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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS




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Booms and Depressions
Some First Principles

By
IRVING FISHER, LL.D.
Professor of Economics, Yale University

NEW YORK

* ADELPHI COMPANY •




PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT, 1 9 3 2 BY ADELPHI COMPANY

P R I N T E D

IN

THE

BY T H E V A I L - B A L L O U




U N I T E D

STATES

OF

AMERICA

P R E S S , I N C . , B I N G-H A l l T O N , N .

Y.

To
WESLEY CLAIR MITCHELL
T H E WORLD'S ACKNOWLEDGED

LEADER

I N T H E STUDY OF T H E S U B J E C T OF THIS BOOK




"Money, as a physical medium of exchange, made a
diversified civilization possible, . . . And yet it is money,
in its mechanical more than in its spiritual effects, which
may well, having brought us to the present level, actually
destroy society."
SIR JOSIAH STAMP

(From Foreword to the English edition of The Money
Illusion by Irving Fisher)




PREFACE
This book grew out of an invitation to speak on the Depression of 1929-32 before the American Association for
the Advancement of Science and is an elaboration of my
address at the meeting of the Association, held at New
Orleans, Jan. 1, 1932.
The vast field of "business cycles" is one on which I
had scarcely ever entered before, and I had never attempted to analyze it as a whole.
The scope of the present work is restricted, for the most
part, to the role of nine main factors, not because they
cover the whole subject, but because they include what
seem to me to be the outstanding influences in the present,
as well as in most, if not all, other major depressions.
By this restriction it has been possible to make the book
much shorter and, I hope, much more intelligible to the
lay reader than if it set out to be an exhaustive treatise on
an inexhaustible subject.
At any rate, the nine factors are so inherently and obviously related to each other that we are not compelled to
resort entirely to empirical correlation. Empirical studies
are important and essential in this field 5 but, by excluding
those which apparently have no rational basis, it is possible
to mark out a clear cut set of "first principles*"
The results of the analysis here presented seem largely
new. But, being so unfamiliar with the immense literature,
I decided to submit the first draft of this book in mimeographed form to a number of authorities, several of whom



vii

viii

PREFACE

had given much of their lives to the study of the so-called
business cycle. With few exceptions these have found in
the theory much that they regard as both new and true.
Yet, as I could not, without years of searching, be sure
how far any or all of what to me seems new may have been
anticipated by previous writers, I leave to others to determine how far this book is the original contribution which
it is intended to be.
As will be seen, the main conclusion of this book is that
depressions are, for the most part, preventable and that
their prevention requires a definite policy in which the
Federal Reserve System must play an important role. This
problem is of even greater importance than the problems of
our old national banking system which led, after two
generations of delay, first to the Aldrich Report and then
to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System.
In my opinion, no time should, in this case, be lost in
grappling with the practical measures necessary, including
international cooperation, to free the world from such
needless suffering as it has endured since 1929.
If this very practical task is not soon undertaken in
earnest, nor brought to a successful conclusion before another such disaster overwhelmes the world, we may expect
that a great body of informed public opinion will then hold
specific individuals responsible. In short, ignorance cannot
much longer serve as an excuse for neglecting this greatest
of all practical economic problems.
But, having myself only recently acquired such knowledge as I possess on the subject, I have felt constrained, in
this book, studiously to avoid casting blame on those who,
here and abroad, might, had they done the right things,
have prevented the depression.
I am indebted to several of my own students for helpful criticisms, Lester V. Chandler, J. Edward Ely, Florence



PREFACE

IX

Helm, Harold D. Koontz, J. N. Lindenberg, Taulman A.
Miller, Jr., and Hildreth Winton.
I also wish to thank the many economists and others who
have kindly read and commented, in a general way, on
the first draft, including, James W. Angell, Leonard P.
Ayres, J. M. Clark, Victor S. Clark, John R. Commons,
John H . Cover, Alfred Cowles, III, W. L. Crum, H. C.
Cutting, Davis R. Dewey, Charles E. Duryea, Lionel D.
Edie, Henry W. Farnam, Warren F. Hickernell, Jacob
H. Hollander, W. I. King, R. R. Kuczynski, William C.
Lee, Edmund E. Lincoln, H. L. McCracken, Ernest M.
Patterson, Nicholas Raffalovich, Malcolm C. Rorty,
E. R. A. Seligman, Carl Snyder, G. F. Warren, Frederick
V. Waugh, E. B. Wilson, Ivan Wright, Quincy Wright,
and Edgar H. Yolland.
I wish especially to thank the following who, evidently
at personal sacrifice, gave considerable time and thought to
studying, in a detailed and intensive way, part or all of the
manuscript,—Harry G. Brown, J. D. Canning, C O.
Hardy, Harold L. Reed, N. J. Silberling, and Charles
Tippetts.
Finally, I wish to thank my associate, Royal Meeker,
who has assembled most of the factual material as well as
scrutinized the entire manuscript and helped in rewriting
it, and my brother, Herbert W. Fisher, who at every stage
has helped in the exposition, from a layman's point of
view, in the endeavor to make an obscure subject clear.
With his help I have tried to write the book in such language that "he who runs may read."
IRVING FISHER

New Haven, Conn.
July, 1932







CONTENTS
PART I

THEORETICAL

CHAPTER

I

*AG2

INTRODUCTION

3

What is a Depression?
The Recent Picture
The Mystery of a Depression
II

FIRST T H R E E OF N I N E MAIN FACTORS .

Over-Indebtedness
(The First Main Factor)
Criteria of Over-Indebtedness
The Debt Cycle
Nine Main Factors
Distress Selling
Volume of Currency
(The Second Main Factor)
The Price Level
(The Third Main Factor)
"Real" Debts
The Money Illusion
Gold and Credit
The Index Number
The Vicious Spiral Downward
Two Paradoxes
The Main Secret
Summary
The Dollar Disease is Needless
III

3
3
5

REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS

Net Worth
(The Fourth Main Factor)
xi




.

.

8

8
10
11
12
13
14
17

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

17
18
21
22
25
25
26
26
27
29

29

xii

CONTENTS
*AGE

CHAPTER

Profits
( T h e Fifth Main Factor)
Production, T r a d e , Employment . . . .
( T h e Sixth Main Factor)
Optimism and Pessimism
( T h e Seventh Main Factor)
T h e Velocity of Circulation
( T h e Eighth Main Factor)
Hoarding, a Slowing of Velocity .
.
.
.
T h e T w o Paradoxes Again—Applied to
Hoarding
Possible Consequences of Contraction and
Hoarding
Rate of Interest
( T h e Ninth Main Factor)
" R e a l " Rates vs. Money Rates . . . .
Deflation, the Root of Almost All the Evils .
Chronology of the Nine Factors .
.
.
T h e Trough of Depression .
.
.
.
.
T h e Boom Phase Again
A Vicious Spiral Upward
IV

STARTERS

Unproductive Debts
Productive Debts
Some Historical Illustrations
T h e Shady Side
Monetary Inflation Alone
Combined Starters
. . .
V

"THE"

30
32
34
35
36
37
38
38
39
39
4 1
42
43
44

.

.

.

.

BUSINESS C Y C L E ?

T h e Development of the Cycle Idea .
.
.
"Forced" Cycles
" F r e e " Cycles . . . . . . . . .
Any Unbalance may cause Cyclical Tendencies
But These tend to die D o w n
" T h e " Business Cycle a Myth? . . . .
Cycles as Facts or Tendencies



29

44
45
46
47
48
49
51

5 1
52
53
54
55
55
58

CONTENTS
CHAPTER

VI

O T H E R THEORIES

60

Many Theories Mutually Consistent . . .
Price-Dislocation Theory
Inequality-of-Foresight Theory
. . . .
Changes-in-Income Theory
Fluctuations-in-Discount Theory .
.
.
Variations-of-Cash-Balance Theory . . .
Over-Confidence Theory
Over-Investment Theory
Over-Saving Theory
Over-Spending Theory
Discrepancy- between - Savings - and - Investment
Theory
Over-Capacity Theory
Under-Consumption Theory
Over-Production Theory
Conclusion
PART II
VII

xiii
PAGE

THE

60
61
62
62
6 2
63
63
63
64
64
64
65
65
65
66

FACTUAL

O V E R - I N D E B T E D N E S S T H A T L E D TO T H E
W O R L D DEPRESSION

T h e W a r and the New E r a
Investing in Equities on Borrowed Money
.
Miscellaneous Influences
T h e Steady Commodity Price Level .
.
Investing Abroad
Miscellaneous Borrowing Movements
.
.
Reparations
Inter-Governmental Debts Payable to America
International Private Debts
Public Debts in the United States . . . .
Private Debts in America
Brokers' Loans
Totals in 1929
Gold and the Debts



71

71
72
73
7 4
75
77
77
78
79
79
80
81
81
82

CONTENTS

xiv

*AGE

CHAPTER

VIII

1929-32
. 85
In General
85
The American Stock Market
86
The Panic
9°
Preliminaries in the Commodity Market . • 91
The Commodity Market
92
The Currency
96
Trade and Profits
97
Upturns
98
International Accelerators of the Vicious Spiral—1931
100
Balancing the Budget
104
Summary as to the Nine Main Factors
.
.106
The Real Dollar
, . . 1 0 7

T H E WORLD DEPRESSION OF

PART I I I
IX

REMEDIAL

PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES

When Form is Substance
First Aid
r
Reducing Cost .
Retarding the Debt Disease . .
Replacing Inflexible Bonds
Other Measures of Debt Flexibility
Debt Scaling
The International Debts in 1932 .
X

113

.

.

•

.

.

.

113
114
116
.116
117
.118
118
.119

Credit Control
The Mandate to Treat the Dollar Disease
The Equation of Exchange
The Quantity Theory
Adjusting Credit to Business
Reflating and Stabilizing the Price Level .
Regulation Through the Rediscount Rate .
The Federal Reserve System

121
. 121
122
123
124
.125
.126
127

REMEDIES




121

CONTENTS

xv
PAGE

Regulation Through "Open Market Operations"
128
What is Traded in Open Market Operations . 129
Automatic Regulation of Reserves
. . . 131
Adjustments to Facilitate Open Market Operations
131
Conflicts of Function
133
A Unified Banking System
133
Stabilization Properly a Government Function 134
A Bond Secured Deposit Currency . . . 135
Gold Control
136
The Surplus Reservoir Plan
137
The Lehfeldt Plan
138
The "Compensated Dollar" Plan . . .
.138
Velocity Control
140
Confidence in Banks
141
Stimulating Borrowers and Buyers
. .
.142
T H E WORLD MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

Not Altogether New
The Present World Movement .
The American Legislative Movement
The Federal Reserve Efforts
The Goldsborough Bill of 1932 .
Opposition to the Goldsborough Bill
"What's in a Name?"
Our Dollar's Bad Record
War, a De-stabilizer
Can We Keep Capitalism?




.
.

.
.

.
.

.
.

143

143
. 145
. 147
148
.149
.150
151
152
155
156




APPENDICES
T o Part I

{Theoretical)

Appendix I
Approximate Chronology of the Nine Factors .

. 161

Appendix I I
Sorts of Data Available on the Nine Factors

.164

T o Part I I

•

{Factual)

Appendix I I I
Statistics of Debts leading to Degression of 1929—32
International Private Debts
Public Debts
American Farm Mortgages
Mortgages Other than Farm Mortgages
.
.
Corporate Long and Short Debts
.
.
.
.
Bank Loans and Discounts
Brokers' Loans
Total Debts
Appendix I V
Gold Base {and Gold Shortage)
Appendix V
Degression of 1929—32
Statistics of Currency Volume and Velocity •
(Factors 2 and 8)
Statistics of Price Levels
(Factor 3 )
Statistics of Net Worths and Failures
.
•
(Factor 4 )

xvii


168
168
168
171
173
174
176
181
183
186

189
.189
190
. 193

xviii

APPENDICES
Statistics of Profits and Incomes
198
(Factor 5)
Statistics of Production, Trade and Employment . 205
(Factor 6)
Statistics of Interest Rates
211
(Factor 9)

T o Part I I I (Remedial)
Appendix VI
Outline of a Complete StabiVvzation Program
Commission on Stabilization
Cooperation of Federal Reserve System .
Comments
Some Technical Details
Comments
Federal Reserve
Appendix VII
Other Plans for Reflation and Stabilization .
Making General Use of Acceptances
.
Subsidies to Producers
Subsidies to Retailers
Loans to Retailers' Customers . . •
The Stamped Money Plan
The Gold Truce Plan
Miscellaneous
On Silver and Gold
Shall We keep the Gold Standard? . .
Summary
Mr. Hoover's Relief Program
Appendix VIII
Selected Bibliography
Index



.
.

.
.

.

.

.212
212
.213
216
221
222
222
,225
.225
225
225
.226
226
230
232
233
.235
240
241
244
253

LIST OF TABLES
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

Corporation Net Profits of 500 Corporations . . 97
Estimated Total Debts in the United States
• .109
Private American Long Term Investments Abroad 168
Combined Federal State and Local Debts . .
.170
Public Debts of Britain
171
Farm Mortgages
.
.172
Corporate Domestic Security Issues, 1919-31 * - 1 7 5
Corporate Domestic Security Issues, Jan. and Feb.
1931—32
176
9 Loans, Investments and Total Deposits, All Banks in
the U. S
179
10 Loans and Deposits of All Member Banks . .
.180
11 Total Reported Security Loans . . . . .
.183
12 Gold Holdings of Central Banks and Governments 188
13 Indexes of Velocity of Bank Deposits . . * . 1 9 2
14 Percentages of Commercial Failures to the Total
Number of Business Concerns in the U. S. . . 196
15 Bank Suspensions—Number of Banks . . .
.196
16 Bank Suspensions—Deposits
197
17 Estimated Realized Income and Purchasing Power
in 1913 Dollars of the People of Continental U. S. 200
18 Index Numbers of Farm Prices Received by Commodities, and Retail Prices Paid by Farmers . . 203
19 Farmers' Gross Incomes, Expenditures, and Balance
Available for Capital, Labor and Management . 204
20 Indexes of Production, Employment and Payroll . 210



xix




LIST OF CHARTS
1
2
3
4

Comparison of Commodity and Stock Price Indexes
(1913-Feb. 1932)
88
Index of Industrial Common Stock Prices (1872Feb. 1932)
89
Index of Velocity of Bank Deposits (1919-Feb.
*932)
94
Loans and Deposits of All Member Banks (1915J

930

95

5 Some Business Indexes (1919-Jan. 1932)
99
6 Wholesale Commodity Price Index (1860-1931) - *53
7 Domestic Corporate Issues (1919-June 1931)
. 177
8 Security Loans (1928-Sept. 1931)
. . .
.182
9 Total Money in Circulation (1914-Jan. 1932) . 191
10 Stock Price Indexes (1913-1931)
194
11 Commodity Price Indexes (1913-1931) • - * 195
12 Interest Rates on Different Types of Loans (1913Feb. 1932)
208
13 Bond Price Indexes (1926-Feb. 1932) . . . 209
14 A "Wara" (Stamped Money) Note . . .
.231




yiri

PART ONE
THEORETICAL
CHAPTER
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.




INTRODUCTION
FIRST T H R E E OF N I N E M A I N FACTORS
REMAINING SIX M A I N FACTORS
STARTERS
"THE"

BUSINESS CYCLE?

O T H E R THEORIES




CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
WHAT IS A DEPRESSION?

A DEPRESSION is a condition in which business becomes unprofitable. It might well be called The Private Profits
disease. Its worst consequences are business failures and
wide-spread unemployment. But almost no one escapes a
degree of impoverishment. Some of the mightiest and best
managed enterprises, such as railroads, are .among the
worst sufferers. If they do not break, it is often only because they are saved by their reserves. Many rich stockholders, too, are compelled to live on reserves j while many
persons who had lived modestly are compelled to live
from hand to mouth 5 and many who already lived from
hand to mouth become jobless and live on charity, or die,
or become thieves. In a word, a depression is a form of
almost universal poverty, relative or absolute. And though
this poverty is transient for society as a whole, it is, for
countless individuals, tragically permanent.
T H E RECENT PICTURE

A great orator of New England has put it thus:
"A few months ago, the unparalleled prosperity of our country was the theme of universal gratulation. Such a development of resources, so rapid an augmentation of individual and
public wealth, so great a manifestation of the spirit of enterprise,



3

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
so strong and seemingly rational a confidence in the prospect of
unlimited success, were never known before. But how suddenly
has all this prosperity been arrested! That confidence, which in
modern times, and especially in our own country, is the basis of
commercial intercourse, is failing in every quarter; and all the
financial interests of the country seem to be convulsed and disorganized. The merchant, whose business is spread out over a
wide extent of territory, and who, regarding all his transactions
as conducted on safe principles, feared no embarrassment, finds
his paper evidences of debt, and acceptances and promises which
he has received in exchange for his goods, losing their value;
and his ability to meet his engagements is at an end . . . and
loss succeeds to loss, till he shuts up his manufactory and dismisses his laborers. The speculator who dreamed himself rich,
finds his fancied riches disappearing like an exhalation.
*

*

*

"Already, in many a huge fabric that but a few days since
resounded with the roar of enginery, all is silent as in a deserted city. Already many a great work of public improvement,
upon which multitudes were toiling to bring it to the speediest
completion, that commerce might rush upon its iron track with
wings of fire, is broken«off, and stands unfinished, like the work
of some great conqueror struck down amidst his victories. Already want, like an armed man, stands at the threshold of many
a dwelling, where a few days ago, daily industry brought the
supply of daily comforts.
*

*

*

W h a t more may be before us in the progress of God's judgments—what tumults—what convulsions—what bloody revolutions—we need not now imagine. It is enough to know that
this distress is hourly becoming wider and more intense; and
that no political or financial foresight can as yet discover the
end.




*

*

*

INTRODUCTION

5
"Amid these present calamities, and these portentous omens
of the future, it is not strange that many minds are seeking, and
all voices are debating, the cause and the remedy."
A truer picture of 1932 could scarcely be found. Yet
this speech was delivered 95 years earlier, on the 21st of
May, 1837, by the Reverend Leonard Bacon, from the
pulpit of Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut!

THE

M Y S T E R Y O F A DEPRESSION

Similar utterances have been made during other depressions, especially those of 1857, 1873, and 1893. And
yet, despite all these duplications of experience and despite the enormous mass of literature on depressions which
they have brought forth, a banker in 1931 could say:
"This depression is beyond me."
A depression seems, indeed, to fall upon mankind out
of a clear sky. It scorns to choose a moment when the
earth is impoverished. For, in times of depression, is the
soil less fertile? Not at all. Does it lack rain? Not at all.
Are the mines exhausted? N o ; they can perhaps pour out
even more than the old volume of ore, if anyone will buy.
Are the factories, then, lamed in some way—down at
heel? N o ; machinery and invention may be at the very
peak. But perhaps the men have suddenly become unable
or unwilling to work. The idea is belied by the spectacle
of hordes of workmen, besieging every available employment office.
Perhaps, then, the world has become over-populated.
But how could that happen in so short a time? When the
calamity starts there seems to be (at least in America)
enough of every good thing to go around; everybody



6

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

wants it, and nearly everybody wants it enough to work
for it j yet some cannot get it, and many who can get some
of it must be content with less.
There are those who ascribe this individual impoverishment to the very fact of collective wealth—not overpopulation, but "over-production"—too much food and too
much of all else.
Later in these pages there will be more about this. It is
enough here to note that those who, at the beginning of a
depression, cry "over-production" and expect recovery as
soon as over-production ceases usually become disillusioned
when later almost universal poverty appears. If, in 1932,
anyone thought there was still over-production, he should
follow his own argument all the way through as follows:
"How do I know there is over-production of goods? Because more goods are for sale than the public will buy.
And why, then, will the public not buy? Because they
haven't the money. Why haven't they the money? Because
they are not earning it. Why aren't they earning it? Because they are not producing: men and machines are idle!"
But if non-production is the trouble, why call it overproduction?
Perhaps the secret, then, is to be found in the machinery
of distribution. Between the producer and the consumer
there must be a chasm in need of a bridge. But no 5 at this
very moment, the Hudson River has a brand new bridge.
There are plenty of physical bridges, and the railroads
that cross them are in good condition. As for ships and shipcanals, they are as well equipped as ever, and as eager to
serve—only the shippers are few.
There is, however, another distributive mechanism
whose name is money. There is no more reason why this
money-mechanism should be proof against getting out of




INTRODUCTION

7
order than a railroad or a ship-canal. Moreover, profits
are measured in money. If money, by any chance, should
become deranged, is it not at least possible that it would
affect all frofits> in one wayy at one time?




