Y2K vs The Great Depressiongreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
First, I want to say, that my history knowledge is not what it should be. But I doubt that the information I am looking for is in the histoy books anyway.
People have said that some of the stock market bounces, etc is like what happened before the Great Depression.
What I would like to know, is during the time leading up to the great depression of the 30's, were there people who stocked up on food or took their money out of the banks. Did this terrible occurance just hit with no notice? I do know that people who did have money during this time period, made a lot more by investing in business down on their luck.
Does anyone have any information about this? Inquiring minds want to know.
Y2K Ready, Carlie
-- Carlie Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999
The one thing that sticks out in my mind, and I also am not an historian, is the president at the time felt compleled to say. ( THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF) then the stock market collasp...
-- Les (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
As far as I've been able to tell (I was not yet born during the great depression...)...
(1) Some people did take money out of banks. They had cash, which was particularly valuable. When too many people tried to do this (especially late!), bank runs caused bank failures.
(2) Farm comodity prices fell. (Check out current prics...farmers are screaming about low prices.)
(3) Those individuals who had food and other resources didn't need to panic, because they knew where their next meal was coming from! A lot of families still canned home grown vegetables for the winter, back then.
(4) The signs were there...and astute investors took money out of the markets. Others didn't believe the warnings, and they lost a bundle. The crash of '29 was not the first major market crash. Consider also the "East Indies Trading Company Bubble" and the "Great Tulip Bubble." The comparison has been made (by others) to some of the internet stocks of today.
-- Mad Monk (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
Go to www.gold-eagle.com, click on Editorials, and you will find a wealth of information about the Great Depression, similarities to our current situation, and of course A Lot about Y2K.
-- Jack (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
As far as I can tell, from relatives who lived through it, VERY FEW stocked up, except maybe a few insiders.
If you think about it, how could anyone know? There was no internet or even (forgive me) TV. Where would people get the information?
There weren't any Ed Yourdons or Ed Yardenis (who the New york times recently called "a self-styled doomster") who were able to get their message out. We are NOW in the information age. It wasn't the pony express, but even in the 20s and 30s information was not readily avaiable to the large rural population --- many had no electricity, radio, or local newspaper --- how COULD they know? They were more concerned with the weather and getting the crops in --- their lives depended on that. And because of that, they had more stored food than we do today. But it wasn't preparing for the depression, it was a way of life.
Government speeches were a big event partly because they were one of the few chances many people had to hear from an outside source
-- Jon Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
The very first major bank to fail in the late 1920's was the Jewish connected Bank of The United States. The run was precipitated by the withdrawal of institutional funds around the time of of The Crash. The FED decided that one bank should be the scapegoat for the unsound banking practices of the day. (Stockholders had a rude shock to learn that Bankshares were assessable up to their face value against the shareholders.)
The real bank runs didn't begin until the failure of the Rothchild sponsored Credit Ansaldt in Vienna in 1931, triggering a wave of cross defaults which reached the USA in the Winter of 1932-1933. Interestingly, in contradestinction to the FED's action with respect to The Bank of the United States, the Austrian Government put its full faith and credit behind Credit Ansaldt. It survives to this day.
-- K. Stevens (kstevens@It's ALL going away in January.com), August 04, 1999.
The stock market crash of 1929, in terms of sheer price drop, was not the largest crash the stock market has sustained. "Black Monday" in 1987 was considerably larger. The Crash of 1929 did not even cause the great depression. It was an effect of the economic instability that did cause the Depression as the Depression itself. There was ample warning of the coming fall - warning that may have actually contributed to panic. There was blind folly - like the predictions of Professor Irving. And there were attempts during and after the panic to remind investors that the state of the stock market was not necessarily tied to the state of economy. But as one of the landmark events of the century, it stands as a monument to the human "herd instinct" and to the dangers of greed and folly.
