growth and financial panic, of land bubbles and passionate and sometimes violent populist protests. Votes were openly bought and sold in a Congress paralyzed by the abuse of the House filibuster by members who refused to respond to roll call even when present, depriving the body of a quorum. Reed put an end to this stalemate, empowered the Republicans, and changed the House of Representatives for all time.

The Speaker’s beliefs in majority rule were put to the test in 1898, when the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor set up a popular clamor for war against Spain. Reed resigned from Congress in protest.

A larger-than-life character, Reed checks every box of the ideal biographical subject. He is an important and significant figure. He changed forever the way the House of Representatives does its business. He was funny and irreverent. He is, in short, great company. “What I most admire about you, Theodore,” Reed once remarked to his earnest young protégé, Teddy Roosevelt, “is your original discovery of the Ten Commandments.”

After he resigned his seat, Reed practiced law in New York. He was successful. He also found a soul mate in the legendary Mark Twain. They admired one another’s mordant wit. Grant’s lively and erudite narrative of this tumultuous era—the raucous late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—is a gripping portrait of a United States poised to burst its bounds and of the men who were defining it.
In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon.

 

Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008.

Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict.

As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.

Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.

While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Rickards untangles the web of failed paradigms, wishful thinking, and arrogance driving current public policy and points the way toward a more informed and effective course of action.




From the Hardcover edition.
The power of India reached its pre-British Raj height under the Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy which was an Indian imperial power that existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire covered much of India, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million km2. The Marathas are credited for ending the Mughal rule in India.
The Marathas were a yeoman warrior group from the western Deccan that rose to prominence during the rule of the Adil Shahi dynasty and Ahmadnagar Sultanate. The empire was founded by Shivaji Bhosle, who formally crowned himself Chhatrapati ("Emperor") with Raigad as his capital in 1674, and successfully fought against the Mughal Empire. The Maratha Empire waged war for 27 years with the Mughals from 1681 to 1707, which became the longest war in the history of India. Shivaji, pioneered "Shiva sutra" or Ganimi Kava (guerrilla tactics), which leveraged strategic factors like demographics, speed, surprise and focused attack to defeat his bigger and more powerful enemies. After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and Bengal and Andaman Islands in east. In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Abdali’s Afghan Durrani Empire, which halted their imperial expansion. Ten years after Panipat, young Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated the Maratha authority over North India. In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states. In 1775, the British East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the British East India Company in control of most of India.
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