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3.7 out of 5 stars
The Great Crash 1929
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2003
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. But the problem lies elsewhere: people continue to believe that they have been blessed, and that they can make money with little or no effort. When wise men see such folly and decide to partake in it rather than spoil it, a bubble that later crashes is inevitable. For all those who seek an economic solution to this economic problem, Mr. Galbraith surely disappoints. The surest protection against over-speculation, he writes, is to remind people that you can never get something from nothing. Those in love with central banking might find the idea simplistic, yet its beauty lies with its simplicity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 1999
Somebody on comp.software.year-2000 urged me to read this Galbraith volume because, he noted, "the parallels with current economic conditions -- with an out-of-control, logic-defying stock market, and happy-face government posturing in face of obvious disaster -- make it a must read." Fine. I bought this book 2 weeks ago on amazon (I'm a regular) and just finished.
True, the parallels are there. And I highly recommend the work if nothing more than to highlight in the reader's mind the elements of human nature that insure that we will always have depressions -- every 70 years or so ... secula seculorum... but in a small way, I expected more.
I find Galbraith (author of some 20 works on economics) to lack an emotional, visceral style that should have enunciated a polished telling of this critical set of events - (I say "set" because although October 24, 1929, or "Black Thursday" may have set events in motion... the bottom did not come until July, 1932). To borrow from Trekkies, if I may, I felt like I was following a history lesson from a Vulcan history professor. The chronology was well placed and organized, but there was nothing to help me "feel" the event.
Nonetheless, I appreciated the referral and the read. And I think that this work will have even more renewed interest when the world investment community eventually comes to grips with the lack of rationale in supporting stock values whose P/E ratios stretch well into infinity.
Greg Caton Lumen Foods (soybean.com) caton@soybean.com March 14, 1999
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on February 16, 1999
The book provided a good background of the Depression Years when financial crisis was at its most critical. The scenarios depicted have not hitherto been presented elsewhere. It dealt with the cold financial figures as well as the snippets of emotional side of human dramas behind.It is also a tremendously valuable piece of work in terms of its contribution to history on the topic. It should serve as a valuable "BIble" for people working intimately with the financial circles, when they construct their policy - with the Great Crash as a background reminder. As far as the analytical aspect goes, the insightful pronouncements could not have been done more brilliantly by any other author or academician, past or present.
*Did'nt have time to finish, computer lab closing.
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on December 23, 1999
This book offers an explanation of the market dynamics during the late 1920's; and helps the reader understand how people may have gotten swept up in the speculative frenzy that lead to the 1929 crash. It also covers the aftermath that ensued.
Quick enjoyable read. Recommended.
Particularly interesting to read while one can watch our own financial markets exhibit seemingly speculative behaviors.
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on March 22, 2001
I read this book as a class assignment in 1975. I still remember its lessons and occasionally refer to it. As with all works of economists, it reflects the author's opinion, not necessarily provable fact. It is however, easy to read and an important work on subject of the 1929 crash. If you are interested in the subject, read this book, then read more, preferably by a monetarist.
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on October 30, 1999
As I am a teenager, this book was probably the most enjoyable book on us history I have ever read. It was full of facts on the stock-market, while it told the story of how the crash actually happened.
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on January 31, 2001
A spritely account of the days leading up to the great crash. A must read from a historical perspective, and some useful normative accounts.
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