-- In Liquid State (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
The economics of the Great Depression are complex. I am currently doing research for a short essay on the Great Depression, and I'll write a truncated version for this forum. As a preview, there is no single answer for why we endured the depression of the 1930s. The stock market drop that started in 1929 was an indicator of greater structural flaws in the underlying economy. Complicating factors include adherence to the gold standard, international trade barriers, problems in the agricultural sector, missteps by the Federal Reserve, and more. I should have something by September. Hope it will answer some questions.
-- Mr. Decker (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
Wow, What great answers. I have learned a lot this morning, keep it comming.
Another question comes to mind as I was reading the responses. Can you draw parallels between these two events? Do you think that the Stock Market or the Banks will be the leading indicator as to when the DWGI's finally GI?
-- Carlie Scott (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
It is true that we all have the "herd instinct," and that's what will bring the whole system down. If you look back at the economy the past couple of years, it is growing. Unemployment is low, people are spending money on new cars, houses, and investing the stock market. What do they have to worry about? Things are going good. However, people are in debt and saving very little money. Bankruptcies are at an all time high right now and getting worse. People won't really GI until it's too late. When debt can no longer be paid back, the trickle down effect will be felt by everyone.
-- For What It's Worth (for what it's worth@forwhatit'sworth.com), August 04, 1999.
Check out "The Crash" by Kenneth Galbraith. It's in the economics section of your local book monopoly. One of the most interesting parts that I read was the "false bounces" where the market continued down but with each glimmer of hope more and more people thought "this must be the bottom" and jumped in. I think of this every time someone tells me that they are going to get out now and get back in early next year. Beware the delayed residual effects of big iron Y2K problems on businesses.
-- br14 (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
The bullish case for American shares, in spite of the current turmoil comes mostly from Wall Street brokers. They ask us to look at the current fundamentals such as low inflation, interest rates and unemployment. And they overlook 1929, when such sound fundamentals were even lower, yet did not prevent the market collapse and the Great Depression. Unemploymnet in 1929 was just 3%!
-- backinhistory (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
And while farmer's did live and provide food for themselves from season to season, don't forget the terrible drought that covered the midwest and Plains states. Read Grapes of Wrath for a "taste" of it.I was born at the end of the depression so my early memories are really Pearl Harbor and how that changed our lives. I lived on a small farm in upstate NY and my dad was lucky enuff to work 4 days a week during the depression. I remember what a treat it was to find an orange in my Christmas stocking. And we sure didn't have any fresh vegetables during the winter. Or fruit, with the exception of the baskets of apples in the cellar. My dad raised lamb, pork and beef and butchered it. We had chickens too. And did the farm work with a team of draft horses. We milked a cow and made butter and cheese. Probably 3/4 of my mother's day was spent on preparation of foods. We boiled potatoes in a big cauldron out by the barn. These were for the pigs. Also while food was rationed after Pearl Harbor, we got large bags of oatmeal that the coworkers of my dad traded to him for sugar. We cooked that for the livestock too. My mother canned on a gas stove in a little kitchen in the middle of hot humid summer. If we didn't grow it, trade for it, we didn't get it. Now I know there were lots of people worse off than us, but also lots of people in the city that were just fine. I am 62, born in 37.
Taz...who learned how to do lots of things for survival in her lifetime and sure glad she did.
-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), August 04, 1999.
>> People have said that some of the stock market bounces, etc is like what happened before the Great Depression. <<
There are, indeed, very many similarities.
The 1930s depression apparently first began in 1927 in Australia. The current storm clouds started in 1997 in Asia. The USA farm sector was experiencing depressed prices through much of the 1920s. By 1928, US farmers were hurting very badly. Ditto for 1998-99. The most wildly popular stocks in the late 1920s were "high-tech" radio stocks like RCA. It was the "Microsoft of it's day".
The Federal Reserve eased money in 1928 to help out Europe, which was on the brink of recession. The extra money flowed into the stock market and overheated it. In 1998 the FRB did the same, provisionally to help out LTCM, but just as much to help Asian exports. Since the Fed eased in November 1998, the DOW Industrial average shot up 3500 points in 8 months!
So, there are a lot of parallels there.
>> ...during the time leading up to the great depression of the 30's, were there people who stocked up on food or took their money out of the banks... <<
As far as I know, there was no special move by anyone to stock up on food, as for Y2K. However, it was much more common then to have a stocked pantry. It was just a life-habit. It was how people lived, if they could.
As for taking money out of the bank, I don't think it was happening in 1929 before the October crash. A minority of investors managed to take their money out of stocks before the crash.
>> Does anyone have any information about this? <<
Good reads on the subject:
Hard Times (?correct title?) by Studs Terkel. The Great Crash by J.K.Galbraith. Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen.
-- Brian McLaughlin (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
>> Do you think that the Stock Market or the Banks will be the leading indicator as to when the DWGI's finally GI? <<
It depends. If you have a reliable "inside" source of information in a bank, you might be able to read a developing Y2K situation before the market reacts. But, usually, big investors have information sooner than the general public, and react to it sooner.
I believe it is a mistake to project Y2K as the reason for any big moves down in the stock market, unless there is a clear line you can draw between the the precipitating event, as reported by the media, and Y2K.
Some other big events could drive the market down sharply in the next couple of months that have no connection to Y2K. For example, if China floats their currency, the yuan, or (even worse for the market) if US consumers stop piling up debt and quit their recent spending spree cold turkey. (How many more brand new cars and trucks can the US consumer afford?)
The markets don't revolve around Y2K, but around profits. Y2K is just one "uncertainty" factor in investors's minds.
-- Brian McLaughlin (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
The nothing to fear bit was by FDR after the crash.
One of the better books on the banking and financial history of the period is "Economics and the Public Welfare" by Benjamin Anderson. The best theoretical analysis is still "The Thory of Money and Credit" by Ludwig Mises. Murray Rothbard's "America's Great Depression" attempt's to blend the theory and the history.
Many similarities and many differences will be found.
-- Jerry B (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
>> The one thing that sticks out in my mind, and I also am not an historian, is the president at the time felt compleled to say. (THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF) then the stock market collapse... <<
The real progression of events was that the stock market crashed in late 1929. President Roosevelt spoke those words in early 1932, after the Depression had been going on for more than two years.
I understand that not everyone has the time or interest to learn much history. But, before drawing lessons from history, it helps to have a good grip on the facts. Changing the facts changes the lesson!
-- Brian McLaughlin (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
The most wildly popular stocks in the late 1920s were "high-tech" radio stocks like RCA. It was the "Microsoft of it's day".
Brian, I think it would be more apropriate to compare the radio stocks of the late 20's to the current internet stocks - Amazon, Yahoo etc. In the book The Great Crash 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith, he makes the point that the popular radio stock companies had yet to make a profit, but kept going up in price astonomically based on speculation. Sounds familiar, huh?
-- Bob (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
I read "The Great Crash of 1929" recently. Another area of similarity to today was the extreme pressure put on market reviewers, brokers, etc., to stay "positive".
The market was the great cash machine. Nothing would effect it. Purveyors of "gloom" were shouted down and faced a real threat of being ostracized both in business and personally.
Nothing like today, of course.................... :(
-- Jon Williamson (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
>> The stock market drop that started in 1929 was an indicator of greater structural flaws in the underlying economy. <<
As a non-economist, I cannot claim real expertise on this subject, only the amateur interest. However, here is the most persuasive arguments I have read that identify the "structural flaws" that caused Depression.
It began with the "virtuous cycle" of increasing productivity and increasing consumption. The 1920s were a time of new products, like radios, and new mass demand for big items like automobiles. Demand stimulated production and competition stimulated productivity. Prices for autos dropped (much as prices for PCs, lately). This, in turn, stimulated demand. Everything boomed. The boom attracted competition for a piece of the profits, and the profits from the boom financed the competition. Consumers bought lots of stuff on credit and felt prosperous.