CHAPTER II

FIRST THREE OF NINE MAIN FACTORS
OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

(The First Main Factor)
are tied in with the money mechanism. In fact,
what is called the "money market" is really the debt
market* Most kinds of pocket money, such as bank notes,
take the form of debts to the bearer. Bank checks, which
the depositor thinks of as representing his "money in the
bank," really represent a debt of the bank to the depositor,
and usually the depositor obtains his checking account by
going into debt to the bank.
Debts are essential to both production and distribution.
Even in "normal" times,—that is, in times of neither boom
nor depression,—practically every adult person is in debt,
if only for last week's groceries. The primitive notion
which associates debt with the pawn-shop, and regards the
debtor as a victim of misfortune is, of course, quite erroneous, especially in this modern world. The really typical
debtors of today are the alert business men and corporations. Every business balance sheet has its "liabilities."
Yet for individuals, for corporations and for society as a
whole, debts have differences of degree. In each case debts
may be too much or too little. The golden mean or point
of equilibrium is a matter of balancing opposed considerations. Each person decides for himself how far it is well to
go into debt, or how long it is well to stay in debt, just as
he decides how far it is well to save or to spend, or how

DEBTS




8

FIRST THREE FACTORS

9

much of his income it is well to apportion to clothes and
how much to food. As in other economic adjustments, so in
the adjustment of debts, the individual stops "at the
margin" where, in his judgment, the desirability of a
further expansion of his debts is balanced by the undesirability of further sacrifices and risks. In each case, the point
of equilibrium is where opposed considerations balance.
Where do they balance?
Chance is inseparable from life. Every transaction is a
taking of chances, and over-indebtedness is whatever degree of indebtedness multiplies unduly the chances of becoming insolvent. Everyone who is not a gambler, provides himself with a margin of safety. He puts a buffer
between his debts and the collector. This buffer is the difference between assets and liabilities. Corporations call it
"capital and surplus." But the sufficiency of the buffer is
not solely a matter of quantity. It must be varied according
to the quality of the assets. It must also be varied according
to the quality of the liabilities. Slow assets and quick liabilities (such as call loans) require a larger buffer than
quick assets and slow liabilities. The quickest asset, and
therefore the safest when pressure comes, is cash. The
quickest liability, and therefore the most unsafe in times
of pressure, is the call-loan. Over-indebtedness is largely a
question of dates of maturity. The entire set-up of assets
and liabilities, therefore, has to be considered,—and not
only the ratio between the two sides of the capital account,
and between current assets and current liabilities, but the
ratio between the two sides of the income account; the
ratio between the income and the assets, between the income and the debts, between the income and the balancing
item of capital and surplus. A balance sheet is the result of
anxious efforts to weigh correctly these and many other considerations.



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
CRITERIA OF OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

Banks, in extending credit to different sorts of borrowers,
have to consider questions of liquidity and of safe margins
on collateral. Credit men, accountants, lenders on real
estate, brokers, governments and legislators, all have some
sort of standards of over-indebtedness. The standards are
somewhat rough. The line of balance is more or less a
twilight zone; but an entire book could be written about
the history and the current practice of stopping the debts
at a point which is neither too rash nor too conservative.
Can a more definite criterion be devised for the community than the individual? In any event, such guides will
have to be considered as the ratio between the nation's
income and certain fixed expenses, like taxes, rent, and
interest; the ratio between the income and the accumulated
volume of outstanding debts; the ratio between debts and
the gold on which the banks (in a gold standard country)
base their loans. As low income endangers the debtors, low
gold endangers the creditor banks, which then begin to
press the debtors. On these last two criteria—national
income and national gold reserve—some interesting remarks have been made by Mr. Warren F. Hickernell.1
He concludes that, at a given moment, the outstanding
total of bank loans and investments should not exceed one
half of the country's income for one year; and that the
country's gold should always be at least equal to 9 per cent
of the outstanding bank loans and investments. The overstepping of either of these limits, Mr. Hickernell regards
as jeopardizing the solvency of an undue proportion of the
community.
This national gold buffer is exposed to one adverse
%
What Makes Stock Market
Harper & Bros., 1932.




Prices? by Warren F. Hickernell,

FIRST THREE FACTORS
chance seldom considered by either lender or borrower—
the chance of the mal-distribution of gold internationally.
Such mal-distribution may be caused by a one-sided condition of international indebtedness, both public and
private, and by tariffs which prevent international payment in goods and compel payment in gold. If these or
other causes should drain a country of too much of its
gold, the banks of that country would begin to cancel
loans, including some which looked conservative enough
when made. Thus, what was not over-indebtedness may be
transformed into over-indebtedness by depriving the
creditor banks of sufficient gold or sufficient access to it.
Thus an unexpected rise in the tariff of one country, say
the United States, renders unsafe a volume of indebtedness to that country from another country, say Germany,
which without that rise would be safe, simply because the
creditor has made it hard for the debtor to pay.
Over-indebtedness means simply that debts are out-ofline, too big relatively to other economic factors. If the
debts are out-of-line relatively to only a few unimportant
factors, little harm may result. The great disturbances
come when the debts are decidedly out-of-line with practically everything—including assets, income, gold and liquidities (i. e., quickness or slowness of assets and liabilities.)
THE DEBT CYCLE

What, now, are the consequences of a mistake of judgment on the part of debtor or creditor or both? First, consider the individual debtor. If he has not borrowed enough,
he can, under normal conditions, easily correct the error
by borrowing more. But, if he has gone too far into debt,
—especially if he has misjudged as to maturity dates—
freedom of adjustment may no longer be possible. He may



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
find himself caught as in a trap. If he cannot pay his debt
when it comes due, he will try to put off the evil day.
Governments and corporations accomplish this by refunding their maturing and short term obligations. But this is
not always possible and if insolvency threatens the debtor,
the creditor often makes matters all the harder by pressing
for payment.
Ultimately, of course, the over-indebtedness, whether of
one individual or of a whole community, will be wiped out,
with or without business failures. But sometimes the
liquidation, or the psychology accompanying it, does more
than restore a normal debt situation. Those debtors who
have burned their fingers by over-indebtedness, and those
creditors who have burned theirs by over-lending—especially if the two groups comprise most of the community—
become over-cautious, and end in an undue reaction against
borrowing. Then the pendulum may gradually swing back,
caution may again be thrown to the winds, and overindebtedness again prevail. The pendulum may even swing
back beyond the point of equilibrium, where people will
again go too far into debt, but presumably not so much too
far as the first time. This swinging back and forth may go
on indefinitely, constituting a debt cycle j but, unless some
outside force intervenes, each successive swing of the pendulum will have less scope than the last.
NINE MAIN FACTORS

This, however, is not the whole story of the expansion
and contraction of debts. If it were, no one would think
of devoting a whole book to it. But it happens that the
cycle tendency of debts is the initiating one of at least nine
main cycle tendencies which carry in their vitals much of
the tragedy of economic life. The nine are listed here, and



FIRST THREE FACTORS

13

each will be discussed on its downswing to Depression,
before the upswing of any of them is considered 5 for the
first task is to see how the debt-structure, once erected, may
topple into the trough of depression and take us with it.
Following are the nine oscillating factors to which reference has just been made:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

The Debt Factor
The Currency-Volume Factor
The Price-Level Factor
The Net-Worth Factor
The Profit Factor
The Production Factor
The Psychological Factor
The Currency-Turnover Factor
Rates of Interest

The depression tendencies of the first three of these
factors (Debts, Currency, and Price-Level) are closely
locked together, and the key that locks them is distressselling.
DISTRESS SELLING

When over-indebtedness, whether by sheer bulk or by
rashness as to maturity dates, is discovered and attempts
are made to correct it, distress selling is likely to arise.
That is, in order to protect the creditors, some of the possessions of the debtor may have to be sold—his stocks, his
bonds, his farmlands, or whatever his available assets may
be. The debtor may choose, on his own responsibility, to
facilitate liquidation by selling some of his property, even
though he never pledged any of it for the debt} or his
bank or his broker may cash in on the debtor's collateral;
or the mortgagee may foreclose the mortgage; or the



14

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

debtor may go into bankruptcy, and the trustee in bankruptcy may then auction off his assets. In short, the debtor
becomes the victim of distress selling either on his own
initiative or on the initiative of his creditors.
Distress selling perverts the operation of the law of
supply and demand. Normally, sales are made because
supply-and-demand has worked out a price attractive to the
seller j but when the seller is in distress, the sale is made
for precisely the opposite reason 5 not the attraction of
a high price, but the compulsion of a low price, which
threatens his solvency. The danger or the fact of insolvency is the all-important consideration in distress selling.
When a whole community is involved in distress selling,
the effect is to lower the general price level.

VOLUME OF CURRENCY

(The Second Main Factor)
This excessive eagerness on the selling side of a market
may seem enough to explain how distress selling tends to
lower the price level j but it is not the fundamental influence. In fact, the buyer largely gains the spending power
which the seller loses, and spending power is what sustains
prices. But the stampede liquidation involved in distress
selling has a radical effect on the price level, by actually
shrinking the volume of the currency—that is, of "deposit
currency."
Deposits are the balances on the stubs of check books—
the "money" which people have in banks and which they
transfer by check, A typical depositor deposits neither gold
nor silver nor any other money but merely his promissory
note. What he thus accomplishes is to trade his debt to the
bank for a debt from the bank to himself 3 the object being



FIRST THREE FACTORS
that he may get something which will circulate. His own
note will not circulate, but the bank's deposit-liability to
him will. Against this, he can draw checks which, in his
own business circle, will be accepted almost as freely as
legal-tender money. In short, he converts his own noncirculating credit into the bank's circulating credit. New
"money" is thereby created, not by the mint nor the Bureau
of Engraving, but merely by the pen and ink of the banker
and his customer. But when the customer fays his note, he
undoes the whole transaction j that is, he wipes out an
equal amount of circulating credit. In this respect, the payment of a business debt owing to a commercial bank involves consequences different from those involved in the
payment of a debt owing from one individual to another.
A man-to-man debt may be paid without affecting the
volume of outstanding currency j for whatever currency is
paid by one, whether it be legal tender or deposit currency
transferred by check, is received by the other, and is still
outstanding. But when a debt to a commercial bank is paid
by check out of a defosit balancey that amount of deposit
currency simply disappears.
Thus to pay a debt at the bank tends to contract the
circulating medium. But this tendency is, in normal times,
neutralized by a counter-tendency. For generally, as fast as
some bank debtors pay off their debts, the extinguished
currency is replaced by new depositors who obtain new
credits. When, however, by reason of a general state of
owr-indebtedness, there is a stampede of liquidation, then
the new borrowings will by no means suffice to restore the
balance, and there must follow a net shrinkage of deposits,
or "credit currency."
In this process of contracting credit currency, commercial
bank debts are the only kind of debts directly involved.
Yet other debts may aggravate the process of contraction.



16

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

A man may owe very little to his bank, and yet owe so
much in other directions that, in order to reduce the total,
he will choose to pay off his bank debt* Or a debtor, without any bank debt at all but owing money abroad, may
have a deposit in a bank—say, a thousand dollars—and
withdraw it in gold to pay some of his foreign debts. When
he does this, he deprives the bank of the lawful right to
issue credit currency to an amount far in excess of the
thousand dollars thus withdrawn.
This sort of contraction by means of cash drawn from
banks may be on a large scale, especially if the debtor is
a bank or a savings bank, which, in order to replenish its
own cash—gold, silver, or paper—so as to meet a run by its
depositors, may draw on other banks. Even public debts
—debts of city, state or nation—may have a contracting
effect on deposit currency, through the pressure of taxes
upon citizens already in debt. This pressure, to be sure,
is spread over so many people that its effect is light in
proportion to the huge size of the public debts, but the
pressure is always there, and often reveals itself, not only
in the ways mentioned but in tax-sales with all the usual
effects of distress selling.
Credit currency is recorded in the statistics of the Comptroller's Office, under the heading, "Individual deposits
subject to check without notice." Its shrinkage is of vast
importance j for, in the United States at least, credit currency is the most important kind of Twentieth Century
currency. It transacts nine-tenths of the country's business,
and, when it is deflated, the general price level tends to
fall, because, with less funds less buying can be accomplished.2
2
This is in accordance with well known principles. See, for instance,
The Purchasing Power of Money > by Irving Fisher (Macmillan, New
York, 1931).




FIRST THREE FACTORS
THE PRICE LEVEL

(The Third Main Factor)
Thus, the volume of the most important circulating
medium is tied to the volume of debts, especially debts at
the banks, one of the most important kinds 3 so that a
sudden disturbance of this debt-volume is passed on to the
currency-volume and consequently passed on to the general
price level 5 for, as all authorities agree, an increase in the
volume of currency tends, in some degree at least, to raise
the price level and a decrease, to lower it. What we now
have to consider is the way in which a changed price level
changes the burdensomeness of all outstanding debts—in
a word, changes real debts, as distinguished from nominal
or money debts.
"REAL" DEBTS

There are few people today who do not grasp the difference between nominal or money wages, on the one
hand, and "real" wages, on the other. Let money wages
remain unchanged, and we all acknowledge that, if the cost
of living rises, real wages fall 5 or, if the cost of living falls,
real wages rise. We know that money wages may rise and
yet real wages fall, as in the case of Germany's post-war
inflation. For real wages are the budget of goods—the
composite of commodities—the "living"—which the money
wages will buy. Only by translating money wages into
real wages can we express the true economic state of the
nation.
This same principle applies to debts. Though a debt be
paid with the same number of money dollars, yet these
dollars, when prices are falling, will cost the debtor more
goods. To earn them, he must sell more goods. In other



18

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

words, when the price level falls, each dollar, to all intents
and purposes, is a bigger dollar.
For instance, suppose a farmer contracts a debt when
wheat is $1.00 a bushel, and pays it when wheat is 50 cents
a bushel. Obviously, to him the dollar has doubled in
terms of wheat 3 he must use twice as much wheat to pay
each dollar of his debt. That is, when the price of wheat
is halved, the farmer's real debt is doubled. Likewise, if
the general price level is halved, the real debt of the
average man is doubled.
And this is but half of the debtor's predicament 5 for
first, he gets fewer of these bigger dollars for his goods
(while owing the same number of them on his debts) 5 and
second, his security is worth fewer of these bigger dollars
in the market, and therefore worth less in the eyes of his
creditor. The creditor is unaware of receiving more than he
is properly entitled to, and the debtor is unaware of paying more than he properly owes. One gains and the other
suffers—but both suffer from what is about to be discussed
as the Money Illusion.
THE MONEY ILLUSION

Few people look at money for their explanations, because
most people simply look through money, think in terms of
money, take money for granted, assume that a dollar is
always a dollar. Since we measure everything else in dollars, it does not readily occur to us to measure the dollar
itself. Few people realize, for instance, that the depression
dollar of 1932, as compared with the pre-depression dollar
of 1929, became really a dollar and two thirds; and still
fewer realize the tremendous significance of this fact. Yet
its significance is all the greater just because it is not
clearly realized.



FIRST T H R E E FACTORS
T h e real meaning of a unit of money is the goods which
that unit will buy. Instead of measuring goods by dollars,
the economist is accustomed to measure dollars by goods—
not by any one article of goods such as bread, but by the
general budget of goods such as food-stuffs, clothing and
cloth, furniture and houses, building materials, services,
amusements and so on. When the price of bread alone
changes, this is presumably due to some change in the
quantity or quality of wheat, and not to any change in the
dollar. But when a thousand other prices change at the
same time, and all change in the same direction, or all
change on the average in the same direction, we are, in
general, justified in saying that the dollar has changed in
the offosite direction.
Nevertheless, the Money Illusion 3 goes on telling us
that the dollar stands still while other things move. This
Money Illusion is analogous to the illusion of a passenger
on a train who seems to see the landscape rushing past him.
It is analogous to the illusion of sun-rise and sun-set, which
makes the earth appear fixed with the sun swinging 'round
it once a day. So when prices change, we forget the money
on which we ride and ascribe the change to something outside—the goods, the merchant, the consumer, the producer,
the fertility of the earth—anything at all except the money
in terms of which we think.
German money, after the World War, furnished a good
example. W e in America, measuring everything in dollars,
said the mark had fallen. But Germans, measuring everything in marks, said the dollar had risen. In 1922,1 visited
Germany and took particular pains to learn from many
representative citizens how they accounted for the skyrocketing of German prices. Practically all ascribed it to
3
See The Money Illusion by Irving Fisher. (The Adelphi Company,
New York, 1928.)




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
some misbehavior on the part of commodities, or to the
after-effects of the war, or to the Allied blockade, or to the
wastefulness of the new German government, or to almost
any cause but the important one; which was, of course,
that the German government was paying its debts and
other expenses with new paper money manufactured for
the purpose.
Yet Germans are no more prone to the money illusion
than others. Over a generation ago, when England was
on the gold standard and India on the silver standard,
General Keating, in conversation with an Indian merchant,
mentioned the then recent fall in the value of the silver
rupee. The Indian merchant was non-plused. He said that
he had never heard of any fall of the rupee, although he
had agents all over India. After a pause, he added, "But
my agents have mentioned the rise of the pound sterling.
Perhaps that is what you are thinking of."
Sometimes both observers (even if one be an American)
are equally deluded. Before the World War, an American
woman owed money on a mortgage in Germany. After the
war, she went to the German bank and offered the amount
which she conceived to be due—$7,000. "But," said the
banker, "The debt is in marks, not dollars—it is 28,000
marks; and today that comes to about $250."
"Oh!" she said, "I am not going to take advantage of
the fall of the mark. I will pay the full $7,000." The
banker, thinking in terms of marks, could not see the point.
Indeed, the fair-minded American lady only half saw it,
and "cheated" her creditor after all; for even American
money was worth less than when the debt had been contracted. To pay the full amount in terms not of marks, or
dollars, but in terms of the purchasing power which she had
borrowed, the lady should have paid not $7,000 but
$12,000. Yet, had the German banker known this and sug


FIRST T H R E E FACTORS
gested it, the lady's indignation at such an "unfair" suggestion would doubtless have exceeded the banker's astonishment at receiving 28 times as much as he thought was
due.
GOLD AND CREDIT

When it comes to gold money, we are even more apt to
be deceived. The reverence for gold, as if it were something ultimately stable, is a form of ancestor worship.
Money was invented by primitive man, unconsciously j and
modern man has taken it for granted ever since. A certain
amount of evolution has been at work upon money, but
very little conscious invention. The first great step in its
evolution was the unconscious trying-out of one substance
after another—oxen, wampum, silver, gold. Gold finally
prevailed, not for any stability of purchasing power, but
for sheer physical convenience. Stability was scarcely
thought of, until something* else came on the scene to
afford a means of comparison. That something was paper
money. Gold is not so easily inflated as paper j but gold
is by no means stable. It comes out of mines, subject to
the will of mine-owners and to the accident of discovery j
and if a dozen new gold mines should open at one stroke,
the influx of gold would tend to depreciate the purchasing power of each individual gold dollar and of every
paper dollar redeemable in gold. And this very thing has
sometimes happened—with serious effects on the price level.
Moreover, and conversely, gold has now become dependent on paper money and checks. When modern man
invented the check system, he did not dream that deposits
subject to check would come to be regarded as money. But
to all intents and purposes they are money, and they
largely determine the purchasing power of gold. A gold
dollar and a dollar-check and a paper dollar, so long as



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
they are mutually exchangeable, must all have equal purchasing power; but that power depends upon the influence
of all, not of gold alone j and the checks, or deposits,
furnish so much the greater volume that their total effect
on the purchasing power of gold, though few people except economists realize this important fact, is incomparably greater than the effect of the gold on the checks.
And, by the same token, disturbances of deposit currency
disturb the price level far more than do the very considerable disturbances of the gold supply.
The price level aberrations hitherto mentioned were all
cases of inflation. But deflation, which furnishes the principal key to a depression, is equally stealthy j and the Americans of 1932 who talked of low prices instead of swollen
dollars were just as befuddled as the Germans of 1922 who
talked of high prices instead of shrunken marks. It is time
that we knew how to detect the dollar when it indulges
in either of its stealthy monoeuvers—whether shrinking or
swelling.
THE INDEX NUMBER

There is now available a statistical measure which ought
to go far toward dispelling the money illusion. This
measure is the "index number" of prices. Its function is
to measure the average percentage change in prices; that
is, the change in the general price level) or general scale of
prices.*
4

There are, of course, many sorts of index numbers differing in the
method of averaging- (whether arithmetic, geometric, aggregative,
weighted or simple), in the field covered (whether stock prices, or commodity and, if the latter, whether wholesale, retail, general), and in the
assortment of samples representing that field (whether ioo commodities
or 500, whether largely food and farm products or n o t ) . The best developed index number is that of the United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics for wholesale prices, using 784 commodities weighted in proportion to their importance in trade, the averaging being done by the



FIRST THREE FACTORS

23

Such act of measuring should bring home to us the
difference between the scale of prices and an individual
price. The scale of prices (or the general price level) is
analogous to the scale of a drawing or a statue. To say that,
in a certain statue of Abraham Lincoln, the right leg is too
long is to say that it is too long relatively to the other leg,
or to the arms, or body, and is quite different from saying
that the scale of the statue as a whole is more than life
size 5 and there is the same distinction between saying the
price of wheat is high relatively to other commodities and
saying that there is a high general price level, or scale of
prices. The Law of Supply and Demand regulates prices
relatively to one another; but money is the medium in
which Supply-and-Demand registers; and if the whole
scale of prices moves, it is usually because this registering
medium has moved.
Or we may think of money as a changeable lens, through
which price-changes are seen. Prices may all change en
masse at the same time that they are changing relatively
to one another. The money lens magnifies all prices without
interfering with the action of supply and demand on any
price. What the index number has done, therefore, is to
show up (to an unfortunately limited number of observers)
the difference between a mass movement of prices and the
individual price movements.
Changes in the price level and changes in the dollar are
reciprocal. For instance, if a new price level (or scale) is
double the old price level (or scale), the new dollar is
half the old dollar—or has lost 50 per cent of its purchasing power. This scale-principle was never better illustrated
than in German hotels during the period of the greatest
aggregative method. For discussion of these differences and especially of
the formula problem, see The Making of Index Numbers, by Irving
Fisher, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1927.



