Saturday, 11 January 2014

Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and New Deal

By Robert Murphy.

Historians are lousy at economics, and economic experts are lousy at history.  So this book kinda fills in the gaps and tells the story of the 1920s lead-up to the Wall Street collapse, what Hoover did, and how Roosevelt really screwed up by making the depression last longer.

It's a fair read.   Fifty percent of the book is loaded with facts and statistics, with a good read.  The other fifty percent....economic analysis which would bore most history enthusiasts to death.

As a kid growing up, the depression era took about two pages out of the high school history book, and the teacher would spend a week on the era.  Too much money spent and the evil capitalists at Wall Street, along with the term "roaring twenties" as the thing to remember. It didn't make much sense to me as a kid.

Later, in college....the episode came up in a history class taught at Louisiana Tech.  I remember the professor getting the question in the middle of the class....that these wordy explanation didn't exactly put facts on the board or make any sense.

The professor stopped the class for a minute, and simply laid in this two-minute explanation that Roosevelt was a guy who had never run a business in his life, and knew absolutely nothing about finance or business.  The dozen or so people around him....his personal staff....they were of the same variety.  So they baked up various gimmicks which looked good in a college class or on thesis paper.....but would never function right in real life or in the business world.

It was a harsh reality moment.  As the professor summed it up....the depression might have ended to some minor degree as the war starts....only because the personal staff got pushed out and business men were brought in to run America finally.....but it's only really over when Roosevelt is dead and six-feet under.

The book kinda goes in this same direction, but hundreds of details about what worked, what failed, and how lousy incompetence in the White House really made America overall suffer.

It's worth the read if you have interest in the 1930s, the depression, and the business world.  Otherwise?  I might skip it because it really goes deep into finance and economics, which isn't a topic that most folks enjoy reading over.

No comments: