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The Great Crash of 1929 Paperback – Apr 2 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; None edition (April 2 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395859999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395859995
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #433,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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Rampant speculation. Record trading volumes. Assets bought not because of their value but because the buyer believes he can sell them for more in a day or two, or an hour or two. Welcome to the late 1920s. There are obvious and absolute parallels to the great bull market of the late 1990s, writes Galbraith in a new introduction dated 1997. Of course, Galbraith notes, every financial bubble since 1929 has been compared to the Great Crash, which is why this book has never been out of print since it became a bestseller in 1955.

Galbraith writes with great wit and erudition about the perilous actions of investors, and the curious inaction of the government. He notes that the problem wasn't a scarcity of securities to buy and sell; "the ingenuity and zeal with which companies were devised in which securities might be sold was as remarkable as anything." Those words become strikingly relevant in light of revenue-negative start-up companies coming into the market each week in the 1990s, along with fragmented pieces of established companies, like real estate and bottling plants. Of course, the 1920s were different from the 1990s. There was no safety net below citizens, no unemployment insurance or Social Security. And today we don't have the creepy investment trusts--in which shares of companies that held some stocks and bonds were sold for several times the assets' market value. But, boy, are the similarities spooky, particularly the prevailing trend at the time toward corporate mergers and industry consolidations--not to mention all the partially informed people who imagined themselves to be financial geniuses because the shares of stock they bought kept going up. --Lou Schuler

About the Author

John Kenneth Galbraith who was born in 1908, is the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and a past president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the distinguished author of thirty-one books spanning three decades, including The Affluent Society, The Good Society, and The Great Crash. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Oxford, the University of Paris, and Moscow University, and in 1997 he was inducted into the Order of Canada and received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2000, at a White House ceremony, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ben R. on Feb. 10 2002
Format: Paperback
Recall the talk before the bust of the "New Economy," in which distended P/E ratios and lack of profits were to be irrelevant. Recall Enron's public proclamations of its stability and projected earnings increases. Keep these in mind as you read The Great Crash, and you will never again listen to an analyst, much less an executive.
Galbraith's theme is that market stability and corporate interests are fundamentally at odds. CEOs will never speak evil about their own companies or the condition of the market, so their speech is about as useful to an investor as a pre-game pep talk is to a bettor. Analysts, as well as executives, are salesmen of their own stock, and their primary objective is to get you to buy high.
So why did the 1929 -- or the 2000 -- crash occur? Buying high is great as long as someone is always buying higher; however, such an aggrandized pyramid scheme is doomed to failure. It's as simple as that. So why, then, read Galbraith's book? He is a talented storyteller, and he highlights themes that are likely to accompany future bubbles so that the reader knows what to be skeptical about. This is a very entertaining read, and if you actively compare what Galbraith tells you of the 20's to what you know about the 90's, you'll likely not be swept away by future investing mania.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on Oct. 29 2003
Format: Paperback
Economics, like physics, has a fundamental canon: you cannot make money out of nothing. To narrate the history of financial bubbles is to chronicle those times when people overlooked that fact. In those instances, asset prices soar merely to be resold for profit, with little regard as to their actual value; when something shakes confidence and buyers are in short supply, a crash follows as prices were sustainable only insofar as they could be resold higher.

According to John Galbraith, the stock-market crash that took place in the fall of 1929 was typical of this prototype. Mr. Galbraith, a Harvard economist, traced the optimism to the Florida real-estate bubble of 1925 which made people forget the elementary rules of money making. What follows is an elegant narrative that interweaves economics with history to produce one of the most telling and lucid accounts of the developments, economic and otherwise, that lead up to the October 1929 crash.

The crash, according to Mr. Galbraith, was caused by an admixture of bad income distribution (economy too dependent on luxury spending and investment), bad corporate structure, bad banking structure, foreign imbalances, and bad economic intelligence. In seeking compelling explanations, the "Great Crash" often resists conventional wisdom: for example, to those who blame the abundance of credit, Mr. Galbraith answers: "on numerous occasions before and since credit has been easy, and there has been no speculation whatever." Mr. Galbraith looks beyond central banking and interest rates to compile a rich and diverse history of the 1929 crash.

So what about preventing future crises? Here, Mr. Galbraith is ambivalent. Regulation has and can play a substantial role in preventing future troubles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Fery on Jan. 5 2003
Format: Paperback
Galbraith's inventive work on the fascinating events leading up and preceding the 1929 stock market crash is must-read for anyone interested in the national economy, how it functions, how it fails, and what role the federal government plays in perpetuating or stifling the situation.
He very convincingly establishes a good groundwork for the reader, explaining why the stock market was in such a large expansion and how federal regulation (or lack therof) enabled the financial firms to operate in very risky and perhaps unethical ways.
Obviously, the book chronicles the disastrous declines in 1929 and further discusses the federal government's attempts to revive the American economy, those for the most part failed.
The most important lesson this book can allay to the reader is that economies are not self-sustaining structures that are only subject to supply and demand shifts. In instances like the 1929 crash, the prognosis for dynamic economies can often lie in the actions of a handful of actors/people. A good lesson to remember.
Indeed there are many lessons to be learned from this book, many that are relevant to today's economy (2003). Read this book with care and with a comparative mindset!
A must read for economists and public policy makers!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Gillies on Oct. 30 2001
Format: Paperback
This book does a poor job of explaining what caused the depression. It gives a sarcastic narrative of some of the bad practices leading up until 1929, and the sarcasm is amusing. After the sarcasm, in about february of 1930, it stops and draws unjustified and unsupported conclusions. The narrative comes mainly from reading the New York newspapers. A description of what happened in rural areas and at small banks is not included. You will not understand what a run on a bank is, and how small banks were leveraged and destroyed by the depression. You will hear nothing about the propensity of the federal reserve to keep interest rates too high from 1929 - 1933, and will not know how much they should have been lowered, or if lowering them would have been ineffective. You will not learn how to draw your own economic conclusions by reading this book. Because the book is 100% text, a large opportunity is missed to explain some of the economic history through pictures.
I think the book is popular because it was written by a Harvard Professor. I have read several books on the depression and this one, because of the hype, was the greatest disappointment.
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