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
post-war inflation. A so-called "multiplicator" was supplied
by the hotel j and, by means of it, each guest could translate 5 the printed prices on his bill of fare. H e found the
price of his dinner listed as, say, "6 marks," and the price
of his room as "9 marks"; but, before he paid his bill,
these figures had to be multiplied by the "multiplicator."
This was a factor, or index, representing the price level,
or scale of prices, and varied from day to day, going up as
the mark went down. It had nothing to do with the real
price of the dinner, either in terms of labor, or relatively
to the price of the room. Whether the multiplicator was
100,000 or 1,000,000 made no difference to these relations, but only changed the dinner and room from 600,000
and 900,000 to 6,000,000 and 9,000,000. The multiplicator, or index, saved the trouble of too frequently reprinting the price lists when the price level was changing so
fast.
The almost universal failure to distinguish between a
price and a price level, or scale of prices, is responsible for
untold confusion of mind on the subject of this book. This
confusion is characteristic of most speeches and writings
on economics, including the pronouncements of editors,
officials, business men, and bankers, and even of some who
bear the title of economists but who have not, for some
reason, separated supply and demand on the one hand
from the "equation of exchange" on the other. 6 The concept of a price level, its measurement by an index number, and its reciprocal, the purchasing power of the dollar,
are pre-requisites for understanding what happened in
1932.
B
See The Money Illuston) by Irving Fisher (The Adelphi Co., 1928),
pp. 48-9.
6
See The Purc/tasing Power of Money, by Irving Fisher, (Macmillan,
1931).




FIRST THREE FACTORS
THE VICIOUS SPIRAL DOWNWARD

W e are now in a position to explain the statement that
a disturbance of the price level—or (as we may now express it) the alteration of "the real dollar"—reacts on the
debt situation which first caused the alteration. When a
whole community is in a state of over-indebtedness, the
dollar reacts in such a way that the very act of liquidation may sometimes enlarge the real debts instead of reducing them! Nominally, of course, any liquidation must
reduce debts, but really (by swelling the worth of every
dollar in the country) it may swell the unpaid balance of
every debt in the country, because the dollar which has
to be paid may increase in size faster than the number of
dollars in the debt decreases. And when this process starts,
it may go on and on, much after the fashion of a vicious
circle. First, mass payment by the weaker debtors swells
the whole community's dollar, and so weakens the financial
position of stronger debtorsj whereupon, many of these
rush to liquidate too, thus further swelling the dollar,
till it weakens the position of still stronger debtors; whereupon many of these in turn rush to liquidate, thus further
swelling the dollar and weakening still other debtors—and
so on in a vicious circle j or, rather, in a vicious spiral
downward—a tail spin—into the trough of depression,
TWO PARADOXES

After the weak, or rash, or improvident debtors (or
their creditors) have started the vicious spiral, we can
scarcely blame the others individually for going on with
it, through further liquidations, even though every liquidation makes bad matters worse—accelerating the tail spin.
For, granting that mass liquidation has once started, each



26

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

individual who does not join in will come off still worse.
For, even if he stays out, his ten thousand neighbors will
liquidate just the same, and thereby swell his dollar—
and thereby swell his whole debt instead of fart of it.
The same principles apply to creditor banks. When a
bank calls a loan, it helps deflate the credit currency j but
other banks, equally scared, would deflate it anyhow; and
if one bank stayed out, its debtors would go insolvent before they could be dunned. In a word, the banks, too, are
forced into cut-throat competition for cash or "liquidity."
THE MAIN SECRET

When over-indebtedness thus goes so far that the resulting mass liquidation defeats itself, we have the paradox which, as I think, explains the so-called mystery of
depressions—at least of many depressions. It is more than
the fact that the dollar, when thus expanded, adds to the
burden of every debtor. It is rather that this expanding dollar may (and sometimes does) not only grow, but grow
faster than the reduction of the number of dollars of debt.
When this happens, liquidation doesn't really liquidate,
so that the depression goes right on—until there are sufficient bankruptcies to wipe out the activating cause—
the debts.
SUMMARY

We have now mentioned, on their depression side, the
cycle-tendencies of three of our eight economic factors,
i. Debts (their liquidation)
2. Volume of Currency (its contraction)
3. The Dollar (its swelling—usually considered in terms
of a shrinking scale of prices).
Of these three depression tendencies, the second (cur


FIRST THREE FACTORS

27

rency contraction) is important only as a connective process between the other two—which two should be called
The Debt Disease (too much debt)
The Dollar Disease (a swelling dollar)
That the dollar disease—falling prices—is the main
secret of great depressions is confirmed by the observations
of Professor Wesley Clair Mitchell and Dr. Thorp to the
effect that depressions last three or four times as long
when prices are falling and are very short when, by some
good fortune, an up-tide of prices intervenes.
THE DOLLAR DISEASE IS NEEDLESS

But the mere fact that the debt disease may lead to the
dollar disease does not prove that it must do so. The dollar disease will be unavoidable only "if other things remain equal." Should other elements in the body of the
currency not remain equal—should gold coin, for instance,
become copious in the nick of time—this gold inflation
might counteract the credit ^flation. Prices might even go
up instead of downj that is, the dollar might dwindle
instead of swell. And the same result might come from
paper inflation—for instance, by way of financing a war.
And it should be equally clear that deflation, or dollar
bulging, is not an "Act of God" with a special mandate to
baffle the human race. We need not wait for a happy accident to neutralize deflation. We ourselves may frustrate
it by design. Man has, or should have, control of his own
currency.
Such a control, so exercised as to neutralize the influences which tend to swell the dollar, would, of course,
not avert from any rash initial debtor the measured consequences of his own rashness j but his punishment would
be due to the nature of his separate debt and would, there


28

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

fore, be chiefly confined to himself and perhaps a small
circle of associates. The rest of the community would not
suffer from any vagaries of the universal dollar. And even
the rash debtor has a right to pay his debt in the same
dollar in which he contracted it. It is manifestly unfair to
require even a rash debtor to pay $1.50 or $2.00 for
every dollar he really owes. The principle of simple
justice implied in the term "real wages" is no more applicable to wage earners than it is to debtors.
In a word, if we must suffer from the debt disease, why
also catch the dollar disease? If we catch cold, why let it
lead to pneumonia?




CHAPTER III

REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
NET WORTH

(The Fourth Main Factor)
BUT, assuming for the present, that neither accident nor
human currency-control has forestalled the Dollar Disease,
let us trace its further consequences through the series of
economic factors, of which we have thus far discussed but
three:
i. Debts—their liquidation
2. Currency—its contraction
3. The Dollar—its swelling (usually considered in
terms of a falling price level).
The fourth factor is Net Worth.
The fall of prices reduces the money value of a business man's assets (except cash and debts due from others),
while his liabilities, being debts, remain "fixed." Therefore his net worth, which is the excess of assets over
liabilities, must shrink. Indeed, it will shrink faster than
the assets do, because net worth is smaller than the assets,
and yet takes the entire loss. Net worth is squeezed between the upper and the nether millstone j and often it
passes below the zero mark, pushing the owner into business failure.
PROFITS

(The Fifth Main Factor)
Profits are, in the same way, squeezed between an upper
and a nether millstone. Profits are the spread between the



29

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
receipts which fall when prices fall and the expenses which
are, if not quite fixed, at any rate less responsive to the
assault of deflation than prices are. These relatively unyielding expenses in the profit account include interest,
taxes, rent, salaries, and to a less extent wages. The more
unyielding the expenses the worse they pinch.1 In this way,
profits are reduced,2 and often turned into losses—just
as net worth is reduced and sometimes turned into failure
and bankruptcy.
A depression might be defined as the contraction of net
worths and profits.
So our list lengthens to:
1. Debt Liquidation
2. Currency Contraction
3. Dollar Swelling
4. Net Worth Reduction (turned sometimes to failure)
5. Profit Reduction (turned sometimes to losses)
But, once more, it should be noted that the drop, both
in net worths and in profits, will be largely forestalled if
the drop in the price level is forestalled.
PRODUCTION, TRADE, EMPLOYMENT

(The Sixth Main Factor)
In a capitalistic, or private profit, system, it is the profit
taker who usually makes the decision as to the rate at
which his enterprise is to be run. Therefore, variations in
1
It follows that the pinch is especially felt by modern business because of its greater proportion of overhead and fixed expenses. If, as
seems likely, business organization continues its tendency toward more
fixed charges and less running expenses, its profits will be more and
more sensitive to changes in the price level.
2
This effect may be mitigated or escaped when through inventions,
technological improvements and improved scientific management, expenses are greatly reduced.




REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
profits, or in the expectation of profits, lead the business
man to vary correspondingly the general policy of his
enterprise.
When his profits are squeezed too thin for comfort,
naturally he will cut his production and release some of
his employees, so that the community's general out-put,
trade and employment, will take a slump.
That is, current out-put varies with current profits.
Thus, currency contraction reduces out-put by reducing
prices and so reducing profits.
There is a special category of production, namely construction—or the production of new equipment, such as
buildings and machinery, intended to increase the capacity
for current out-put. Construction is much more sensitive
to changes in profits than is ordinary production or current
out-put. Construction increases fastest with the approach of
a peak load, or a strain upon existing equipment. And it
is not much more sudden in starting than it is in stopping.
Right amid the new-equipment fever, at almost the first
sign or forecast of impending trouble, new construction may
abruptly fall. It falls earlier and faster than current output ; and it produces a greater reaction in employment. In
fact, construction affects the slump in profits, employment
and so on, like an amplifier.
The derangement of this group of factors (production,
trade, and employment) covers the most obvious and commonly recognized symptoms of a business depression. In
fact, it is often called a depression of trade.
Again our list grows:
i. Liquidation
2. Currency Contraction
3. Dollar Growth
4. Net Worth Reduction
5. Profit Reduction



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
6. Reduced Production (especially o£ equipment) along
with reduced Trade, and reduced Employment.
But once more be it noted: if something will only forestall the price deflation (the Dollar Disease), thus largely
forestalling the reduction of Net-worths and of Profits,
then the slump in Production, Trade and Employment will
also, to a large extent, be forestalled.
In passing it may be noted that currency contraction
also reduces the demand for goods by reducing purchasing power-ythus demand and supply shrink together. That
is, currency-contraction not only acts indirectly on production and trade through the above series of six steps but
also acts directly by reducing the wherewithal for buying
goods. This effect (of Factor 2 on Factor 6) would be felt
even if there were no fall of prices; in fact, it would be
greater. Also unemployment means reduced purchasing
power.
OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM

(The Seventh Main Factor)
All of the down movements thus far mentioned—especially the down movements of Net-worth, Profits, and
Employment—have psychological effects. Already we have
seen that shrinking net-worth leads to distress selling. But
distress selling implies distress. A conscientious business
man, caught too deeply in debt and forced into bankruptcy, may become despondent, even to the point of
suicide. Distress also occurs when profits merely decline,
though there may still be hope for a better future.
Yet those who reckon their net-worths and their profits
are a very small class compared with those whose employment is affected by a depression; and to be employed or
unemployed is, to the employee class, a question almost



REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
of life or death. Therefore, a depression affects the moods
of that class with especial force.
There are, of course, some persons whose incomes run
opposite to the general trend. That is, certain bondholders
and salaried folk have fixed and safe money incomes j and
whenever prices fall, these incomes will buy more. In
terms of real income, their fortunes have actually improved. But even most of these people share the general
fears. In fact, they are the very type most accustomed to
play safe and are, therefore, the most easily alarmed by
general conditions. They begin to wonder if their incomes
are safe after all. Indeed, they see some of their own class
either out of employment or ruined by the ruin of the
enterprises on which they had depended for their supposedly safe incomes. In a word, pessimism, in a depression, becomes practically universal.
Nor is this psychological movement only emotional.
Partly it is intellectual as wellj for it involves illusion and
misjudgment. During depressions, the sober judgment of
many people gives way to over-estimates of the degree
and permanence of "hard times." And, as our estimates
are largely guesses—guesses as to what other people will
do or think, and as to what and how much they will buy
or sell—there enters the element of mass psychology.
Everybody's opinion is largely guided by the opinion of
everybody elsej even the people with the coolest heads
will at least "fear the fears of other men" and contribute
to the panic of which such fears are a part.
Our list now is:
1. Liquidation
2. Currency-Contraction
3. Dollar Growth
4. Reduced Net-Worth
5. Reduced Profits



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
6. Reduced Production
7. Increased Pessimism and loss of confidence.
But here again, if (by the checkmating of deflation)
the failures and the unemployment be forestalled, pessimism and loss of confidence will also be forestalled.
THE VELOCITY OF CIRCULATION

(The Eighth Main Factor)
Hitherto, under the head of deflation, we have considered only the contraction of currency (meaning deposit
currency). But now we come to the slowing of currency
through pessimism. For, while distress liquidation is contracting deposit currency, the loss of confidence that accompanies the distress slows down all currency, bank
deposits included j for scared people hold on to their money
(of all kinds) a little longer—they spend it a little more
slowly.
And here again, all kinds of debts (including public
debts through the pressure of taxes) have their effect in
slowing the turnover of currency, because all kinds of
debtors (including taxpayers) are especially subject to
caution and fear. Even buyers at distress-sales, who gain
the buying power that the sellers lose, will be cautious and
postpone their buying and hold on to their money a little
longer.
It takes contraction and slow turnover together to make
up the full dose of deflation. Suppose, for instance, that
the currency, besides being contracted 50 per cent is slowed
another 50. This means that there is only half the currency moving half as fast. Therefore, the currency as a
whole will do only a quarter of its former work. Either
Prices must drop three-quarters, or Trade must contract
three-quarters, or else both Trade and Prices must drop in



REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
some degree. And this combination effect is what usually
happens.
No one incident unites both contraction and slowing so
effectively as a stock market crash. A stock market crash
wipes out great masses of credit currency with unusual
suddenness j and, at the same time, it so stirs the cautious
side of human nature that men hang on harder than ever
to their available money of every remaining sort. In combination, these two sequels of a stock market crash (contraction and slowing of currency) constitute a dose of
deflation almost as good (or as bad) as a bonfire of a large
part of the nation's cash. A stock market crash is evil
enough in itself; but it is not confined to itself. Through its
double effect on the currency in which commodity prices
are registered, it sets commodity prices sinking in sympathy with the stock prices—more slowly but also more
injuriously to the foundations of the economic structure.
And at last, something like a panic develops in the commodity market.
HOARDING, A SLOWING OF VELOCITY

Hoarding is a slowing of currency turnover of the extremest kind. It is the supreme manifestation of popular
moods in a depression. Housewives and their breadwinners then become distrustful of everything except
money. Bills and coins are confided to stockings or mattresses, or are put underground, or (in a larger way)
stored in safety deposit vaults. Credit deposits may be
hoarded too. In such banks as are considered safe, large
credit deposits will be kept, but kept idle. Checking accounts, based on cash deposits, will often be changed into
time deposits, bearing more interest than checking accounts. Finally, if there be any reason to fear for the



36

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

solvency of a bank, it will be subjected to a "run"; and
the money, after it is withdrawn, will be hoarded at home.
It should be clear that hoarding, once introduced, becomes a tremendous factor in the vicious spiral, and can
continue it with or without over-indebtedness. Hoarding
lowers the price level. The lowered price level hurts business (debts or no debts) ; hurt business increases fear, and
the fear increases the hoarding.
THE TWO PARADOXES AGAIN—APPLIED TO HOARDING

We have seen, with respect to the contraction of the
currency by mass liquidation, how debtors and their
creditor-banks, by making, or trying to make, things better
for themselves individually, make things worse for themselves collectively. The same applies to the slowing of
the currency by hoarding. Every man who hoards does
it for his own protection; yet, by hoarding, he aggravates
the very condition that started his fear. This is especially
true when his panic puts panic into the banks. They sometimes make runs, so to speak, on their customers before
the customers can make runs on them.
In fact, banks find themselves engaged in a race for
"liquidity." They begin to call their loans; but by calling
loans, they help further to extinguish deposit currency.
Moreover, the cash which each bank collects comes largely
out of other banks; and these, in turn, have to replenish
their cash, which they can do only by, in turn, calling
loans, thus further extinguishing currency. This hoarding
of money by banks has a magnified effect on deposit currency; for every dollar of reserve in a bank may support,
say, ten dollars of loans. When, therefore, one bank forces
another bank to surrender one of its physical reserve dollars, it forces a potential reduction of ten dollars of deposit



REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
currency. Even the bankers often fail to appreciate this
ten-fold effect, because the initial effect of a physical dollar
withdrawn is only one dollar of deposits withdrawn.3
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES O F
AND

CONTRACTION

HOARDING

If all deposits were thus extinguished, as is not impossible theoretically, then the only circulating medium remaining would be physical, hand-to-hand, or pocket,
money. There would then be a 90 per cent shrinkage in
the circulating medium, and a slowing down of such currency as remained. The price level might readily sink to
less than one-tenth of what it had been, despite a reduction in the volume of trade. Then almost all business men
in debt, including farmers, would be completely ruined.
We thus again add to our list:
1. Liquidation
2. Contraction
3. Dollar Growth
4. Reduced Net-Worth
5. Reduced Profits
6. Reduced Production
7. Pessimism
8. Hoarding and a general slackening in the velocity of
circulation, both of deposits and of physical money.
But here again, if deflation—or the swelling of the
dollar (due to both the contraction and the retardation of
the currency) be checkmated, the slowing of velocity and
hoarding will be checkmated too. For instance, an increase
in volume, if sufficient, may conquer a decrease in Velocity.
3
The details of the magnifying process have been set forth by Dean
Chester Phillips of Iowa University in his Bank Credit (Macrnillan,
1920) and have recently been further worked out mathematically by
Professor James Harvey Rogers of Yale University.




38

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
RATE OF INTEREST

(The Ninth Main Factor)
Debts bear interest. Consequently, a cyclical tendency in
debts will involve a cyclical tendency in interest rates. In a
word, as borrowers grow discouraged and therefore scarce,
interest (in the large centers at least) tends to go down.
Nor can we say of this disturbance of interest rates, as we
have said of other cycle-tendencies, that if the deflation
were annulled, the disturbance of the interest would be
entirely forestalled. For the cycle-tendency of debts carries
with it directly and necessarily a corresponding tendency in
interest rates. This, however, is relatively harmless.
" R E A L " RATES VS. MONEY RATES

But here enters another paradox: the inconsistency between this nominal or money interest and real interest. If,
last year, I borrowed ioo dollars and am to pay 105 this
year, my nominal or money rate of interest is 5 per cent.
But if, meanwhile, the dollar has swollen so that, when
the due date arrives, 105 dollars have become worth 106
of last year's dollars, my real interest is not five per cent
but six per cent.4 In a depression, therefore, when interest
is meant to be low, the real interest amounts, sometimes, to
over 50 per cent per annum! 5 The really important dis4
The distinction between the money rate of interest and the real rate
of interest is like the distinction between money wages and real wages,
and between money debts and real debts. But it is more complicated, and
so more often overlooked. We translate money wages into real wages
or money debts into real debts at one 'point of time. But to translate
money interest into real interest we must take account of at least two
points of time, namely the time when the debt is contracted and the time
(or times) when it is repaid. For further analysis, see Chapter XIX of
The Theory of Interest by Irving Fisher (Macmillan, 1930).
c
But the various nominal rates themselves move unequally. The pes-




REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS

39

turbance is this discrepancy between real interest and
money interest; and this would be forestalled if the deflation were annulled.
DEFLATION THE ROOT OF ALMOST ALL THE EVILS

We see, then, that if the liquidation were prevented
from bulging the purchasing power of the dollar—that is,
if the dollar was safe-guarded—all the other depression
consequences in our list (except as to money interest)
would be forestalled, and the consistency between money
interest and real interest would be preserved.
Practically the only evils would then be the disturbance
in the debts themselves and in their money interest j and
these would be relatively tame affairs. Of a depression as
we know it, there would be little left.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE NINE FACTORS

Our nine factors have been set forth in the following
order:
1. Debt Liquidation
2. Currency Contraction
3. Dollar Growth
4. Net-Worth Reduction
5. Profit Reduction
6. Lessened Production, Trade, Employment
7. Pessimism and Distrust
8. Retarded Circulation
9. Lowered Money Interest—but raised real interest.
simism of the lenders causes them, for inferior borrowers, to raise their
rates, instead of lowering them—at least to raise them relatively to the
rates allowed on safer loans. That is, in a Depression, any natural divergence between the two classes of loans is increased.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
But, while the order of the nine major events as above
set forth is a good pedagogical order, it is not a strictly
chronological order. Its principal departures from chronology lie in the items of interest and pessimism, both of
which, if treated chronologically, should come earlier.
Pessimism was purposely delayed in the exposition until
all the chief reasons for it had been catalogued. It was
then inserted once for all. Perhaps, more than any of the
other factors, it really comes in progressively all along the
line. The first touch of liquidation has a depressing effect
on moods j and this first approach of the pessimistic mood
retards circulation.
Even the very start of the liquidation may be the psychological discouragement—either of the debtor or the
creditor—from a realization that the debts they owe, or the
debts owing to them, are too high and should be reduced.
This realization may be borne home by many causes j but
the chief cause may well be that earnings, current or expected, have begun to disappoint the excessive expectations
which originally led to the debts. It is often said that the
"turn of the cycle" may be due to a very trivial precipitating cause. Anything which causes a slight revulsion of
mood may be the last straw. Then, with liquidation and
distress selling, the depression spiral begins its tail spin.
So the slowing of circulation may show itself statistically in
advance of the credit contraction, though the contraction was
listed first for convenience of exposition and the retardation of velocity was not mentioned until the full reasons
for it had come into view.
Not only may the retardation of currency begin before
its contraction, but there may be at first an actual expansion of currency, if enough cautious people set about accumulating cash studiously.
Nor are these the only chronological complications. Our



REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS

41

Nine Factors are only a part of the whole complex picture in any actual depression, and their many effects on
each other have not been exhaustively stated. If we may
mix our metaphors, a depression may be said to be full of
tangles and cross-currents. Moreover, dislocations may occur through a great variety of interferences.0
THE TROUGH OF DEPRESSION

But no downswing goes on forever. Let us trace the first
factor, debts. The process of liquidation may persist until
at last it overtakes the swelling of the remaining debts, and
begins to reduce not only their number but their real size.
Every business failure, every bankruptcy, every reorganization grimly speeds the liquidation by striking off a
certain proportion of the world's debts without even paying them $ so that these failures may prevent the vicious
spread of liquidation from swelling the dollar to ten fold
dimensions. Moreover, the reduction in the volume of
trade, caused by the fall of prices, tends to check that fall.
That is, the shortage of money and credit relatively to the
needs of commerce becomes a less serious shortage when
the needs of commerce have also shrunk. Thus, through
real liquidation, or failures, or both, and a diminution of
Trade, the bottom of the descending spiral is finally
reached.
The time comes when the business world is left in a
state of zwA?r-indebtedness. Then the Debt Cycle (or
cycle tendency) will be, so to speak, at the zero hour,
ready for a recovery which may merge again into a Boom
phase, similar to that from which it fell. At this zero hour
the world is full of bargain prices—including, of course,
6
In Appendix I will be found a schedule covering some of the complex chronology of the nine factors.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
investments, and including interest rates for those who
would borrow in order to invest. And since each dollar of
debt no longer grows during the life of the debt, the nominal
interest is not belied by the real interest, but both are, for
the time being—for short-term loans—one. All that is then
needed for an upswing is some left-over individuals, still
possessed of resources enough to enable them to take advantage of these bargain prices.
The downswing has itself tended to produce such individuals. They are the prosperous residue of the creditor
and salaried classes—the unharmed bondholders and the unharmed salaried folk. To them, as already noted, a higher
dollar spells a lower cost of living, and encourages the
buying up of the wreckage after the storm. Moreover, the
hoarders, when convinced that the bottom has been reached
and that they are safe in returning their hoards into circulation, become important buyers.
THE BOOM PHASE AGAIN

The upswing is helpful at first. It begins as a recovery all
along the line, reversing each of the nine factors. Distrust
and gloom gradually give way to confidence and then to
enthusiasm. Hoards come out of hiding. Deposits cease to
be idle. The rush includes commodity investments and
new loans. For this very reason the nominal rate of interest rises 5 but it does not check the tide because the real
rate falls. That is, the new buying and borrowing refates
the deposit currency, that is expands and speeds it, thus
raising the price level (that is, shrinking the dollar), so
that debts, though nominally increasing, diminish in real
burden per dollar. The burden per dollar may even
diminish faster than the nominal amount of the debts increases, thus diminishing the total real burden of the debts,



REMAINING SIX MAIN FACTORS
despite their accumulating numbers. Thereafter, buying
and borrowing become still more aggressive. The buyers
rush still faster, so that their purpose may be accomplished
while the buying is good. At the same time, the reflation,
by raising prices, raises net worth, thus dispelling fear of
business failure. Profits, too, are raised, thus encouraging
the profit-takers to increase their out-put, their construction, and their pay-roll. Trade grows.
A Vl'CIOUS SPIRAL UPWARD

If only the movement would stop at equilibrium! But
our narrative in the last paragraph already implies a
vicious spiral upward, the counterpart of the vicious spiral
downward. It involves, like the downward spiral, three of
the nine oscillatory factors, namely, Debts, Circulation,
and Real Dollars. As reflation lightens the real burden of
the debts, the debtors, including new and weaker borrowers,
are lured into further extending their enterprises, and, for
that purpose, into incurring more debts, which further
dilute the real dollar and so further lighten the real debtburden, and so still further tempt the business world (including new and still weaker borrowers) to incur still
more debts, and so on and on—until again, after the number of dollars of debt grows faster than each dollar grows
smaller, there comes an awakening to the fact that there
is an over-indebtedness which must be corrected. Then
borrowing diminishes, liquidation sets in; and once more
we are headed for depression.




CHAPTER IV

STARTERS
UNPRODUCTIVE DEBTS

W E began the discussion at the crest of the wave, with a
state of over-indebtedness presupposed. But what started
the debts?
First, as an approach to the problem of the origin of
over-indebtedness, let us classify our debts.
Chiefly, there are two general classes of debts: productive and unproductive.1
An unproductive debt is incurred after some misfortune
has cut a hole in the borrower's income-stream 5 and the
loan partially fills up the hole, while the borrower awaits
better times. Thus, if a workman falls ill and cannot, for
a while, earn wages, he gets a loan to tide him over 5 and
with its proceeds he ekes out the straitened family income,
repaying the debt later when that income is increased by
the resumption of wages. Occasionally, of course, such
mischances may affect great numbers of people at one
time, and so result in general over-indebtedness. A great
earthquake, conflagration, flood, drought, pestilence, or
war may result in unproductive debts on a large scale.
Farm depression is often aggravated, if not caused, by
drought, and crop failures. A war will create huge debts
which are not only unproductive but devoted to destructive
purposes.
1
For fuller discussion, see The Theory of Interest by Irving Fisher
(Macmillan, 1930).
44



STARTERS
45
Unproductive debts, however (except in war), are likely
to be sporadic j and, since the borrowing in each case is
reluctant and often cautious, it is likely to be limited by
the available security. On the whole, therefore (except
in war), this kind of indebtedness is not apt to be greatly
overdone.
PRODUCTIVE DEBTS

As an explanation of economic crises, or of most economic crises, productive debts are far more important than
the unproductive—except war debts. In the case of productive borrowing, as in unproductive, there has been a
hole cut in the income, but this hole is no accident. It has
been deliberately cut by the borrower. A man who sees
an opportunity to invest at a tremendous profit would be
quite willing, if he could not get a loan, to sacrifice the enjoyment of a large part of his present income, in order to
invest in the supposed bonanza, even if, for a while, he
must live on bread and cheese. That is, he saves instead of
spends. But if he can get a loan, he may fill up the hole
which he cut in his enjoyable income. That is, he will
sacrifice little if at all on his current spending. And if he
finds that he can borrow very freely, he may be tempted
to go still further into debt, and spend even more than
before the loan, relying on the expected returns from his
investment to repay both his investment and his extravagance. His psychology is not that of the unfortunate. His
mood is not fear, gloom or caution. It is enthusiasm and
hope.
Often, if not usually, the opportunity to invest is the
result of new inventions, new discoveries, or new business
methods. When inventors, or their backers or exploiters,
think they can, by borrowing at (say) 6 per cent, make
profits of ioo per cent, why should they hesitate to bor


46

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

row, and keep on borrowing? Examples of such lures are
the opening of the Erie Canal, the building of new railways, the exploitation of the Bessemer steel process, new
uses of electricity, and new industries, such as automobile,
airplane and radio.
SOME HISTORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS

In 1792-93, in England, the lures were canals, real
estate and machinery. In 1814-16, when Napoleon's interference with international trade had been broken, the lure,
in England, was the prospect of renewed trade with the
Continent. English speculation in exportable commodities
became a stampede. In 1825, in the same country, there
were various lures: mines and other commercial enterprises
in Mexico, South America, and other foreign parts—what
G. H . Powell calls "exaggerated views of coming prosperity," through the profits to be had by investing. Says
Tooke:
"This possibility of enormous profit by risking a small sum
was a bait too tempting to be resisted; all the gambling propensities of human nature were constantly solicited into action;
and crowds of individuals of every description—the credulous
and the ignorant, princes, nobles, politicians, patriots, lawyers,
physicians, divines, philosophers, poets, intermingled with
women of all ranks and degrees (spinsters, wives, and widows)
—hastened to venture some portion of their property in schemes
of which scarcely anything was known except the names."

In America, the chief depressions were 1819, 1837,
1857, 1873, and 1893. In most of these there was inflation
beforehand and then deflation through contraction of the
currency and bank credits. In 1819 and 1837 there had
been wildcat banking causing inflation. In all cases there



STARTERS

47
was speculation in real estate j for, as Victor Clark points
out, a new country like America offers its opportunities
for big profits largely in connection with the exploitation
of new areas of land. In 1819 the land boom and collapse
was in the east. In 1837 it was in the west and southwest.
Whenever and wherever new lands were opened there
was land speculation, the latest case being the Florida land
boom of 1926. The crisis of 1837 followed land and cotton lures, and the lure of canal building, steamboats and
turnpikes. The speculation was led by Biddle, the great
Philadelphia banker of that day. The result was to open
up each side of the Appalachians to the other. The opening of the Erie Canal had profound economic effects.
The investments in these internal improvements were
made possible by large loans from Europe.
The crisis of 1857 followed the exploitation of the California gold discoveries and the beginnings of railways, the
extension of internal improvements, and the opening of
the Northwest.
The panic of 1873 followed the exploitation of transcontinental railways, and western farms through the
Homestead Act. These new farms were mortgaged to
Eastern lenders.
Preceding the panic of 1893, in America there was an
over-exploitation of farm implements resulting in overproduction of, farm products, pointed out by Professor
Bogart. But the main cause appears to have been distrust
of the monetary situation due to the injection of too much
silver into our currency. The gold base was too small.
THE SHADY SIDE

A genuine opening of new opportunities for profitable
investment is only the first step. At first, it is the legitimate



48

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

leaders in the exploitation who are responsible for inducing the public to invest, and to borrow for the purpose of
investing. Afterward some people, instead of investing for
earnings, merely speculate—buying in order soon to sell
again to others who want to invest or to other speculators. Afterwards come less scrupulous promoters j and
finally downright crooks. Probably no great crash has
ever happened without shady transactions. Indeed, the disclosure of these is often the last straw which breaks the
camePs back and precipitates the calamitous liquidation.
Fraud enters as one link or mesh in the net-work, being
both effect and cause—an effect of genuine opportunities
to invest, and a cause of over-indebtedness. No debt is so
excessive as one based on mistaken hopes, but when disillusionment comes, the adventure is denounced as a
"bubble" that has been pricked, such as the* Mississippi
Bubble and the South Sea Bubble.
MONETARY INFLATION ALONE

As debt starters, we have considered ( i ) Unusual Debts
of Misfortune, including War (that is, decreased f resent
income), and (2) Unusual Debts for Investing (when
there are prospects of increased future income). But we
also have to consider: (3) Monetary Inflation without any
unusual debts to begin with.
Such monetary inflation, whether designed or accidental,
begins directly on the currency, without unusual debts,
but presently reacts on the debt situation, by pouring
into business such unwonted profits that business men begin
to extend themselves in new enterprises, requiring more
debts. There are many historic instances of this sort of
thing. In 1849 California flooded the world with gold.
Again, between 1896 and 1913, new gold mines poured



STARTERS

49

out their injurious treasures from South Africa, Colorado,
and Alaska j and at about the same time, the weaker mines
were revived by a cheaper process of extracting gold from
low grade ores. The world has suffered also from many
great paper inflations, especially in war time. These inflations have all led to debt over-extension, which has thereupon set in motion the eight other cyclical tendencies.
COMBINED STARTERS

Sometimes we find Inflation and Great Expectations
joining forces. Such was the case in the crisis of 1857. Men
had been over-borrowing in order to invest in mines. This
would have been bad enough if the mines had produced
only copper j but the mines produced gold, whose inflationary out-pour was added to the influence of the debts 5
that is, the inflation of gold currency and the inflation of
credit currency interlocked.
On the other hand, instead of intentional or accidental
inflation, there might be intentional or accidental deflation.
After the Civil War, when the greenback inflation of the
6o?s was replaced by the resumption of gold payments in
1879, there was a case of intentional deflation; moreover,
this was followed up by accidental exhaustion of gold
mines in the face of expanding business. Such may have
been among the important causes of the depression which
culminated in 1893.
In the vicious spiral, the debt factor and the inflationdeflation factor pursue each other, and either may be the
starter of the pursuit. The greatest of all starters is war,
including the rebound from war. War is the greatest inflaterj and war's aftermath is the greatest deflater, because
war is the greatest of all debt-makers, both public and
private—and of both productive and unproductive debts.



So

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

And, finally, war stimulates other starters, such as invention.
Sometimes, by coincidence we get all conceivable sorts
of starters working in the same direction—such as war, gold
discoveries and new processes, new banking systems, with
capacity for great credit expansion, great inventions and
the rebound from a recent depression. Many of these coincided in the United States in the period 1913-19 and
many also in 1926-9.




CHAPTER V
" T H E " BUSINESS CYCLE?
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CYCLE IDEA
ORIGINALLY, people were content to refer to any given
case of Boom and Depression as a "Business Crisis." Then
the given cases seemed to recur with some regularity and
to show an apparent family likeness. This fact is brought
home, for instance, by the eloquent words of Leonard
Bacon in 1837, quoted in the beginning of this book and
applying almost equally to 1932. As a result of these family likenesses, and of the recurrence as well of the phenomena preceding and of the phenomena succeeding the
"crises," the term "cycle" became more popular than
"crisis." 1
In 1867, before the Manchester Statistical Society, John
Mills of Manchester, read a very able paper on "Credit
Cycles and the Origin of Commercial Panics" 2 in which he
stated that Booms and Depressions definitely repeat themselves "about every ten years." In 1894, Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy spoke rather more loosely of
a "ten or twelve" year period; citing 1753, '63, '72, '83,
'93 j 1815, '25, '36, '47, '57> '66, '78, and '90. Recently,
the favorite average seems to be nearer to 3 ^ years. More
recently Professor Hansen has said: 3
x
T h i s has been largely through the influence of Wesley Clair
Mitchell.
2
Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Societyy December, 1867.
3
Economic Stabilization in an Unbalanced, World, by Alvin H. Hansen (Harcourt, Brace & Co., i93*)>P*93*
51



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
" T h e first great achievement of the scientific study of crises
and depressions was the discovery that business moves in cycles.
T h e first cycle to be discovered was the major cycle, which
runs its course usually in from seven to eleven years. This cycle
was firmly established by the great work of Clement Juglar in
his Des crises cornmerdalesy first published in i 8 6 0 . Only in the
last two decades was it established (notably through the work
of W a r r e n M . Persons and Wesley C. Mitchell) that there is,
at least for the United States, a much shorter minor cycle of
about forty months' duration. T h a t it should be especially
prominent in the United States is perhaps due to the fact that
her domestic market is so vast that internal minor fluctuations
can develop here that are not reflected in the outside world.
Historically, in the United States every second or third minor
depression develops into a major depression. Finally, it remained for Professor N . D . Kondratieff of Moscow, Russia, to
point out the existence of 'long waves, 5 each extending over a
period of from forty-five to sixty years."

"FORCED"

CYCLES

Certainly there are in economic affairs cyclical tendencies; and these are of two sorts: those imposed upon the
economic organism from the outside, or what may be
called "forced" cyclical tendencies, and those inherent
in it.
Those imposed from the outside are largely of astronomical origin. It is not impossible that among these there may
be economic rhythms longer than a year. W. Stanley
Jevons thought he detected a ten year economic rhythm
produced by sun spots. H. S. Jevons seemed to uncover a
three and a half year economic rhythm which he supposed
to be the effect of solar radiation. Prof. H . L. Moore imputed an eight year economic rhythm to the conjunctions of
Venus. More recently, Dr. Abbott of the Smithsonian In


T H E " BUSINESS CYCLE?

53
stitution has been studying what appear to be long time
cycles in solar radiation. It is, of course, quite possible that
these cycles may have some obscure effect on the economic
affairs of earth. All these tendencies may possibly exist—and
exist consistently with one another, and with many more—
although they seem as yet to lack sufficient proof.
There are, however, shorter rhythms in human affairs,
indubitably caused by astronomical forces. These rhythms
are yearly and daily. The swing of the earth around the
sun causes variations of light, heat, and moisture, and these
determine the seasons, thereby causing rhythmic tendencies
in planting and reaping, and in certain resulting phases of
commerce and of banking. These yearly rhythms have
come to be called, not too happily, "seasonal variations";
they might rather have been named seasonal cycles or
cyclical tendencies. So, also, the turnings of the earth
around its own axis cause the alternation of light and darkness, thus producing, in all human activity (business included), rhythmic tendencies every twenty-four hours.
There are other cyclical tendencies imposed from outside the economic mechanism. These are customary or institutional rhythms. For instance, the religious and traditional observance of Sunday sets the weekly rhythm of
payrolls; and the still more arbitrary month sets the
rhythm of salary checks and billings.
All these "forced" rhythms, that is rhythms imposed
upon the economic mechanism from the outside, are permanent, or at any rate as long-lived as the customs or astronomical or other outside influences which impose them.
"FREE" CYCLES

No one denies the existence of these "forced" rhythms;
but none of them seems clearly to coincide with booms and
depressions. To find the causes of booms and depressions,



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
we must step inside the economic mechanism and consider
rhythms relatively "free" of outside control.
But when we have done that, we find that clearness ends
and debate begins. We find fairly clear "trends" or progressive changes, but these are not rhythms. And we find
much evidence of rhythmic tendencies, but these are not
clearj and their name is legion. This book has dealt with
only one group of nine cyclical tendencies closely interrelated, and even their inter-relations are not simple, but
form a tangled network of permutations and combinations. All their possible interactions by pairs would come to
over 360,000 and this number could be multiplied indefinitely by sub-classifying our nine factors and adding
others.
ANY UNBALANCE MAY CAUSE CYCLICAL TENDENCIES

The dis-equilibrium of any factor, theoretically at least,
may start up oscillations in many or all of the others.
The starting point may be not the two we have discussed
(over-indebtedness and deflation) but some over-production
or under-production, some over or under-consumption,
some over or under-investment, over or under-saving, or
any other sort of "over" or "under"—that is, any temporary deviation from balance causing a tendency to return
to the point of equilibrium, and to pass beyond it, with
subsequent swings back and forth.
Economic forces are not, as the classical economists once
seemed to imagine, so simply related as a row of blocks,
each acting on the one ahead 5 but rather, as Walras long
ago pointed out, these forces consist of numerous variables,
each affecting all the rest, so that a change in one tends to
cause changes in all. Economic forces might be likened to a
dozen agates in a bowl, a push on any one of which will



T H E " BUSINESS CYCLE?

55
set them all rocking back and forth. This being so, we need
not look for one single or simple explanation of economic
disturbances, though we may hope to find some of the factors—some of the agates—bigger and more dominating
than the rest. Over-indebtedness, for instance, and deflation may—to change the simile—make big waves in the
economic pond, while over-production, or a short wheat
crop or even a Florida land boom may, in comparison,
produce mere ripples.
BUT THESE TEND TO DIE DOWN

But, unless restarted by some outside force, any ordinary
disequilibrium eventually gives place to restored equilibrium.4
Moreover, in every type of known action and reaction,
there is a progressive deterrent called friction. This is true
of mechanical devices like a pendulum j and it seems
reasonable to think that in all economic movements there
is something analogous to mechanical friction which, for
convenience, may be called "economic friction," tending to
stop economic movements in whatever direction. If this is
true, when any economic pendulum has swung in one direction, it tends to swing less in the other direction. All
of this is purposely stated as a tendency. It will be actually
true only in the absence of a new jolt, which, however, is
very likely to occur, in economics as in mechanics.
"THE , J BUSINESS CYCLE A MYTH?

The proponents of "the" business cycle seem often to
overlook other interfering cyclical tendencies and interfer4
That is, we assume most equilibrium to be stable. Unstable equilibrium, ipso facto, destroys itself and is not repetitious.




