When Money Dies is the classic history of what happens when a nation’s currency depreciates beyond recovery. In 1923, with its currency effectively worthless (the exchange rate in December of that year was one dollar to 4,200,000,000,000 marks), the German republic was all but reduced to a barter economy. Expensive cigars, artworks, and jewels were routinely exchanged for staples such as bread; a cinema ticket could be bought for a lump of coal; and a bottle of paraffin for a silk shirt. People watched helplessly as their life savings disappeared and their loved ones starved. Germany’s finances descended into chaos, with severe social unrest in its wake.
Money may no longer be physically printed and distributed in the voluminous quantities of 1923. However, “quantitative easing,” that modern euphemism for surreptitious deficit financing in an electronic era, can no less become an assault on monetary discipline. Whatever the reason for a country’s deficit—necessity or profligacy, unwillingness to tax or blindness to expenditure—it is beguiling to suppose that if the day of reckoning is postponed economic recovery will come in time to prevent higher unemployment or deeper recession. What if it does not? Germany in 1923 provides a vivid, compelling, sobering moral tale.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book tells the story of the hyperinflation in Weimar Germany and its aftermath (1919-1926) and, to some extent, the ensuing rise of Hitler's Nazi Germany. It is a story which is so complex and convoluted that it takes a historian to even begin to do it justice. Fortunately, this book's author is not only an accomplished historian, well versed in his subject, but also a gifted writer. The result is a remarkable book about an almost indescribable and incomprehensible period in the world's history.
So, if you've ever wondered about the hyperinflation in Germany following the Great War (WWI), and by extension what the REAL consequences of inflation, hyperinflation, deflation and depression might be, this is the book you've been looking for. In fact, I've only read one other book which even comes close; that being `The Fiat Money Inflation in France: How It Came, What it Brought, and How It Ended' by Andrew Dickson White. But this book is much more timely, much broader...
I did manage to read the whole book although it was a struggle.
It is basically a linear narrative of increasing prices, month by month, year by year. I think about 80% of the book could have been put into a few pages of tables and graphs. For someone with no detailed knowledge of this history, it might be a suitable introduction. It will certainly be a frustrating one. For most discussed companies, politicians, parties and places there is no introduction. Because of this there is a real limit to the lessons that can be extracted. To be fair, the author specifically states up front that the reader is on his own with respect to extracting lessons. He is also clear that this is not an economics book. And he is right.
The main problem with this book is that the audience was not well defined. In order to fully comprehend the inflation you need to know something about Germany in this period: the economy, industry, politics, key actors and culture. So this rules...
I got this book in October 2010 based on a recommendation from either BullionVault.com or another website devoted to providing a dissenting view to mainstream economics. It was first published in 1975, just four years after the Nixon administration had severed the last tie between gold and the U.S. dollar by closing the international “gold window” and terminating the right of foreign governments to exchange dollars for gold. At that time the prospect of an American hyperinflation seemed far off, even as inflation was rising fast, and those scratchy old silent-film clips of forlorn Germans pushing wheelbarrowfuls of banknotes to the bakery to buy bread were quaint and unreal-looking.
As I type these words the price of gold is US$1,818 per ounce, an increase of 4400% since 1971, and last week Switzerland, long a bastion of monetary probity, gave up on maintaining the value of its franc and pegged it instead to the moribund Euro, joining the other major currencies...
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