So far, so good. But, the "virtuous cycle" sowed the seeds of its own destruction, as is usual in so many things. At some point the boom in competition led to gross factory overcapacity, more goods could be built than could be sold, even to a credit-happy world.
This is much like the familiar story of most recessions. Inventory builds up, factories shut down. The biggest problem in the late 1920s was that intense credit-purchasing and investment in plant had already pushed the expansion past what was normal. Europe was starting to slow down already. The Fed was worried about Europe's ability to pay off WWI loans. Especially Germany.
To aid Europe, the Fed eased dramatically in 1927, prolonging the credit cycle and setting off a stock market bubble in the process. The stock bubble was fed by easy margin credit. Banks forgot about risk and extended credit willy-nilly. It seemed things would expand like crazy forever. Yup.
Then the Fed tightened, as I recall, in the summer of 1929, trying to slow down the fervor. It had no apparent effect. At first.
Remind you of anything?
-- Brian McLaughlin (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
Can anyone explain why these things always SEEM to happen in October?
-- DJ (email@example.com), August 04, 1999.
It was interesting to read Taz's post. My parents were children throughout the depression. My mother's situation was perhaps more similar to Taz, in that her parents raised chickens and rabbits for food. They were extremely poor, but not hungry. My father lived in the Midwest, in a house smaller than many people's bedrooms, with eight siblings and his parents. He ate lard and mustard sandwiches, had hand-me-down ill-fitting shoes and clothes, and often went to bed with hunger pains. And yes, used the Sears and Roebucks catalog in the outhouse, dreading when they would get down to the shiny stiff pages. He and his siblings all worked to help out, including cleaning septic tanks and outhouses and field work etc. The family dog was traded to the more well-off neighbor for a pig one year, whose sons proceeded to use the dog for target practice. One of my parent's first homes was a quonset hut, with a small kerosene stove for cooking. I can "know" all these things intellectually, but have not had to live this way. I have listened and tried to learn. I am putting livestock, seeds, garden area and canning equipment as a priority. Ragged clothes are one thing, children going to bed hungry is another.
-- Mumsie (Shezdremn@aol.com), August 04, 1999.
Some thoughts on "the market". I think stocks, as a whole, have been way too high for some time now. Why buy a share in someone else's business today by paying them TODAY what the business is projected to earn over the next twenty something to thirty something years? I for one would rather start a company, sell it off, and repeat the process. Why work building your company when the public will pay you NOW what you would earn over the next decade or "so"?
I remember how real estate went up in the seventies. We went from lots of one earner families to two earner families. More money chasing the goods -- so the price of the goods got bidded up. I know there is more to it, but I think this is a BIG part -- in the 70's, 80's and 90's. I remember in the 80's, people were "moving up". One spouse's paycheck went for just the mortgage. To each their own -- not for me!
In the 90's, an older population discovers "the market". Remember back to just the 80's? When computer stocks were making great gains, people were interviewed on the national news -- "I don't know anything about the stock I just bought; I just know it's going up along with the rest of the high tech sector" -- then a "correction" occured. I think the reason markets are so attractive to "Joe 401K" is that it's basically a passive activity. Not like actually building a business. Kind of like buying a franchise, rather than starting your own business.
But hey, I thought stocks were too high when the dow was at 6000. I guess I'm just not "sophisticated" enough to jump on the "greater fool" bandwagon. That bandwagon's theme song is "hey, it doesn't matter how much I paid for it -- there will be some Johnny come lately sucker that will pay me even more!". Yes, if the music does not stop while you are holding the bag -- of stocks, real estate, tulip bulbs, collectibles, ect.
I remember reading a great book. Getting Rich Your Own Way. Basically, it says that most people over time who get rich don't do so by "investing" -- in whatever -- because they buy too late -- after the trend has been spotted -- and sell too early -- before their "fine wine" has had time to reach it's potential. Those that got rich found work that was engrossing, did a lot of it, and often became rich "accidently" due to something connected with their work. When opportunity materialized, they were ready! They didn't get to the top by politicking either. I realize the book was based on a 20 year study -- which means it was based on the past -- and the same "rules" may have many more "exceptions" today, but I think this book is VERY valuable. Wouldn't trade my old copy for a pound of gold! The book's suggestion was to invest in yourself and what you do for a living -- because statistically, that is your best bet for becomming rich IF you are doing something that you find engrossing. People have gotten rich in all kinds of businesses. If a business is lucrative, but it's not your thing, you will never spend the time to get REALLY good at it!
On the depression, I don't know what caused it. I remember reading about international trading issues being in large part responsible. "Smoot-Hawley Act" or some such protectionist tarrif thing rings a bell; might very well be off base and thinking of something else.
Saw a GREAT documentary on PBS severl weeks ago. Titled something like "After the crash". Talked about the several foreign countries ** NOW ** IN DEPRESSIONS!! THe thrust was that the cause was too much of a debt load. The "blame" was both the bankers/investers that repeatedly put money into high payback investments, as well as the countries that accepted all that quick foreign money. Speculators like George Soros knew the game couldn't continue forever, so they put pressure on that country's currency. Trying to keep their currency afloat is what caused the forign countries to go under. I don't remember enough details to give a better synopsis. I do remember they talked a lot about the "lending nations" and IMF forcing "austerity measures" on these countries. The countries accepted as condition for yet more easy money to pay off their foreign investor "friends". The debtor country's people sudenly found they were paying for the financial "good returns" of the foreign investor's high interest AND return of so called "risk capital" that the IMF and world bankers had "rescued" for THEMSELVES from the "debtor nations" thru austerity measures that caused wide spread DEPRESSION throughout the debtor nation's industries. They went along with the IMF & Co. rather than defaulting and making the foreign investors lose some of their "risk capital" -- didn't want to shut off the foreign spigot of cash, you know!! Seems who the IMF & Co. were rescuing were not the debtor countries in trouble, but the investors and their "risk capital" who wanted "one more drink" at the "high rate of return bar & grill". Think South Korea, ect.
This documentarty REALLY made me think. Taking on debt you can spend today and payback tomorrow is SO TEMPTING. So nice to have such a higher standard of living so quickly. I think when I pay off the measly $3500 I owe, I'll make it a point to NEVER go into debt again if I can help it. Seems better to me to start "next month" off with zero expense, and earn and spend "next month" based on "next month's" income and cost rather than start "next month" several hundred in the hole. I think back to when I bought my truck in 1994. I could have paid for it in cash out of my take home pay...but there was so much more to spend my money on. "Toughing it out" for a few months seemed not the way to go -- so unnecessary. Been "making payments" for four and a half years. Thinking back, I would rather have "toughed it out" and saved several thousands of dollars in AFTER TAX interest over the last four and a half years. Especially when I think about how important and satisfying what I blew the cash (take home pay) was NOT!!!!!!! Too bad we don't pop out of the womb knowing what we know by our mid thirties, huh?
Sorry that this is as much of a semi-rant as a semi-answer -- but I think it IS relevant to Y2K and beyond. It is for me!
-- Louis (StLouisLouis@Yahoo.com), August 04, 1999.
The Great Depression was caused by an deliberate monetary over-expansion (boom) followed by a deliberate monetary contraction (bust) and was orchestrated from European banks centered in London with agents in America's privately-owned and controlled Federal Reserve System.
I'm not sure if the bust this time will be deliberate or an "accident of policy". Maybe, since the over-expansion is deliberate, there can be no "accidental" contraction, as the result is the same since the massive boom is enacted with full fore-knowledge of the likely aftermath. In any event, the bust will most certainly be painted as an "accident". You know, just one of things that just can't be helped. Lahdedahdedah.
If the American people allow the banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation, and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied. The issuing power of money should be taken from the banks and restored to Congress and the people to whom it belongs. - Thomas Jefferson
-- Nathan (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 04, 1999.
Is history repeating itself?
"Politics in government will NEVER allow accurate information." Herbert Hoover, U.S. President in 1929
"We will not have any more crashes in our time." John Maynard Keynes in 1927
"There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash. Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist in 1929
"Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as bears have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months." Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics in Autumn, 1929
"For the immediate future, at least, the outlook (stocks) is bright." Irving Fisher, Ph.D. In economics in early 1930
"The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression ... For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game ... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before." Business Week, November 2, 1929
"I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism ... I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during this coming year the country will make steady progress." Andrew W. Mellon, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury December 31, 1929
"While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst - and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us. Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1. 1930
"This crash is not going to have much effect on business." Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago, October 24, 1929
"We feel that fundamentally Wall Street is sound, and that for people who can afford to pay for them outright, good stocks are cheap at these prices." Goodbody and Company market-letter quoted in The New York Times, Friday, October 25, 1929
"The end of the decline of the Stock Market will probably not be long, only a few more days at most." Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale University - November 14, 1929
"Buying of sound, seasoned issues now will not be regretted" E. A. Pearce market letter quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929
"This is the time to buy stocks. This is the time to recall the words of the late J. P. Morgan ...that any man who is bearish on America will go broke. Within a few days there is likely to be a bear panic rather than a bull panic. Many of the low prices as a result of this hysterical selling are not likely to be reached again in many years. R. W. McNeel - market anakyst - as quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, October 30, 1929
"Some pretty intelligent people are now buying stocks... Unless we are to have a panic - which no one seriously believes, stocks have hit bottom." R. W. McNeal, financial analyst in October 1929
Researched by C.K. Houston
-- B. K. Myers (B.K.Myers@cwix.com), August 04, 1999.
People who had money in some banks lost it all or received ten cents on the dollar if they were lucky. People who owned stocks in industries such as ATT, US Steel etc lost paper profits but recovered their investments later. Speculators lost everything if they were buying on margin.
-- Bruce (email@example.com), August 05, 1999.
One very important difference between then and now.
Then, money was gold (and silver). You can't make more gold in a hurry. When folks converged on a bank asking for their gold back, and it wasn't to be had, that was IT. The end. Finis. And this caused a run-away chain of bankrupcy that hurt everyone. The combination of hard currency and fractional reserve banking was the big, unsolvable problem.
Today, money is paper. The only reason why a bank won't be able to pay out cash on demand is if the central bank won't lend it to them, i.e. if it wants the bank to go bust, usually as a lesson to others (such as with the Barings fiasco). In a systemic crisis, that's the very last thing a central bank will want to happen; shore up everything until the crisis is over with as much paper as it takes, and then kill off the weakest/worst banks once the crisis is spent.
So, don't expect a 1930s style depression. There are plenty of more recent economic crises since the abolition of the gold standard to base your guesses on. Inflation, like the oil shock of the 70s, is one possibility. A modern depression, like the 90s Japan, is another. Or the details might catch all by surprise, even though the warning from history is clear. Seems to me that serious inflation at some point in the future will be an inevitable consequence, but that point might be anything from months to decades hence.
It's true that those who don't learn about history being doomed to repeat it (and never more so than in respect of stockmarket bubbles). However, it's also true that things are never quite the same twice, and the world is very different to that of the 1930s. Economists and bankers have learnt about the 30s, so whatever mistakes they make next time will be different (and again easy to judge only with hindsight).
Preparation: I've no idea. Being in debt is certain to be a bad idea, and being able to ride out any short-term chaos may well be a good one. Beyond that, my crystal is completely opaque.
-- Nigel Arnot (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 05, 1999.