56

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

ing "friction," and expect the actual resultant fluctuations
to form well marked cycles—at any rate after eliminating
secular trend and seasonal variation—and without any
successive reductions in these waves. Yet, so far as I know,
they have never been able to diagram any successive economic swings that had a reasonably similar shape, or
covered reasonably equal spans, or did not start with some
unrhythmic outside cause, such as discovery, or invention,
or the opening of new markets, the development of new
areas or of new resources in old areas 5 or such causes as
war, pestilence, fire, flood or earthquake. As a matter of
history, it always seems to be a case of one or more of
these hap-hazard starters colliding with some price, prices,
price level, income, production, consumption, stocks of
goods, debts, or some other factors in the economic mechanism. It would be still more difficult to find any rhythmic
tendency among the starters themselves. It is true that the
misery of a depression often stimulates invention, and that
one invention often leads to another, and that one war
does not exhaust the causes of war j and it may be true that
inflation tends to incubate war-preparations and that war
tends to promote invention; but who can as yet discern any
real rhythm in these? They are nothing if not miscellaneous. The capture of Napoleon in 1815 and the railway
boom after the Civil War seem scarcely a part of a cycle,
much less of "the" cycle.
Recent and intensive studies have pretty well dispelled
the idea of actual periodicity; but the undoubted fact of
rhythmic tendency in many if not all economic factors
continues to make the search for periodicity—or at least for
self-perpetuation—at once enticing and baffling. Sometimes
the starters follow each other so fast that, before the rocking initiated by one has died away, another is in action, and
this continuity lures on the searcher. Then sometimes, by



"THE" BUSINESS CYCLE?
good luck, several oscillations may complete themselves
without the interrupting of a new starter, further corroborating the cycle idea. By still better luck, the initial
pushes themselves may sometimes show an apparent periodicity, as if they operated like the escapement mechanism in
a pendulum clock. Such a coincidence occurring in (say)
half the cases will be very striking; and in the other half,
the fading rhythm will stay sufficiently visible to satisfy
the theorist, who wants to believe in its periodicity or
power of self-perpetuation.
I am open to conviction, if and when evidence shall be
presented of self-starting and self-perpetuating economic
rhythms, but thus far I have been able to see only a tangle
of coincidence and contradiction, which may be illustrated
by a rocking chair, or a sea craft, in surroundings which
furnish both rhythmic and erratic influences. The chair,
when tipped, certainly has a tendency to keep rocking—
but not forever. And perhaps it is either restarted or put
out of rhythm by a new jolt from the dusting housewife.
The seacraft, when tipped by a wave, tends to return
upon itself and to rock on regularly; but its rhythm is constantly put out by the buffeting of additional waves. The
waves themselves act under laws of rhythm which are
unfailing; yet the actual rhythm will fail, through the
buffeting of cross winds. Imagine, then, a rocking chair on
the deck of a rocking ship, on a rolling sea. The ultimate
chair is subjected to so many influences that its motion will
not conform with any simple rhythm. The net motion will
be made up of many rhythms and non-rhythms, and will,
therefore, appear sometimes rhythmic and sometimes completely unrhythmic. At all events, no one would think of
referring to it as "the rocking chair cycle."
In short, it appears that "free" cycles tend to die down,
while "forced" cycles do not, and that in any actual case



58

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

we find a composite of both the free and the forced cycles as
well as trends and starters.
CYCLES AS FACTS OR TENDENCIES

The main point, however, is to acknowledge the distinction between cycle as fact and cycle as tendency.5 It is one
thing to say that, under certain simplified conditions, business would oscillate according to a certain repeating curve,
just as, under simplified conditions, the rocking of the
chair would make a perfect repeating rhythm. It is quite
another thing to say that business did actually oscillate on
that curve, in the years 1929-32, or in any other historical
case. A tendency is conditional 5 a fact is unconditional. A
tendency is relatively simple; a fact will always be complex—the resultant of a great number of tendencies, some
of which are cyclical and some—like the housewife's duster
—not cyclical at all.
For these reasons, I deprecate the use of the term
"cycle" as applied to any actual historical event. I would
reserve the cycle concept for a tendency, or at the utmost a
specified combination of tendencies.
But I am not disposed to deny the value of any real
knowledge that can be gathered from the study of the
cyclical tendencies behind the composite and jerky motions
which finally emerge. In fact, it is precisely when the
rhythms of the ship are most shaken by the pounding of a
score of non-cyclical forces from both sea and sky, and only
a series of short looks ahead are possible, that a sailor's
knowledge of action and reaction is most important. When
the ship is poised on the crest of a wave, it may be subject
5
See "Business Cycles as Facts or Tendencies," by Irving Fisher,
Economische Ofstellen aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. C. A. Verrijn Stuart,
Haarlam, 1931.




T H E " BUSINESS CYCLE?

59
to any or all of a dozen possible disturbances; but, in
another second, its movement will be determined and will
be apparent to the sailor, who will then know approximately what actions to expect for the next five or ten
seconds. And it avails him to know. Likewise it will avail
us to know all we can of cyclical tendencies in business,
even though, to use such knowledge, we need also to know
the other components which are not cyclical.
The whole picture then contains these four elements:
forced cyclical tendencies; free cyclical tendencies; starters;
trends.




CHAPTER VI

OTHER THEORIES
MANY THEORIES MUTUALLY CONSISTENT

IN this tangle, which includes factors that can oscillate
and starters that can touch off the oscillations, it would be
strange indeed if any two students of the boom-depression
sequence should emerge with just one theory. A variety of
searchers is pretty sure to chance upon a variety of approaches, and therefore end with a variety of conclusions.
Yet those conclusions are often supplementary rather than
inconsistent. Indeed, the regrettable feature of this subject
is that some students become so enamored of one factor
as to reject all others. Moreover, those who think there
must be but one secret for all the phenomena of a boomdepression sequence, are sometimes too ready to greet any
new contribution as a candidate for the coveted office of
sole explanation. For myself, in various writings which
bear only obliquely on the specific problem of the present
work, from time to time, I have mentioned several oscillatory factors,1 and afterwards found to my surprise that I
was promptly pigeon-holed with each in turn as if I had
tried to offer a full explanation of booms and depressions.
A brief glance at some of the theories that have been
propounded will show that they are largely consistent with
1

See, for the role of "lag1 in interest" my Theory of Interest^ Macmillan, 1930, and, for the role of "price-change," "Our Unstable Dollar and the So-called Business Cycle," Journal of the American Statistical Association, June, 1925, pp. 179-202.
60



OTHER THEORIES

61

one another and with the theory of over-indebtedness—
although in none of them is over-indebtedness explicitly
given a leading role. Wesley Clair Mitchell, whose careful studies of business cycles are accepted as classics, makes,
in his review of cycle theories, apparently no specific mention of a debt cycle. In fact, neither in the index of his
"Business Cycles" nor in that of Hansen's "Business Cycle
Theory" is the term "debt" to be found. In Hansen, the
only reference to debt (which is under "credit") is: "See
Bank Credit," and this, of course, is only a part of the debt
picture.
In mentioning below some of these theories, the purpose
is not primarily to point out their inadequacy (for it should
go without saying that no one theory can be adequate),
but rather to concede whatever of truth they contain and to
show that, through the endless interactions of the economic
mechanism, they usually seem to be not unrelated to the
factors of over-indebtedness and deflation which form the
chief subject-matter of this book.
PRICE-DISLOCATION THEORY

I. There is, for instance, the "price dislocation" theory.
This holds that when among prices (of commodities, rent,
interest, and taxes) some are unduly low and others unduly high, the exchange of goods is retarded 5 and that
this involves the retardation of production and employment.
Evidently the deflation stressed in this book dislocates
prices, and when it arrives, it finds some prices, such as
rent, interest, taxes, salaries and wages, more unyielding
than others. If we add principal as well as interest, we may
think of the increased debt and interest burden as a sort of
"dislocation" due to inflation. Doubtless, any other sort of



6a

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

price-dislocation will cause disturbances. Moreover these
dislocations often tend to be cumulative. The more unyielding one group of prices the more other prices must yield.
In the depression of 1932 some writers maintain that the
area of "rigid" prices was the largest in history. If, as
seems likely, there is going on a gradual progressive freezing of large parts of the price structure, the instability of
the rest will become greater and greater, and will tend
more and more to bring about a crash from time to time.
INEQUALITY-OF-FORESIGHT THEORY

2. Then there is the theory of inequality of foresight
as between lender and borrower. In "The Theory of
Interest," 2 I have worked out some of the oscillatory tendencies resulting from such inequality. During inflation,
the borrower sees (or feels), better than the lender, the
fact that real interest is low 5 and this tempts him to borrow
too freely, and leads him into over-indebtedness.
CHANGES-IN-INCOME THEORY

3. Some theories stress the changes in income. The
fluctuations of real income and the re-distribution of income are, of course, of supreme importance 5 and some of
these changes have been included in the analysis of this
book, especially as to their bearing on profits and unemployment.
FLUCTUATIONS-IN-DISCOUNT THEORY

4. There is the theory of fluctuations in the rate of discount at which income is capitalized. Such fluctuations are
2

The Theory of Interest, by Irving- Fisher, Macmillan, 1930.




OTHER THEORIES

63

important in many ways. A changed rate of discount affects
the value of collateral against debts, and so affects solvency.
VARIATIONS-OF-CASH-BALANCE THEORY

5. Then there is the theory of the variation of people's
cash balances in the banks. This is already included, to
some extent, in the analysis of the present book, under the
head of velocity of circulation. The variations of cash
balances are especially important in relation to bank reserves. Hawtrey has pointed out that the lags between
depositors5 balances and the reserves of the banks make for
instability.
OVER-CONFIDENCE THEORY

6. There is also the theory of over-confidence and
over-optimism. These factors are clearly embodied to a
large extent in the analysis of this book. They are especially important in an industrial society, with its long lags
between production and consumption. Each producer has
to guess about the future—future consumption and future
competition 5 and he cannot always be right. His miscalculations and mistakes cause disturbances, one of which is
over-indebtedness. Perhaps over-indebtedness is the chief
disturbance resulting from over-confidence. Certainly, without over-indebtedness, over-confidence could scarcely produce bankruptcy!
OVER-INVESTMENT THEORY

7. The theory which, perhaps, comes nearest to covering
the same ground as the one set forth in this book is the
over-investment theory. But, if over-investment be ac


64

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

complished without borrowing, there would seem to be
no reason to imagine that it would be followed by anything
so severe as a stock market crash, or an epidemic of bankruptcies, or vast unemployment. Doubtless, however, overinvestment, even without borrowed money, would tend
to set up some appreciable oscillations.
OVER-SAVING THEORY

8. The same applies to "over-saving." In fact, saving is
usually preliminary to investing. Over-saving leads to
over-investment and to over-indebtedness.
OVER-SPENDING THEORY

9. Instead of over-investment and over-saving, there
are theories of ««^^r-investment and undersaving, or
(what amounts to the same thing) overs fending. The
oscillations set up by over-spending would naturally be
opposite, in their initial direction, from those set up by
over-investment. Why, then, do we find both saving and
spending accused of the same thing? It is true that we do,
in boom periods, encounter both over-investment and overspending at one and the same time; but what reconciles the
two is over-indebtedness. Nor is it easy to see any other
way of reconciling them. If a man borrows enough, he can
both over-invest and over-spend, whereas, without borrowing, he could scarcely make both mistakes at the same time.
DISCREPANCY-BETWEEN-SAVINGS-AND-INVESTMENT THEORY

10. The discrepancy between savings and investments
has by some students been emphasized as causing trouble—
and very likely it does, especially by investing out of borrowed money instead of out of savings. The discrepancy
is caused largely by debts.



OTHER THEORIES

65

OVER-CAPACITY THEORY

i i . As to over-construction and over-capacity, these are
natural consequences of over-investment, whether the overinvestment be caused by too much debt or otherwise. And
sudden cessation of construction, as Professor J. M. Clark
so well shows,3 causes very violent oscillations. These are
still further magnified if the over-construction is financed
with borrowed money.
UNDER-CONSUMPTION THEORY

12. As to the theory of "underconsumption," and
changes in the demand for "consumer goods," these maladjustments must have at least some oscillatory effects.
But underconsumption appears to be much the same thing
as over-production.
OVER-PRODUCTION THEORY

13. The over-production theory, despite the skepticism
of most economists, seems to me to have, at least in the
boom period, some theoretical possibilities. I do not accept
the hoary tradition that "general over-production is impossible and inconceivable." But the point need not be
debated here.
According to the important statistical researches of Carl
Snyder, production seems to have progressed with such
steadiness that it seems difficult to imagine how it could
become a leading cause of major depressionsj and the large
inventory accumulations which have characterized many
depressions (like that of 1920-21) seem to be rather
• The Economics of Overhead Cost, by J. M. Clark, University of
Chicago Press, 1923.



66

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

symptoms of depression, or incidental consequencesy than
important causes.
Certainly many debts are contracted for production purposes 3 and if the judgment of the debtor is wrong as to
what is a safe margin for his debts, this may be because
his judgment was first wrong as to how much of his commodity would find a profitable market. Over-production
can scarcely be itself the lasting force which keeps a depression going year after year. Were it merely a matter of
over-production, it would seem to me to be likely to correct itself more promptly and almost automatically.
But it may still be true that over-production may precipitate liquidation of debts. The borrower's disappointment in the market for his goods may be one of the first
symptoms to alarm both him and his creditors, as to the
state of his debts. Perhaps that is why, in 1929, as we shall
see, production and payroll and transportation began to
slacken two or three months before the debt-structure
crumbled. But thereafter the wisest producers were hit—
not by over-production, but by the liquidation-spiral into
which they were sucked j so that they were compelled, for
the sake of liquidation, to turn all production into underproduction.
CONCLUSION

The foregoing theories have been but barely mentioned,
and are only a few of the theories which relate themselves
to over-indebtedness, or deflation, or both, and which may,
of course, contain important truth independently. I have
devoted my effort in this book to nine tendencies—merely
"some" of the "first principles" underlying business disturbances. Others may be shown to have an equal right to
be called "first principles." It remains a question of fact
how important the truth may be of the few principles here



OTHER THEORIES

67
presented as compared with those in other theories. Any
decisive conclusions must await intensive statistical and
historical studies. Further studies are also needed to complete, in quantitative terms, even the picture of the ninefold cyclical tendencies here discussed. These studies should
cover such fundamental questions as the duration of a
typical cycle-tendency of any type 5 and whether upon recurrence, its amplitude tends to diminish as I have supposed j and if so, how fast. Also, what are the distinctive
shapes of the nine or more curves, and what are the lags
between them? 4
The next two chapters are to be a very brief study of the
facts of 1929-32, with special, but not exclusive, reference
to the principles selected for study in this book.
4
In Appendix II are suggestions for such studies, under about 70
heads.







PART II
FACTUAL
CHAPTER
VIL

T H E OVER-INDEBTEDNESS THAT LED TO THE WORLD D E PRESSION

VIIL

T H E WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32







CHAPTER VII

T H E OVER-INDEBTEDNESS THAT LED TO
T H E WORLD DEPRESSION
THE WAR AND THE NEW ERA

To SUPPORT the most colossal of all wars required prodigies of finance. And after the cost of the war came the cost
of reconstruction. In both destruction and reconstruction,
private financing as well as public was involved 5 for, in
modern war, non-combatants exist only in name. Almost
every private industry is, in effect, drafted into the service.
Many of these must borrow, and, after the war, many of
them require readjustments which also involve borrowing.
After the World War, there was a joyful rebound.
Europe appeared to be recovering. There were to be no
more wars. Everybody was encouraged about everything.
The war, moreover, had promoted endless new inventions,
some of which were not merely destructive but could afterwards be applied to peaceful service. So the war gave a
great new impulse to the spirit of invention. In America,
invention became almost a trade, and something like mass
production was brought to bear upon it. Captains of industry who had held the academic life in low esteem began
to install laboratories exceeding the wildest dreams of
universities—and hired university professors to run these
laboratories. A questionnaire which was sent to some 600
industrial concerns brought back replies indicating that a
majority had such installations. Accordingly, in the decade



7i

72

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

1920-1929 more patents were granted in America than
in its entire first century—the peak years being 1926 and
1929.
There were also innumerable technological improvements not recorded in the patent office. Great strides were
taken by the electrical, chemical and transportation industries. Road building became active. Scientific management struck a new tempo. Efficiency engineers came into
their own. People began to talk of a New Era.
INVESTING IN EQUITIES ON BORROWED MONEY

Meanwhile, there was a new trend in corporate financing. From 1921-29, as the boom developed, the new
corporate issues took more and more the form of stocks
instead of bonds. This policy of reducing the proportion
of bonds had one good effect: It left the corporations less
encumbered with debt 5 so that, despite the depression,
many corporations kept in a strong position throughout
the whole of the depression. This advantage, however,
was more than offset by shifting the debt burden from
the corporations to the stockholders. That is, in order to
buy the stock, many persons borrowed, so that, instead of
being indebted collectively in the form of a corporation,
they became indebted individually. Moreover, their borrowing was of the most dangerous type: largely margin accounts with brokers, whose loans were call loans. Thus,
upon the corporate equities represented by common stocks
was superimposed a structure of equities represented largely
by margin accounts and brokers' loans.
This preference for investing in equities instead of
bonds was fostered by a number of statistical studies,
published in books and articles, which showed that almost
always in the past, bonds had produced less income for the



OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

73

investor than had been (or could have been) produced
by a diversified assortment of common stocks.1 H a d the
idea stopped at that, the effect of these studies would have
been wholly good, for the total burden of debts would
have been less than if bonds had continued to be the
favorite investment 5 but, as things turned out, the volume
of debt was made greater in size and more unstable in kind.
The new trend was further intensified by the formation
of investment trusts whose express business was to invest
the money of their clients in diversified stocks. These
trusts began to spring up like mushrooms, and presently
became a mania. Many of them operated on borrowed
capital, leaving precarious equities 5 and the individual
owners of these equities borrowed in turn, thus still further
pyramiding the debt.structure—equity upon equity.
MISCELLANEOUS INFLUENCES

Among the chief inciters to over-indebtedness for investment were the high-pressure salesmen of investment
bankers, including bank-affiliates. One of the best informed
students of this aspect of the problem writes me as follows:
" I should make American investment banking the chief
villain of the piece. In just what proportion inexperience, incompetence, negligence, and bad faith have figured in the
ballooning of debts by them I am not prepared to say, but I incline to think they are all well represented in the financings
through American houses throughout the post war years. In
seeking new issues to feed to a ravenous public, disregard for
the debtor's ability to pay, for the possibility of effecting payment by willing and able foreign debtors, and for the existing
interests of security holders in concerns to be reorganized or
1
Edgar Lawrence Smith's excellent book, Common Stocks as Long
Term Investments, had a great influence.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
consolidated, mark a major portion of the financing during the
period. T h e governing consideration seems to have been 'can
the issue be sold at a handsome profit?' "

And, of course, there was an admixture of fraudulent
enterprise, characteristic of boom periods.
Moreover, the inexperienced American public had been
prepared for an investment fever by the financing of
America's share in the World War. Unlike previous wars,
this one was not financed exclusively by bankers and people
of wealth. Nearly everybody had invested in it, even if
only to the extent of a "baby bond," which was also a new
idea. Millions of people, who before the war had never
known what an "investment" was, suddenly became the
proud possessors of securities, often bought with borrowed
money.
Then there was the capital gain tax, improperly included
in the income tax. During the rising market, this capital
gain tax deterred many a holder of rising stocks from
selling them and reinvesting the gains j for the holder
knew that if he sold, he would be penalized by having a
large share of his increased capital taken away from him
by the Internal Revenue office. He therefore hung on to
his stock j and, in order to invest the increased worth, he
borrowed—using his appreciated stock for security.
The effect of this borrowing fever was steadily and
enormously to inflate the deposit currency. Corporate
profits rose, and the price level in the stock market rose.
These were ominous signs.
THE STEADY COMMODITY PRICE LEVEL

One warning, however, failed to put in an appearance—
the commodity frice level did not rise.



OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

75

The index of wholesale commodity prices, therefore, is
not always an infallible index of monetary and business
trends. In 1923-29, an index half-way between the level
of commodity prices and the steep up-tilt of stock market
prices would have been nearer the truth. Dr. Carl Snyder
has devised a "general index" which embodies all available
price categories, including stock and bond prices, wholesale
commodity prices, retail food prices, rents, and wage rates.
This is an excellent index but, necessarily, for the present,
it is based on somewhat unreliable data and "weighting."
For the present, therefore, the wholesale price index,
despite its theoretical imperfections is generally accepted
as the best. During and after the World War, it responded
very exactly to both inflation and deflation. If it did not
do so during the inflationary period from 1923-29, this
was partly because trade had grown with the inflation, and
partly because technological improvements had reduced
the cost, so that many producers were able to get higher
profits without charging higher prices. For instance, from
the third quarter of 1925 to the third quarter of 1929,
the quarterly profits of 163 industrial and miscellaneous
corporations rose by 75 per cent. In such a period, the
commodity market and the stock market are apt to diverge j commodity prices falling by reason of the lowered
costs, and stock prices rising by reason of the increased
profits. In a word, this was an exceptional period—really
a "New Era."
INVESTING ABROAD

Meanwhile, the investing and speculating Americans
were by no means content with the home market. Foreign
countries, European and South American, in the throes of
reconstruction and elated like ourselves, were soliciting



76

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

capital; and Americans furnished much of it—to governments, to municipalities and to private corporations. Already, in the 60 years preceding 1931, according to a
member of the British Parliament, British investors had
lost 10 billion dollars by such loans.2 Yet, after the World
War, American investors, with inadequate experience,
marched into this field and took the lead. During the
war, Americans had lent a great deal to the Allies. After
the war, we kept on lending and included Germany, who,
in effect, borrowed to pay reparations.
In this way, America promoted or aggravated abroad
the same unhealthy boom which was putting both our
neighbors and ourselves in position for a slump. The reconstruction to which we contributed included much extravagance. Even though the municipal stadiums and
swimming pools of Central Europe were not, as often
charged, specifically financed with borrowed money, they
necessitated borrowing for the other municipal purposes.
In 1927, the reparation agent for the Allies, S. Gilbert
Parker, protested Germany's excessive borrowing and the
raising of governmental salaries; and Dr. Schacht, the
head of the Bank of Germany, scolded his countrymen.
"With borrowed American money," he said, "you live
like rich people. With borrowed dollars you go every
winter to the Riviera. If you borrow to improve productive
equipment it is all right, but when you use American
dollars for luxury expenditure, you act like fools. It would
bankrupt private individuals, and it is just the same for
the country." 3
But lending can be an extravagance, too 5 and, in this
sense, America was extravagant, and our bankers and in2

United States Daily, March 16, 1931, "Foreign Lendings in 1930."
See What Makes Stock Market Prices, by Warren F. Hickernell.
Harper & Bros., 1932.
3




OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

77
vestors might well have been scolded for it 5 instead of
which our financial and political leaders proudly boasted
that New York was supplanting London as the world's
financial center.
MISCELLANEOUS BORROWING MOVEMENTS

The American farmer had long been over-extended.
Already, on the slogan "Win the war with wheat" and on
the tide of war inflation, he hadfinancedhis growing operations with borrowed money; and then, on the tide of postwar inflation, he kept on buying machinery and otherwise
extending himself with borrowed money.
Finally, installment buying was promoted on an unprecedented scale by dealers in houses, automobiles, radio
sets, furniture, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing
machines, and even fur coats and other clothing.
REPARATIONS

4

After the armistice in 1918, as the time approached for
the peace conference at Versailles, the plan most popular
among the Allies was to take all that the defeated powers
could pay; and "defeated powers" meant, to all intents
and purposes, Germany, whose wealth and resources were
so much greater than those of Austria, Bulgaria and
Turkey. It was rumored that one British financier predicted a German indemnity of between 100 and 200 billion
4
Debt figures are given more fully in Appendix III, with graphs and
tables and the sources. On German reparations, see Keynes' Economic
Consequences of the Peace and A Revision of the Treaty; James W.
Angell, The Recovery of Germany (Yale University Press, 1929) j New
York Times, June 14, i93i> "German Reparations and Allied War
Debts" by Edwin L. Jamesj and November 1, 1931, "The War Debt
Puzzle" by Charles Merz.




78

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
5

dollars. Even after the treaty, but before the assessment
by the Reparations Commission, Allied finance ministers
talked of 75 billions.6 The actual assessment (in 1921)
was 33 billions—still a mammoth amount and one which,
according to Mr. Keynes, involved a breach of the armistice agreement. It proved unmanageable j and after several
conferences between the Allies and Germany, and then
after the several consultations of the Dawes and the Young
Commissions, a schedule of payments was drawn up to
begin with 1930 and last 58 years. The total payments, if
made, would come to about 27% billion dollars. At 5 per
cent the discounted value would be about 9 billion dollars
as of 1930.7 Down to 1932 Germany borrowed in order to
pay j and even so, a moratorium was required.8
INTER-GOVERNMENTAL DEBTS PAYABLE TO AMERICA 9

Up to 1920, the loans by the American government to
22 nations aggregated nearly 10 billions. In 1929, the principal and arrears (counting out five nations with which
no debt "settlements" have been made) amounted to about
11.6 billions. By spreading both the principal and interest—
22 billions—over a period of 62 years (and also by reducing the interest), we have, in effect, reduced the debt to a
6
See Keynes, J. Maynard, Economic Consequences of the Peace, p.
141 (American Ed.).
6
Keynes, J. Maynard, A Revision of the Treaty, p* 39 (American
Ed.).
7
Large confiscations and payments in kind had already been taken
from Germany.
8
On July 12, 1932, at Lausanne (See Part III) this situation was
changed (after the Reparations had helped to build the crisis).
9
See Annual Reforts of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1927, p. 630,
and subsequent reportsj also in New York Times, June 14, 1931, the
article by Edwin L. James on "German Reparations and Allied War
Debts," and New York Times, November i, 1931, article by Charles
Merz on "The War Debt Puzzle.51




OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

79
much smaller present value—about 5.9 billions, if discounted at 5 per cent. But nominally the principal remains
unchanged, at about 11.6 billions, as of 1929.
The reparations and these inter-governmental debts
could be paid only in goods 5 but America deliberately and
intentionally made such goods-payments enormously difficult, if not impossible, by erecting special tariffs against
them—and then granted a moratorium!
The condition in 1932 was that American private interests had lent Germany the money with which to pay
the Allies the money with which the Allies were supposed
to be paying the American government.
INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE DEBTS

These were loans made by American private interests to
foreign borrowers, both private and public. American foreign investments of this sort began their phenomenal
growth about 1912, increasing eight-fold from 1912 to
1931, and 89 per cent from 1922 to 1931. The total growth
of these foreign debts did not stop with 1929. In 1931
they passed 15 billions. In 1929, however—the crisis year
—the amount was about 14 billions, which, added to the
lendings of our government,-made a total foreign investment in 1929 of well over 25 billions.
PUBLIC DEBTS IN THE UNITED STATES

These not only grew but went on growing after 1929.
The total of federal, state and local debts increased from
1915 to 1919, 5% fold, and then, up to 1932, they further
increased by 14 per cent.10 At the end of 1931, the sum was
nearly 34 billions, or over $271 per capita. But in 1929, the
10

Measured per capita, however, the increase was finished in 1919.




8o

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

crisis year, it was about 30 billions: the state and local debts
amounting to 13.4 billionsj the federal, to about 16.9
billions.
Other countries also had great public debts, largely left
over from the war. Even the neutral countries were not
free of such debts.
PRIVATE DEBTS IN AMERICA

From 1910 to 1928, farm mortgages rose over 2%foldj and in spite of a net increase in farm valuation for
that period (including an inflation as well as a deflation
period) the net equity of both the mortgaged and the unmortgaged farms descended from 90 per cent of the gross
valuation, in 1910, to 78 per cent in 19285 the aggregate
burden being (in 1928 and 1929) about 9% billions.
Other agrarian debts in 1929 came to about 1.9 billions.
As roughly estimated on the basis of incomplete data,
urban mortgages, from 1920 to 1929, increased more than
three-fold, reaching, in 1929, about 37 billions.
Debts on life insurance policies in 1929 were about 2.4
billions.11
Corporate long and short term debts in 1929 came to
about 76 billions.
As to installment buying, only the roughest guesses are
available. Professor Seligman guesses about 2.2 billions
outstanding in 1926. The 2.2 billions would be about 3
billions by 1929.
Bank loans and discounts for all banks in the United
States increased from June, 1914, to October, 1929, by
nearly three-fold; from June, 1917, two-fold 5 from 1922,
50 per cent, from 1926, nearly 15 per cent Deducting
11

Based on an estimate for 1932 by Dr. W. A. Berridge of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.



OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

81

brokers' loans from the total loans and discounts reported
by the Comptroller of the Currency, we have 39 billions
for the peak of commercial bank loans, in 1929.
BROKERS' LOANS

The year 1921 was the trough of a short depression. The
stock market was full of bargain prices. About 1923, the
bull market began its unprecedented climb. An ideal investor, buying an average assortment of stocks in 1926 and
holding them till September 7, 1929, could have turned
every $100 invested into $200—all in three years. By
starting in 1913, he could, by the same policy of holding
on, have turned every $100 into $400. It was during substantially this period that investment trusts, having been
a mania, became a full blown bubble. During the first nine
months of 1929 they rose from 200 to 400 in number,
taking in a billion of their clients' money, to add to the
two billions previously absorbed. During July they issued
222 millions of securities; during August, 485 millions;
and September, 643 millions.
Naturally, brokers' loans kept pace with these opportunities. From October, 1928, to October 4, 1929, they increased by 50 per cent, reaching the record peak of nearly
9% billions. This included "bootleg" loans which at the
peak were by far the larger part. 12
TOTALS IN

Brokers' Loans
Commercial Bank Loans

1929

9*5 billions
39

12
All security loans increased from October 3, 1928, to October 4,
1929, by 36 per cent and reached on that date a peak just under 17
billions.




82

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

Total of all separable debts which
(mostly) create credit currency
48.5 billions
Other domestic private debts
129.8
Total domestic private debts
178.3 billions
Our public debts and all foreign
debts owing in America
$$,6
Grand total owing in America
234. billions
As to the rest of the world, their domestic and international debts, including reparations, were vastly more
burdensome than our own.
GOLD AND THE DEBTS

But mere totals do not tell the whole story. It will be
remembered that over-indebtedness may be alarming to
the debtors or the creditors (the chief creditors for our
purpose, being commercial banks). The important signal
that may alarm the debtors is a fall in the price level which
limits his ability to pay; the important signal that may
alarm the creditor-bank is a curtailment of the gold supply
which limits the bank's lawful ability to extend the debtor's
time. Gold is the only international money j and during
the war the inflation of paper and credits drove gold out of
these paper currency countries and forced them to abandon
the gold standard, while a serious gold inflation was produced in the United States by the flood of gold driven
from Europe by the "cheaper" paper currencies. The complaints of a gold shortage which began to be heard soon
after the war really meant that the price levels had not
sufficiently receded to permit a general return to the gold
standard. Indeed, the attempts to return caused a "scramble for gold" which kept it scarce, or made it scarce, in
many countries—especially in the debtor countries.
The creditor countries were more fortunate; and one of



OVER-INDEBTEDNESS

83

them, at least—France—doubtless became possessed of a
gold surplus. There is a prevailing opinion that the same
was true of America. But this was only partly true, though
it was fully believed by many Americans, including some
American bankers. Gold came to America during the war
because other countries were off the gold standard. But
upon this gold we speedily built such a credit structure
and raised the price level so high as to require almost
all of the gold as a base. It is true that after the price level
fell in 1920-2 there was temporarily an excess of gold in
the United States, but soon both our business structure
and our credit structure expanded so much as to make our
unused or so-called "sterilized" gold more or less of a
myth. The fact that we were a creditor nation was offset
by the fact that we had collected very little from our
debtors, and, on the contrary, had made new loans to
them in excess of what they had paid us. Much of the gold
in America was either ear-marked as belonging to Europe
or was at any rate known to be subject to sudden withdrawal, as the result of short term credits held abroad.
If all this money, which had fled from Europe to
America but was destined to return, could have been
segregated as "refugee" money and sent home or even
ear-marked, the myth of America's excess gold would not
have arisen. We would not have done so much financing
of Europe, to the disadvantage of both parties—or else
we would have done it under contracts properly safeguarding us against gold withdrawals.
Thus, though our gold was great in quantity, the amount
of it that was free was not great enough to justify much
more than the credit currency erected upon it.
In 1924-5, the Federal Reserve authorities adopted a
policy which had the effect of deliberately sending some of
our gold away. Britain wanted to get back to the gold



84

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

standard from which the war had forced her; and, to do
this, the Bank of England tried to attract gold by raising
its interest rates j and the Federal Reserve authorities
obligingly cooperated by lowering the interest rates in
this country. In this way, from 1925 to 1928, America lost
422 millions of its gold, and in the same period 13 increased
its ear-marked gold from 13 to 35 millions.
Moreover, this lowering of our interest rates stimulated speculation on the New York stock market. In a
word, we dismissed some of our gold foundation and at
the same time built a debt structure over the place where
the gold had been.
Billions of debts and a gold base that was slippery—
these two conditions had now set the stage for the collapse
of 1929.
December 1925-December 1928.




CHAPTER VIII

T H E WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32
IN GENERAL

ON the depression of 1929-32, Professor Hansen has
said:
"Now the year 1930, as Professor Josef Schumpeter has
pointed out, fell not only in the downswing of the long
cycle (Kondratieff), but also formed a part of the down
grade of the major cycle (Juglar), and at the same time
a part of it (probably the second half) fell in the trough
of the minor forty-month cycle (Persons-Mitchell). The
convergence of all three cycles upon the years 1930-31 accounts in part for the severity of this depression." *
It is not the contention of this book that over-indebtedness is the sole explanation of the depression of 1929-32,
nor even that over-indebtedness and the deflation caused
thereby were the only factors. The revolutions in South
America for instance, as well as the fighting between China
and Japan and the Hitler movement in Germany were
both cause and effect. Professor Hansen ascribes the
severity of the depression chiefly to deflation, shifts in
world trade, breakdown of great empires, internal capital
movements and tariffs. And doubtless that list could be
lengthened. But that over-indebtedness and deflation were
strong and indeed the dominating factors seems to me
highly probable.
1
Economic Stabilization in an Unbalanced World, by Alvin Harvey
Hansen (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1932), p. 95.

85


86

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

Nor is it sure that the depression of 1929-32 is the
greatest of all time. Any current depression is likely to be
called the worst by its contemporaries. Such was the case
in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. Professor Victor
Clark reports that in Philadelphia between 1816 and 1819
the number of employees in thirty leading branches of
manufacture, principally cotton and woolen, decreased
more than 75 per cent!
THE AMERICAN STOCK MARKET 2

The first symptoms in America of the world depression
of 1929-32 appeared in the summers of 1928 and 1929. In
the summer of 1928, building activities began to decline. In
the summer of 1929, production, trade and employment
generally started a downward trend 5 and after July, the
price level joined the down movement. These portents
were quite generally overlooked as were the signs in
Europe which were growing somewhat more marked. The
first spectacular evidence that America was in for a depression was the crash of the New York Stock Market.
Charts 1 and 2 give a short and a long view of stock
market history. Chart 1 shows that, while the commodity
price level had been steady, the stock market price level
had been persistently soaring. During 1928 the Federal
Reserve Board tried to check the speculating fever by
gradual advances of the re-discount rate, half of one per
cent at a time, from 3 ^ per cent to $h tut in vain. On
August 8, 1929, the rate was advanced more drastically
from 5 to 6. This caused an ominous but temporary drop
in the market 5 there was a quick recovery, and not till
September 7 did the market reach its peak.
2

See The Stock Market Crash and After, by Irving Fisher (Macmil-

lan, 1930).




THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32

87

Brokers' loans—or, rather, the margin accounts on
which these are based—are among the most unstable, because the creditors can call them without previous notice.
Anxiety is always present, or should be, in the person who
has a margin account. The pyramid of such accounts was
both unstable and high. Only a nudge to the market values
which secured the accounts would be needed to send both
the loans and the price level crashing into the abyss.
Two nudges came—both from Britain 5 one on September 20 and one on September 26.
In Britain there had also been a bull market 5 and, on
the tide of it Clarence Hatry had financed a group of
enterprises so recklessly that presently he could go no
further without forgery, and that expedient failed him on
September 20, when his hopeless condition became known
and seven of his issues were suspended from the London
Stock Exchange. His subsequent failures involved 67 million dollars j and after the announcement of September
20, many of his stockholders had to fortify themselves by
selling their American stocks. The bad news and these consequent English sales in New York, with a slight downward effect on the New York price level, constituted the
first nudge.
Meanwhile, though Britain was now back on the gold
basis, she was still bidding for the immigration of gold
from America. On September 26 the Bank of England's
discount rate was put up to 6j^ per cent. This was when
prices on the American stock market were so high that the
yield on A1 stocks was very lowj and it did not take a
very high interest rate in Britain to induce British investors
in America to sell their American holdings and to lend the
proceeds in London. Accordingly, this action of the Bank
of England produced a flurry of selling in the New York




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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
Stock Exchange. And this was the second nudge. Then 3
it was that a retired New York broker said, "This marks
the end of the New Era bull market."
THE PANIC

On September 29 the panic began. On October 24 nearly
13 million shares changed hands. Many people lost the
savings of a life-time. Others bought up the bargains, and
five days later were themselves wiped out. That 29th of
October was the most sensational day of trading that the
New York Stock Exchange has ever seen. It was said that
a million persons were trading. Nearly i6j4 million shares
changed hands. The ticker was so late that when a man
sold "at the market" he might, when his turn came, obtain 40, though, when he had put in the order, the ticker
said 70. Billions of value were wiped out.
Then came the third and last spectacular day—November 13. The Federal Reserve System, by purchasing securities in the open market, tried to check the fall of prices; also
it cut the rediscount rate on the 14th; but the effect was temporary. In the eight weeks brought to a close by November
13, the level of stock prices had fallen 42 per cent; and in
October and November, 23 billions of value had gone.
That was the end of the panic, though not the end of the
descent of the stock market.
It was on October 4, 1929, that the brokers' loans began their crash; and then they went so fast that 3 billions,
it was said, were wiped out in a few weeks.4 By March,
3
What Makes Stock Market Prices? (p. 173) by Warren F. Hickernell (Harper & Bros., 1932).
4
The statistics exaggerate the initial speed at which brokers' loans
went down because many hard pressed clients transferred their obligations to banks, and hung on a little longer, so that the time loans
to which these transferred obligations were added continued to rise until
December.




THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32

91

1932, after a few brief up-spurts, the level of industrial
stocks had fallen by about 77 per cent, and brokers' loans
had fallen by over 94 per cent.
Between the loans on the stock market and the stock
market price level there could not be a better example of
a vicious spiral. With every distress liquidation the price
level fell j and every fall of the price level drove a new
set of people into further liquidation, which still further
lowered the price level, which compelled still further
liquidation, and so on and on.

PRELIMINARIES IN THE COMMODITY MARKET

After the stock market crash, the great debt-liquidations
began. I will not presume to dogmatize on why the American price level and the American production and employment had already started down before the crash of the
stock market. Many people blame Europe for America's
share in what is now understood to be a world depression.
Europe was as over-indebted as America; and it is true
that Europe's share in the depression preceded ours. This
was made evident by the downswing of European price
levels, both in the stock markets and in the commodity
markets j and the interests of the two continents were so
interlocked that what hurt one must sooner or later be
felt by the other. But Europe, quite as plausibly, blames
America for the depression. A part of Europe's economic
trouble was due to internal political jealousies and a network of tariffs. These troubles were not entirely willful.
They were really difficult to avoid j and instead of helping
to settle them, we forsook Europe politically. We did not
withhold financial assistance j but this, as we have seen, was
sometimes harmful to both parties as well as helpful.



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
Economically, also, we aggravated Europe's handicaps,
by accepting the doctrine that a government debt is like
a debt at a grocery store. We demanded payment while
erecting a tariff. In addition to this, Britain in 1922 began
her disastrous deflation policy by retiring Treasury and
Bank of England notes, preparatory to restoring the gold
standard (in 1925) at the pre-war gold weight of the
pound* Thus she depressed her price level, crippled her
industries and increased her unemployment; and such was
the importance of Britain in world trade and world finance
that the fall of the British price level greatly aggravated
the fall of other price levels, European and non-European.
In addition to these non-American influences to the
detriment of America, we already had a case of overproduction among some of our basic commodities, especially
wheat, corn, cotton, petroleum, copper, iron and other raw
products, agricultural and mineral. Certain lines of manufacture, too, were over-produced, notably automobiles,
radios, and many luxuries.
But it matters little which factor in the vicious spiral
(commercial bank liquidations or the fall of the price level)
started first 3 nor what factor, remote or near, started either
of them. They could even start together. But once started,
they were doomed to continue in a vicious spiral, each accelerating the other. What seems sure is that the crash
of the stock market helped to force the rest of our debt
structure into liquidation, and that it was the hopeless
magnitude of the debt burden which made it so difficult
for the economic organism to right itself.
THE COMMODITY MARKET

Let us now take up what followed the stock market
crash.



THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32

93

In the first place, many who were involved in both the
stock and the commodity markets sold commodities in
order to avoid selling stocks. In the second place, consumers took fright and reduced their purchases—in other
words, reduced the turnover or velocity of their money.
Deposit currency, as we have seen, grows out of the demand deposits in commercial banks. The demand deposits
do not exactly correspond with the commercial bank loans,
but the great majority of demand deposits are based on
commercial bank loans j and, except for short periods, the
movements of the two tend to run parallel. Immediately
after the stock market crash, some demand deposits grew
a little but all lost velocity. Nor did this loss of velocity
apply to brokers' deposits alone. It was true of deposits
outside of New York where brokers' loans are not a large
factor.
And immediately after October, 1929, the commercial
bank loans on which most demand deposits depend began
to be liquidated. They were yielding, perhaps, to the already accumulated losses in the price level, perhaps to a
sudden dearth of buyers, or to an anticipated dearth. These
commercial bank loans (inclusive of brokers') 5 reached
their peak in October, 1929; and then the progressive
liquidation of these loans was soon proceeding. This could
not happen without wiping out deposit currency. In the
first half of 1930 the demand deposits and the loans joined
each other in the down turn, but there appeared an increase
of time deposits ° which was little short of hoarding; and,
savings bank deposits increased still faster in the same
period. But after the middle of 1931 even the time deposits
began to be depleted by the hoarding of pocket money.
5

"Bootleg" loans, however, not being included.
Reporting member banks: time deposits increased 570 million and demand deposits decreased 627 million.
6




INDEX
75

r (~

INDEX OFVELOCITYOFBANK DEPOSITS
1919-25 AVEBAGE-lOO

poU

DESEA30NAL1ZLD

\ZZ5\

20oL

1919

1920




1921

1922 I 1923 I 1924 I 1925 I 1926 I 1927 I 1928 I 1929 i 1930 I 1931
CHART

3

LOANS AND DEPOSITS

BILL.IONS

or;

l

50
Z5

OF ALL A\EA\BLR B A N K S
i

Z5

"

zo

..• "-' ......

"•••

*** Nfj*; nFM*km nponMr**.***

***?

***,i^*-

•"' l

10

1**.
""*

20
15

t'^i" "*

H'""

10 I

r"

a

/

7

./ '

6

\

TIME

DEPOSITS

/

5

Z

/

1

/

3

10
of}

/
14 1915 16 17

4

l£EBCENTl

5£5|FAiirJ
1 g"

#

3

7
6
5

J<

4

1

50

1 J

* LOANS

15

L

BILL ONS
CF4

|

4

1>
18 119




«zo
w YpoL

4

>

1920 21

-Z

5

in

zz

Z3 Z4 1925 Z6 27

CHART 4

Li)*l|H6o|
1 11 ZO1 29 I193C

Isi

52

1

96

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
THE CURRENCY

Charts 3 and 4 illustrate these reactions of volume and
velocity quite clearly. From October, 1929, to February,
1932, the deposit currency of the member banks of the
country (in 141 cities including New York City) fell from
$18,726,000,000 to $14,789,000,000. This was a fall of
21 per cent, leaving only 79 per cent of the earlier amount j
and the velocity in the same period7 fell 61 per cent—that
is, to 39 per cent of the earlier rate, so that the efficiency
of deposit money for sustaining the price level and the
levels of production, trade and employment became, in
1932, only 31 per cent of what it had been in 1929.
Other elements in the currency have, of course, suffered less j but the statistics are not detailed enough to tell
us exactly what happened to them. The phrase "money in
circulation" simply refers to money which exists in the
United States but is not in the Treasury, nor in the possession of the Federal Reserve Banks nor of the Federal Reserve agents. More or less of it could, so far as is revealed
by the figures for this so-called "circulation," be in stockings or in other hoarding places and not circulating at allin this misleading sense, 1930-31 saw an increase in cash
"circulation," including increased quantities of Federal Reserve notes. A study of over two months indicated that
hoarding was going on at the rate of 2.6 billions a year.
Thus the retardation of velocity through fear and the
contraction of volume through liquidation kept the price
level going down; and this so crowded the commercial
debtors that more liquidation was necessary, resulting in a
further fall of the price level, resulting in still more liquidation and hoarding, resulting in a still further fall of the
price level, and so on, through the downward vicious spiral.
7

1919-25, as the base, equals 100.




THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32

97

TRADE AND PROFITS

Chart 5 shows the descent of some of the trade factors,
beginning in the summer of 1929. The preliminary figures
for 1930 showed that the corporate profits ratio was already nearly as low as in 1921.8 In the last quarter of
1931, a reporting group of 163 industrial and miscellaneous
corporations (whose quarterly profits between 1925 and
1929 had increased by 75 per cent) took a loss of a million dollars. These and other examples of the behavior of
corporate profits are shown in Table 1.
TABLE 1
CORPORATION N E T PROFITS

*

(Millions of dollars)
Year and
Quarter

Industrial
Other Large
Public
Class I and MiscelGrand Total, Telephone
Railroads
laneous
Utilities
10 Groufs
(63)
O03)
(163)
(17O
(5°°)

1925

165
148
138

1
2

603
660

3
4
Quar. average

767

44
46
45

781
703

5i

181

*34
359
334

47

158

283

205

189
232
225
2*5
215

1926
224
246
189
272
278
170
5*
282
3
156
394
5*
200
230
826
4
342
57
308
Quar. average
179
259
53
799
* Compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from quarterly
reports of net profits of 500 companies, including 103 telephone, 63
other public utilities, 171 Class I railroads, 24 motor and motor accessories, 18 oil, 13 steel, 22 food, 20 metal and mining", 15 machine
building, and 51 miscellaneous companies. The numbers have declined
from a total of 531 to 500 for the last quarter of 1931.
8
"Corporate Earning Power" by Prof. W. L. Crum in Corporate
Practice Review, January, 1932.
1
2

710

772
884




5i

98
Year and
Quarter

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE i—Continued
Industrial
Other Large
Public
Class 1 and MiscelGrand Total, Telephone
laneous
Utilities
Railroads
10 Groups
(163)
(63)
(500)
(17O
( « j )

1Q2J
X

%
3
4
Quar. average

745

59

206

227

253

779
819

59

247

288

56

185
169

336

258

739
771

54

214

276

57

194

272

195
249

63
66

226

217

263

204

245

322
343
301

1928
1

769

2

837

3

953
984

60

192

358

4

64

246

Quar. average

886

63

217

373
298

X

937

70

263

260

344

2

68

304

414

66

245
224

397

72
69

275
252

3 U

393
284

319

359

307

*9*9

3

1,031
1,080

4

945

Quar. average

998

'

1030
1

778

67

270

176

265

2

805

70

259

200

276

3

65
6%

223

283

204

4

775
683

226

116

Quar. average

760

68

273
256

221

215

*93*
1

382

69

81

107

125

2

441

72

78

132

159

67
64
68

59

167

79

125

— 1

74

133

95

3

390

4

267

Quar. average

37o

97

UPTURNS

Just before 1930, at the beginning of the stock market
crash, Mr. Hoover assembled some of the leading bankers
and business men. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Ford were among
them. Mr. Ford ascribed the stock market crash to a busi


5Q W £ BUSINESS INDEXES

1

INDF.

160

1 1 11

140

CTOTAL-KANUF.il MIHECACa-f

140

120

uA
-4— 1
1 ^N IV 4f 4LA ~>J 7
fV
V//If r\ r

INDUSTRIAL PQODUCTION

120
100
90

60
50
40

J*

A
rj \r
z/ W 1 V
Li H L
\

>

i

(CENT

V

P

30

J

W

/

\

r/

/^v A

E

V
V

600
500

^^P:*

100
90
60
70
60

FACTOfcY FJ^LOYMF-NTV

1

7\\
\

\

k

* \ j t i

\

90

j

60

,

r/
V

;

FPElGmCAPpADlNG3:l.C.L

\fl TV* v
I
*A l ^ - J

Tl A, W7 \!^

^
Z50|

579|

<a,

1919

19ZO

1921'

7

z
19ZZ




^

i

1

r

•

^jr V

• -BW I&T\A

f$\

.

!

LAI

MA

i

k
.

TH0U5*

W-^t-

^

1
_

19Z4 ! 19Z5 1 19Z6 1 19Z7 1 19261 I9Z91 1930 [1951

CHART 5

^

''

i

JWT£: ALL DATA 15 ADJUSTED FOB SEASONAL
VABIATI0N3 EXCEPT THE INDEX CF FACTOttf
PAYCOLL3 AND PAHAMA CANAL T C A i n C

1923

110
100
90
60
70

L'N
\

C to LOADING:i

F

/
... '—

S§P

A

v*

r-^ » w ^jrM
/

TOMi

900

700

no

EPAC- "WENT 5T0CE 3 A L L 5 -

Izoo
1000
600

—

11

loo l _
90
60

1

jj^j

^v"

70

t

40 1

y

„. tCTOPY^PAYgOLlJ!

i

</
Vs. /

60

50

»

-J
no \Sfl •SA
\\
100 \J
>
90

70
60

1

PCODUCTION <f
11
AUT0R0BILE5 _ L I

zo

/^\\,,._

IZO

60

H

li i0

M ijso
40
—M I

M

90

IA

,_....

V

m IjiO

—booi

50

130
IZO
110
100
90
60
70

! \ i
\j

100

' nf\
^

>

77*
vT

60 V
70

\

7,

\s-

I

1

1000
900
600
700
600
500

[l95Z

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
ness slump. He proposed that prices be not lowered and
that wages be raised. Mr. Hoover proposed that constructions be pushed, both public and private. At the outset of
1930, the stock market began to do better, and hopeful
prognostications abounded. The commodity price level
turned up a little (from the last quarter of November to
past the middle of January) ° but almost at once resumed
its descent, and never stopped again, except for a slight retardation (not an upturn) in the third quarter of 1930.
Other business factors at the beginning of 1930 also registered upturns5 stocks, velocity of deposits, production, and
pay-roll, but not employment. Cities, states, and the
Federal government took Mr. Hoover's advice j Mr. Ford
took his own advice. But presently Mr. Ford had to
discharge many thousands of his men and later to lower
his wage rates 5 and, despite all the efforts of cities,
states, and the Federal government, the upturns were
promptly ended. Quite possibly the subsequent downswing was accelerated by way of reaction to falsified hopes.
Just before 1931, hopeful prophecies were again in the
air, though the tone was not quite so confident. This time
there was no response from the price level j but in January 1931, upturns were registered by the same factors as
before: stocks, turnover of deposits, production and payrolls augmented this time by loans and department store
sales. For five months employment stopped going down
but did not go up.
INTERNATIONAL ACCELERATORS OF THE VICIOUS
SPIRAL—1931

The Hawley-Smoot tariff, enacted in June, 1930, had
aroused the bitter resentment of other countries and
started reprisals in Canada and elsewhere.
0

Not shown on the monthly chart, but shown by a weekly index.




THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32 101
In December, 1930, the so-called Bank of United
States, a relatively small bank on the outskirts of New
York City, had closed its doors. Many Europeans had mistaken this for a failure of the Federal Reserve System,
which was regarded as the American equivalent of the
Bank of England and the Bank of France. This shook the
confidence of Europe.
Marchy 1931. Germany and Austria, being almost bankrupt, sought, in March, 1931, to establish a Customs
Union (Anschluss); but this sound economic measure was
blocked by the political opposition of France, Italy and
Czechoslovakia, who feared a political union of Germany
and Austria and argued that the Anschluss, by threatening Austria's independence, would violate the terms of a
recent loan granted to Austria by the League of Nations.
May, 1931. This failure of national economics at the
behest of international politics precipitated a severe crisis
in Austria, whose leading bank, the "Credit Anstalt," being encumbered with frozen assets, could not meet its
obligations and became insolvent in May, 1931. It was
a great bank and its collapse embarrassed both Germany
and England.
June, 1931. Austrian banks were now subjected to runs
which spread to other countries. There were international
gold withdrawals, until the gold standard was jeopardized
for all southeastern Europe. American banks and investors
were involved to the extent of 100 million dollars. A
group of international bankers came to the rescue with a
two-year extension of their short term loans, and the
Austrian government agreed to guarantee the liabilities
of the Credit Anstalt.
Meanwhile, however, Germany had been hard hit by
Austria's plight, and being hard hit, she was raided of her
gold by the French. The Reichsbank lost thus 227 mil


BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
lion dollars j and at the same time, German capital, to the
extent of 200 million dollars, fled from the uncertain
mark. Mr. Hoover came forward in June, 1931, with
his proposal for a moratorium on all intergovernmental
debts. But once more France and the French bankers
balked, precipitating a long and acrimonious discussion of
terms, and robbed the moratorium, which was eventually
granted, of much of its good effect. Some observers have
even thought that Mr. Hoover's proposal, by calling attention to the extremity of the world's plight, scared the
world into making its plight still more extreme.
July, 1931. The Bank of England now came to the
rescue of the Reichsbank. In July the failure of the
Darmstadter und Nationaler Bank, one of the large banks
of Germany, frightened the French banks into withdrawing large amounts of gold from the Bank of England
which was heavily involved in supporting German credit
and industries.
August, 193j.10 The Wiggin Committee—an international committee of bankers, meeting in Basle—reported
on August 18 that, among other things, permanent prosperity could not return to the world until Germany's
debts were put on a workable basis. But nothing happened,
except that the financial troubles of Britain, due largely to
financial troubles of Germany, caused the raids on British
gold to continue.
September, 1931. Britain became so hard pressed that, in
spite of large gold shipments from the Transvaal and in
spite of large credits from the Bank of France and the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York, she stopped her gold
payments by going off the gold standard on September 21,
1931. Her example was quickly followed by 23 other na10
See What Makes Stock Market Prices? by Warren F. Hickernell,
Harper & Bros., 1932, p. 186.




THE WORLD DEPRESSION OF 1929-32 103
tions, including Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Egypt,
Greece, Finland, Rhodesia, Bolivia, Colombia, and Japan.
Then, to prevent panic-sales of British sterling exchange
and of British securities, the world's exchanges, except in
America, Canada, France, and Spain, were closed.
In this same September, a sudden large scale raid—apparently intentional in part—was made on America's gold
by European banks, led by the Bank of France. The fact
that America was the chief lender to Germany and to
Austria seems to have started the raid. Deliberate attempts were made to discredit the dollar. Rumors were
circulated and believed to the effect that America was going off the gold standard and that the gold dollar was
to be "devalued," or superseded by the silver dollar. In
the last part of September, by the exportation and earmarking of some of our gold, the Federal Reserve Banks
were depleted of 347.6 million dollars in gold. Ever since
the failure of the Bank of United States, the world had
been losing confidence in America. America now lost confidence in herself and in the world. We all knew that billions of foreign loans (the sum was over 25 billions) were
likely, in large part, never to be repaid. Already there
had been many American bank failures. It was known that
other American banks were getting weak and that their
"affiliates" had lost heavily in the stock market.
Despite the fact that the European raid did not
prove really disastrous, American bankers and American
depositors were now so scared that hoarding became a
menace. Gold and Federal Reserve notes were withdrawn
from circulation. The Federal Reserve System, from
February to December, 1931, increased its issues of Federal Reserve notes by 80 per cent. These issues were due
to bank failures which made necessary a larger use of
cash. Yet, after a wave of bank failures, beginning in the



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
west and coming east, both banks and their depositors began raiding each other in a cut-throat competition which
more than defeated the new issues of Federal Reserve
notes.
Octobery 1931. Mr. Hoover now proposed a National •
Credit Corporation, designed to help the smaller banks.
This was formed by bankers. He also proposed the Home
Mortgage Corporation under government auspices to
stimulate residential building which proposal was later
adopted. Premier Laval visited Mr. Hoover. For these or
other reasons, or for no reason, hope revived in October.
Stock prices made a weak spurt for a month (OctoberNovember).
BALANCING THE BUDGET

In December, Mr. Hoover started his more elaborate
and largely commendable program for relief,11 but, to
meet the rapidly developing emergency, each step was
too small and, by the time it was enacted into law, it was
too late.
And at least one possible error (as it seems to me and to
many other economists) was included in the program. This
was the attempt at balancing the budget (for the goal was
not really reached). "Balancing the budget" annually
sounds well to the man in the street and helps float bonds
with bankers, but the budget of a government affects the
currency and the requirements vary enormously at different
times—war, peace, boom, depression. To balance the budget
in a depression by forcing economy and increasing taxes
reduces government spending and (what is far more
important) reduces the spending of the public by taxing
away part of their income. In both ways it tends to reduce
the price level.
11

See Appendix VII.




T H E W O R L D DEPRESSION O F 1929-32

105

The purpose of balancing the budget was to prevent
further borrowing by the government and thus to keep
the public debt from growing. Actually, however, the
deflation involved in this policy did increase the real debt
of the government by increasing the burden of every dollar in it. All deflation does this, and the directors of fiscal
policy cannot afford to leave out of account the deflationary
or inflationary effects of their policies. Taxation tends
toward deflation j borrowing tends toward inflation.
During the World War the government borrowed, even
though the effect of borrowing was inflationary in a period
of inflation; but in 1932, instead of borrowing and inflating in a period of deflation, the government taxed and
deflated when each dollar 12 was already 60 per cent more
burdensome to the debtor than in 1929. The government
should have borrowed and spent, thus contributing to reflation and to a higher price level. And every climb in the
price level would have lowered the real debts, public and
private, by lightening the real dollar. This would have
stimulated business; and, by checking the decline of
prices, would have enabled corporations and individuals
to pay increased taxes in later years much more easily,
when there would have been something substantial to tax.
You cannot tax a vacuum.
An economist who has made special study of this problem writes me:
"High tax rates, economy in expenditures, and retirement of
debts should characterize boom periods. Low tax rates, large
public borrowings, and increased public expenditures should
characterize periods of stagnation."
Psychologically, the slogan "balance the budget" had a
wide appeal; but on the other hand, the psychological efThird week of June, 1932.



io6

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

feet of new taxes to come in the near future was like an
additional debt burden to the tax payer.
Finally, the deficit was largely mythical, due to charging
off capital expenditures as expenses. If the Government
were to use in its own accounts the same methods which
it requires for income tax schedules, the Fiscal year ending
June 30, 1931, would have shown not a deficit but a surplus of $109,000,000, according to computations of Dr.
Lubin of the Brookings Institution. The following year
would show only a slight deficit.
SUMMARY AS TO THE NINE MAIN FACTORS

13

From 1929 to 1932, the nine main factors which have
been discussed in this book behaved as follows:
1. Debts: The liquidation of brokers' debts had cut the
figures by 94 per centj of commercial bank loans, by 22
per cent3 of all debts due in America, by 23 per cent, except those (like public debts) which increased.
2. 7, 8. Money; its velocity; pessimism: Judging by the
records of the Federal Reserve member banks, deposit
currency had lost 21 per cent of its volume and 61 per cent
of its velocity j the remaining efficiency for business purposes being only 31 per cent of its efficiency in 1929. The
growth of pessimism is sufficiently indicated by this record.
3. The -price level: industrial stocks had lost 77 per
cent 5 and the descending commodity price level, instead of
righting itself, lost 35 per cent. By the third week of June,
1932, this loss had become 38 per cent.
4. Net worths: Their behavior is best indicated by the
record of commercial failures, including bank suspensions.
In 1929, 1.04 per cent of our firms had failed (22,909 in
More details will be found in Appendix V.



T H E W O R L D DEPRESSION O F 1929-32

107

number) 5 in 1931, 1.33 per cent (28,285 in number)—an
increase of 28 per cent in the yearly rate of failures. Bank
suspensions, in 1929, were 642 in number, in 1930, 1345,
and in 1931, 2,550.
5. Income; the net profits of 163 industrial and miscellaneous corporations became a loss.
6. Production, trade and employment; All kept falling. According to a Federal Reserve index, industrial production 14 having fallen from June, 1929, to October, 1929,
by 5.6 per cent, instead of righting itself, registered 39 per
cent additional fall from October, 1929 to January, 1932.
The indexes show that construction fell earlier than output and much faster, just as indicated in Part I.
9. Interest: The various rates acted according to type.
For instance, the rediscount rate, the call loan rates, and
the 60 to 90 day time loan rates on mixed collateral, all
rose with the boom and fell with the depression. The chief
misfortune is that the rediscount rate rose too late to restrain those who borrowed in order to speculate on the
bull market, and fell too late to check the stampede of
liquidation by the same borrowers. That is, the real rate
had been allowed to get so far away from the money rate
—so light on the way up and so heavy on the way down—
that the borrowers were insensitive to the nominal rates.
THE REAL DOLLAR

The whole tragedy is summed up in what happened to
the Real Dollar. From 1929 to March 1932, by reason of
the lowering price level, the real dollar, measured by 1929,
became $1.53—later (third week of June, 1932) $1.62.
Thus all the liquidation that had been accomplished
down to 1932 left the unpaid balances more burdensome
14

Adjusted for seasonal changes.




io8

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

(in real dollars of 153 cents apiece) than the whole debt
burden had been in 1929, before liquidation began. Only
one category of debt seems to have been reduced in fact
as well as in name. This was brokers' loans, which were
reduced, in name, 94.4 per cent, and in fact, 91 per cent.
On the commercial bank debts of 39 billion, though 8%
billions had been paid up to 193a—nominally a reduction
of 21.8 per cent—the burden had not decreased but actually increased by 20 per cent. On the intergovernmental
debts of 11.6 billions, 400 millions had been paid up to
1932—nominally a reduction of 3.4 per cent, yet the real
burden had increased by 48 per cent. On farm mortgages
of 9% billions, 1.9 billions were paid—nominally a reduction of 20 per cent j yet the real burden had increased by
22 per cent.15 If we exclude public and other debts which
grew even nominally after 1929, the total is 187% billions on which the payments of 43% billions were made—
nominally a reduction of 23 per cent 5 yet the real burden
had increased by 17 per cent. If we take everything, the
grand total is 234^ billions, on which net payments of
nearly 37 billions were made—nominally a net reduction
of 15.7 per cent j yet the net real burden had increased 29 per
cent.
In a word, despite all liquidations, the 234% billions
of 1929 became over 302 billions in 1932, if measured in
1929 dollars.16 By the third week in June, 1932, the business dollar had grown to $1.62 in terms of the 1929 dollar,
and the debts expressed in this inflated dollar would have
grown correspondingly. If there was no decrease in dollar
debts, the total would be equal to 319.8 billion of 1929
dollars, or an increase of 36 per cent. Even assuming liqui15

If we used
Of course,
dates. They do
were contracted
16

a farm-commodity dollar, the increase would be greater.
the figures merely compare valuations at two specific
not and cannot compare the various dates when loans
and the dates when they were paid.




TABLE 2
ESTIMATED TOTAL DEBTS IN THE UNITED STATES

Change from 1929 to 1932
Debts

Changes from 1929 to 1932
NOMINAL

1929
In 1929
Dollars
(millions)
Brokers* loans
Commercial bank loans
Consumers* credits
Loans on Life Insurance policies
Corporation debts (long & short term)
Farm mortgages
Other agricultural loans
Non-Farm mortgages
Private foreign loans
State and local debts
Federal debt
War loans
TOTAL

$ 0,500
39,000
3,000

2,379
76,096
9,500
1,87s
37,000
14,000
13,400
16,931
11,600
$234,281

1932

In 1932
Dollars
(.millions)
$

530
30,500
2,000
3,400

64,682

J932
In 1929
Dollars
(millions)
$

811

46,665
3,060
5t202

98,963

In Dollars 1
Unadjusted
for Changes Per Cent
in Value 1 Change
(millions)
— $8,970
— 8,500
— 1,000
-J- i , o 2 i
— 11,414
— 1,900

7,600
1,800
26,000
15,200
16,000
18,508
11,200

39,78o
23,256
24,480
28,317
17,136

—11,000
4- 1,200
-j- 2,600

$197,420

$302,052

-36,861

11,628
2,754

—

+

—

75

1,577
400

— 94-4
— 21.8

— 333
+ 42.9
— 15.0
— 20.0
— 4.0
— 30.0
+ 19.0

+ 9.5
— 3-4
— 15.7

ACTUAL

In 1920
Dollars
(millions)
-$8,689
- 7,66s

60
- 2,823
-22,867
- 2,128
880
- 2,780
- 9,256
- 11,080
-11,386

Per Cent
Change
- 9i
- 20
3
-119
- 30
- 22

- 47
- 8
- 66
- 82

- 5,536

- 68
- 48

+ 68,291

-f 29

Computed and compiled by Dr. Royal Meeker from estimates by Dr. Carl Snyder, Dr. Lionel D. Edie, Professor E. R. A. Seligman, Professor John H. Gray and others, and reports of the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, and Agriculture. The figures in some cases are little better than shrewd guesses, but in most instances they are based upon accurate statistical records.
No attempts have been made to estimate small loans such as are made by individuals, credit associations, pawn-brokers, and "loan
sharks." The decline in consumers' credit is assumed to be nearly equal to that in the automobile ingredient.
All conversions from 1932 to 1929 dollars are expressed in terms of the purchasing power of the business man's dollar over
commodities at wholesale. One business man's dollar in March, 1932 equals $1.53 in 1929. By the third week of June, 1932,
the business dollar had grown to $1.62.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
dation by failure and foreclosure amounting to 10 billions,
the real debts would have remained stationary at 302.9
billion dollars of 1929. The details are given in Table 2.
It is this growth of real debt burden, despite huge efforts
at liquidation, which, in my opinion, constitutes the master
fact of the depression of 1929-32.




PART THREE
REMEDIAL
CHAPTER
IX.
X.
XI.

PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES
REMEDIES
T H E WORLD MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY







CHAPTER IX
PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES
WHEN FORM IS SUBSTANCE

A FRIENDLY critic has taken exception to the emphasis here
placed upon the varying dollar—"a mere unit of measure,
instead of the things measured." He is more impressed
by the concrete dislocations of business. But a unit of measure which enters into practically every transaction and then
starts growing and dwindling by turns (while it goes on
looking the same to the contracting parties) will, of course,
produce dislocations—dislocations in everything—dislocations in price, quantity, distribution, and all else that concerns the contracting parties, and all other parties in the
world. Such dislocations (it seems to me) are bound to be
more radical and more wide-spread than any that would be
likely to result, for instance, from a blight on one crop or
the over-production of another, or from any coincidence of
such causes.
Within a stone's throw of my home is the plant of a
great arms company. Early in the World War it entered
into prodigious contracts with foreign countries to produce
munitions j but the prices to be paid, though incredibly
high, were fixed by the contracts; and no sooner had the
wheels begun to grind out the goods than war inflation
(1914-19) sent current prices sky-rocketing, including the
prices of raw-materials and labor needed but not yet
bought for the fulfillment of the contracts. So the profits,
which had looked so large to start with, got squeezed out,



113

ii4

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

between fixed income and rising costs. Then, after the
war, finding itself burdened with more floor space and
more tools than could be used in peace times for war
commodities, the company decided to devote its extra
equipment to diversified hardware. Accordingly, it planted
stores all over the country and put on a heavy advertising
campaign. No sooner had interest and rent and wages become relatively fixed than post-war deflation (1920-21)
began to force down the prices of all their products, old
and new. So again the profits were squeezed out, this time
between the relatively fixed costs and the lowering income.
And before it could fight its way out (1921-29) came the
price slump of 1929-32. Then, having been caught both
going and coming, this great victim of a tricky unit of
measure at last gave up the ghost. It sold out 5 and its
former owners still wonder what hit them. No doubt they
believe it was an epidemic of business dislocations 5 and it
was—but all of them, or nearly all, were due to one sort
of cause—price inflation (a shrinking dollar) and price
deflation (a swelling dollar).
A monetary disease involves a profit disease. This is the
core of the diagnosis 5 and on that diagnosis depends the
remedy.
Before describing the currency reforms which, according
to the diagnosis of this book, go to the root of the disease,
I will run over briefly the leading "substantive cures"—not
to disparage them as unimportant, but in the conviction
that their importance is secondary. They are, it seems to
me, palliatives, but not inconsistent with the currency reforms which do go to the roots.
FIRST AID

The most tragic sequel of impaired profits is unemployment. No doubt charity for the jobless man is desirable, but



PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES
charity is everybody's business and therefore nobody's. As
one means of taking up the slack in labor—a sort of half
charity—the proposal has been put forward, that, in times
of depression, the government extend itself as an employer.
This would be done by means of an arbitrary program of
public works, productive or unproductive or both. But in
the depression, for instance, of 1929-32, hundreds of millions were spent in this way, which helped feed a few men
but had little or no effect on the steady progress of the
depression j and Mr. Hoover 1 estimated that the further
efforts proposed along the same line could hardly accommodate more than 40,000 workmen the first year. To give
out 40,000 jobs to millions of jobless men, without affecting
the profits on which employment ultimately depends,
would be of little avail—if we are to continue the private
profit system at all. Indeed, an arbitrary program of public works might divert resources from more useful outlets.
In 1932, an ingenious modus vivendi for unemployed men was developed in Gary, Indiana, when the
steel furnaces had become idle for part of the time. Industry, the relief agencies, and the University of Indiana
helped some 20,000 families to cultivate their own food
by reclaiming extensive swamp lands.2
Various forms of insurance against unemployment have
been suggested. There is the plan proposed by Mr. Gerard
Swope of the General Electric Company which embodies,
in a measure, the insurance principle but aims less at paying for the loss of jobs than at keeping the jobs alive in
the lean years through the cooperative action of industry.
The plan is worthy of careful consideration, and the electrical industry, after a good deal of delay, adopted it in
1932.3 But a depression is not caused by unemployment—
1

New York Times, May 23, 1932.
Associated Press dispatch, July 31, 1932.
B
Neiv York Times, Jan. 3, 1932.

2




n6

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

quite the other way; and no plan for perpetuating employment could be long continued by industries drained of
their profits. Congressman David J. Lewis is developing
and pressing the idea that, though the World does not
"owe everyone a living," yet there should always be, for
those who are able and willing to work, a chance to work.
This is a fine ideal, but attainable, it is to be feared, in a
private-profit society, only when that society stops permitting its monetary unit to vary, and wipe out by billions the
profits which should insure the chance to work.
REDUCING COST

Efficiency, like charity, is good for good times as well
as bad. Business has long been efficient. But, in a depression, a new dose of efficiency would at least have the merit
of operating directly on profits. One of its methods would
doubtless be to relax by amendment the anti-trust laws,
so that costs might be reduced by further combination.
Wasteful armaments should be cut, thus reducing the tax
burden; also, the tariffs which hinder the exchange of
goods should be reduced. And increased efficiency would
embrace more system and more invention. But all these
expedients, important as they are, work on a relatively
small scale, while the dollar is jumping 50 per cent.
RETARDING THE DEBT DISEASE

We have seen that over-indebtedness may cause the
liquidation which expands the dollar which raises the costs
which ruin the profits. Any expedient should be adopted,
therefore, which would retard the pyramiding of the debt
burden—or (if the pyramid succeeds in getting itself
erected) would retard its distress liquidation. In anticipa


PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES

117

tion of booms, some of the superfluous and non-productive
lures to over-indebtedness might be withdrawn—for instance, speculative temptations like the capital gain tax. And
the so-called bank affiliates, which are suspected of undue
speculation, might be held in check by laws exposing their
accounts to the same publicity that is applied to the banks
with which they are affiliated. Also, American banks might
show less hospitality to stock market collateral and press
still further the policy which they have in recent years
copied from abroad and are already using—the policy of
lending on balance sheets—being careful, of course, to
check balance sheets with income statements. Also, in the
interest of small corporations and other modest borrowers,
more facilities might be made for the function of lending
intermediate amounts for intermediate periods. At present
the nearest approach we have to a loan for an intermediate
period is usually a sort of gentleman's agreement on the
'part of a commercial bank to renew a short term loan. This
is a perversion of commercial banking; and the result is
that, when an emergency arises, the commercial bank must
either break its promise or be handicapped by a "frozen"
loan.
REPLACING INFLEXIBLE BONDS

Since rash maturity dates are a chief factor in overindebtedness, corporate finance might go further with the
present tendency toward selling more preferred stock and
less bonds, since the bondholder can force liquidation, and
the stockholder cannot. We want a debt system which, unlike the present one, will bend and not break. So far as
bonds are still used, they might be so drawn as to be more
easily refunded. For instance, a bond might well contain
an option to refund after five years as a matter of course.
It might even be drawn to run indefinitely, becoming a



n8

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

perpetual annuity without a due date. As bonds are now
drawn, if a due date falls in a depression, refunding on
any reasonable terms usually becomes impossible. Thus
bad matters are made worse.
OTHER MEASURES OF DEBT FLEXIBILITY

The banks, too, might organize cooperatively for more
lenient liquidation—as to borrowers and as to one another. Branch banking would be an improvement. It
would enable the banks to support one another when runs
occur. Receiverships intended to defer or avoid liquidation
might be more freely used. The laws which compel certain
agencies of trust, such as savings banks, to dump their
securities on a falling market might be relaxed when there
is a depression—since this dumping defeats collectively
the very safety which is the purpose of each individual
liquidation. The American Stock Exchange might adopt
a rule approximating that of the English Stock Exchange
which requires settlements only once a fortnight instead
of daily.
DEBT SCALING

Profits are the spread between receipts and expenses; net
worths are the spread between assets and liabilities. In a
depression, profits (and, of course, net worths) are pinched
by a fall in money values. If, then, expenses and liabilities could be forced into a parallel fall, the pinch would be
avoided. This parallel action could be largely accomplished
if wages and debts could be scaled. Such a procedure, moreover, would be entirely just to workmen and to creditors.
In other words, since, in terms of real wages and real debts,
a depression virtually gives the workman and the creditor
more than the agreed amount, they ought to be willing



PALLIATIVES VS. REMEDIES
to surrender some of the unintentional loot. Possibly, labor
might sometimes be educated into accepting a temporary
reduction j but, in general, the money illusion would stand
in the way. No creditor would adjust his debt to the price
level.
However, in 1932, the "Penn Zone Property Owners
Association" issued a bulletin entitled "Stop Foreclosures."
In this document, the point was made that foreclosures are
an unduly expensive means of collecting debts and hurt
the values of the property foreclosed as well as that of
neighboring property. It was proposed that mortgagors
and mortgagees cooperate during hard times and that interest be reduced proportionately with the fall of rents. In
Gary, Indiana, in 1932, a still more radical plan was proposed, and, according to a news dispatch,4 it won the consent of many mortgagees: that is, both interest and principal
were reduced, and loans renewed.
THE INTERNATIONAL DEBTS IN 1932

Debt regulation, if based on an index number and made
automatic, would practically amount to the same thing as
the regulation of the price level. Debt regulation is, in
general, out of the question. But the depression of 1932 is
unique in that a large part of the debt burden is scalable,
because a large part of it consists of inter-governmental
debts. To these, scaling has already been applied in a
measure, by means of the various reparation and other
intergovernmental debt settlements.
Cancellation, or a large scale reduction, should, if
properly coordinated with other remedial measures, raise
the price level the world over; and one result of a higher
price level would be to lighten the American debt burden
4

New York Times, August 4, 1932.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
and, by stimulating business and increasing incomes, indirectly lighten the burden of American taxes. On the other
hand, to insist, even successfully, on full payment would
only aggravate the process of deflation and make our taxes
more, as measured in real dollars.
The greatest remedial effort yet proposed along this
line is the Lausanne Accord between Germany and her
creditors, reported in the press on July 12, 1932. Having
long since reduced Germany's debt from 132 billion marks
to 34 billion without satisfactory results, the Allies have,
at last, almost released Germany altogether, by coming
down to 3 billion marks, or 714 million dollars—a reduction to about 1 cent on the dollar.5
But, generally speaking, even large palliatives are not
cures—at any rate not preventives. Nor will it ever be possible to forestall the debt disease by direct regulation of
debts until we have better debt statistics and also a criterion
as to how much debt is too much debt. Here is a need
which is basic and must, in due time, be met.
6
Germany is to deliver to the Bank of International Settlement at
Basle (the "World Bank") 5 per cent bonds in the amount of 714- million
dollars. These bonds are not to be negotiated until three years from the
signing of the settlement} and such of them (if any) as the bank shall
not succeed in negotiating in fifteen years are to be cancelled altogether.




CHAPTER X
REMEDIES
CREDIT CONTROL

B U T the lack of debt statistics does not bar us from forestalling the debt disease by a direct attack upon the dollar
or price level disease. True, the debt disease is often the
precipitator of the dollar disease 5 but, under the operation
of the vicious spiral, the debt disease soon becomes the effect, and the dollar disease, the cause. In the boom period,
for instance, the really gross over-indebtedness usually
springs from the upward movement of the price level,
which, by expanding profits unduly, over-excites the profit
maker so that he expands his undertakings unduly, with
too much borrowed money.
Invention or discovery alone need not carry up the aggregate indebtedness very high, if the price level promptly
refuses to follow up the lure of invention or discovery
with the lure of profits not due to the invention or discovery but to credit inflation. The point is to quell the inflation as soon as the price level is even slightly affected by it.
Even in cases (like 1923-29) in which the commodity
price level fails to register the inflation, there is still the
stock market as an indicator $ and even if inflation altogether escapes observation or is neglected, then to prevent
the sequel, deflation will become all the more important.
T H E MANDATE TO TREAT T H E DOLLAR DISEASE

The Constitution of the United States, in Article I,



121

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
section 8, clause 5, reads as follows: "The Congress shall
have power: . . .
"5. to coin money, regulate the value thereof . . . and
fix the standard of weights and measures."
Units of measure other than the dollar were standardized long ago. Their nature made them easy to standardize. They could be determined once for all, and then
some of them put under a glass case for protection against
changes of temperature and humidity. On the other hand,
the dollar had to be defined before there was any instrument
available for measuring its value apart from its weight,—
that is, before the science of index numbers had developed^
so that, though the dollar was called a standard of value,
or purchasing power, it became really a standard of
weight. Now that we possess index numbers we can, if we
will, make the dollar more truly a standard of purchasing
power. This can be understood by reference to a simple
equation, of which the price level (that is, the reciprocal of
the purchasing power of the dollar) is one factor.
THE EQUATION OF EXCHANGE X

According to this "equation of exchange," the price level,
multiplied by the yearly volume of trade, is equal to the
money in circulation multiplied by the number of times it
circulates in a year.
Expressed in the simplest algebra, this means that, in
any given year,
PT = MV
where
P is the index number measuring the price level (a percentage figure, relative to a base year—say 1913),
1
See The Purchasing Power of Money, by Irving Fisher (Macmillan,
1930-




REMEDIES

123

T, the volume of trade (the total value of the year's
trade in terms not of current prices but of the base year
prices),
M} the quantity of money in circulation (including deposit currency), and
V> the velocity at which this money circulates (that is,
the yearly turn-over of the entire mass of money).
It is statistically possible to ascertain each of these items.
What happens to the price level (P) depends largely on
what happens to the other three factors. What happens to
the trade factor should (within certain well-recognized
lines of regulation) be left to the laws of supply and demand, and could safely be left to those laws, if the dollar
in which they register did not unsettle their natural behavior. But, though trade should thus be left to nature,
the other two factors, especially M (the quantity of
money), are proper subjects for human control. The problem, therefore, is: by regulating the quantity of money and
also by influencing its velocity, to keep the price level essentially steady.
Dr. Carl Snyder has shown that the velocity of money
on one side of the equation tends, of itself, to keep pace
with the short-time changes of trade on the other side of
the equation. Thus, there is little disturbance of the price
scale from short-time changes in the volume of trade. So if
money, on one side of the equation, were kept in pace with
the long, steady progress of trade, on the other side, P
(the price level) would remain fairly constant.
THE QUANTITY THEORY

Though the control of M has here been presented in
terms of the "equation of exchange," this has been done
for simplicity and not because we can safely assume that



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
T and V are constant, or even that the ratio of T to V is
constant, or that this ratio is subject only to a constant progressive change—though the last is approximately true.
The presentation could have been made without any recourse to the "quantity theory of money,"—that is, the
"equation of exchange." We need only to assume that an
increase in the quantity of the circulating medium has some
tendency to raise the price level, and vice versa. Nor need
we take seriously the common objection that any control
must be futile because "other factors besides money and
credit" also have an influence. According to this reasoning
the use of a rudder in steering a ship is futile because, besides the influence of the rudder, there is the influence of
wind and wave!

ADJUSTING CREDIT TO BUSINESS

A plan to make money keep step with trade (or rather
with the ratio of trade to velocity) has been suggested by
Dr. Carl Snyder, Dr. Lionel D. Edie, and Professor James
Harvey Rogers. Under this plan, the previous growth of
trade would be watched and its behavior for the preceding ten years taken as a guide. If the ten year growth
had been, say, 3 per cent, the supply of money would then
be increased at the rate of 3 per cent per annum to meet
the expected requirements of business.
This adjustment of money to the requirements of trade
will appeal to the business man to whom the idea of a stable
price level or a stable dollar seems academic. But the proposed adjustment is the same thing as stabilizing the dollar, and we can get a more exact adjustment if we take
the price level, or the purchasing power of the dollar, as
our guide.



REMEDIES

125

REFLATING AND STABILIZING THE PRICE LEVEL

Suppose that the price scale has recently jumped up or
down so as to impoverish lenders to the advantage of borrowers, or borrowers to the advantage of lenders. In that
case, the price level should be first corrected by reflation
and thenceforward safeguarded*
How much reflation is right? In other words, how far
back by way of correction should we put the price level
before starting to safeguard it?
The answer is: far enough back to repair, as nearly as
possible, the injustice to the creditor or the debtor, as the
case may be. But, alas, there is no "the" creditor and no
"the" debtor. There are many of each class, and they
date from different points on the down- or upswing.
Standing at 1932, let us look back upon the downswing
of the price level from 1929 to 1932. Some debts were
contracted in 1929, some in 1930, 1931, or 1932. By putting the price level back from the 1932 level, we would
do injustice to the creditors who lent in 1932. By not putting it all the way back to the i$2g level, we would do injustice to the debtors who borrowed in 1929.2 By putting
it back to 1930, we would do exact justice to the debtors
and the creditors of 1930, but we would leave the debtors
on one side of 1930 and the creditors on the other side to
suffer something less than justice, according to the respective distances of their contracts from the 1930 price level.
Yet we cannot let things alone. In 1932, injustice rested
on one group—the debtors. If the price level were put part
way back, the injustice would be shared by two groups—
2
Sir Arthur Salter, in Recovery—The
the 1929 level. The minority report of the
gation recommends 1928, practically the
recommends halfway back to 1929—which




Second Attefnpt, recommends
League of Nations Gold delesame as 1929. Gustav Cassel
appeals to me.

126

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

debtors and creditors j and this would be the only reasonable solution j for it would minimize the injustice to both
groups taken together.
But, the chief purpose of the correction must be to secure
the future, so that things can go on; to restore to a prosperity basis as many profit accounts as we reasonably can, so
that the wheels of industry may move again, and the maximum number of the unemployed be put back to work. As
a practical matter, we should feel our way to the most
restorative price level, and stop when we find that business is sufficiently able to reabsorb unemployed labor.
Thereupon, the price level thus reached should become
society's vested interest, and be stabilized.
REGULATION THROUGH THE REDISCOUNT RATE

The regulation of M (the quantity of money) belongs
to what Sir Josiah Stamp calls the "mechanics" of money.
The regulation of V (the velocity of money) is more baffling because it is more psychological.
We shall begin, therefore, with what may well be
called the mechanics of money—M.
Money, as the word is used here, is, in general, of two
kinds:
i. Deposit currency, or bank deposits subject to check5
2. Hand-to-hand money, consisting of paper money,
subsidiary coinage and gold.
Deposit currency, being nine-tenths of the country's currency, should be the first item on any program for sound
money.
Inasmuch as deposit currency is borrowed, its volume can
be more or less regulated by the rate of interest. A lowered
rate increases the borrowing and a raised rate decreases it.
Many people miss this point about interest. Even a former



REMEDIES

127

member of the Federal Reserve Board missed it when, in
a public lecture, he averred that interest was too small an
element "in the cost of production" to effect prices! The
point, however, is not the cost of production but the quantity of currency. If, at a 5 per cent rate of interest, the
quantity of currency were satisfactory to business, then a
change to 4 j ^ per cent would make money excessive and
progressively so, and a change to 5 J4 per cent would make
it progressively insufficient. The water in a bath-tub is
kept constant when the outflow through the waste-pipe
exactly equals the inflow through the supply-pipe; but the
slightest turn of the spigot from this equilibrium point will,
in time, fill or empty the tub. The interest rate acts like
the spigot, to fill or empty the country's reservoir of circulating deposit currency.
The human race should forget its primitive notions about
interest. One of the greatest of all economic reforms would
be, on the one hand, to get rid of the popular prejudice
against raising, promptly and drastically, rates of interest
when conditions justify j and, on the other hand, to get rid
of the inertia which keeps rates high when conditions call
for reduction. In some places, the rate stays at 6 per cent
through good times and bad. In a western town I saw "4
per cent" engraved in inflexible stone on the walls of a new
bank building. Even in New York, where interest is more
elastic than anywhere else in America, it is not elastic
enough. Ideally, any trustworthy borrower should be able
to get a loan at a frice; and any lender to place one.
THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM

To make the regulation of interest effective, the banks
must act in concert j and so far as concerns the Federal
Reserve System, this requirement can easily be met. At the



128

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

center of that System is the Federal Reserve Board, which
sits at Washington. Next, there are the 12 regional banks
—the so-called Federal Reserve Banks—each operating as
a central bank in its region. Next come the member banks
for each region. The member banks, so far as lending is
concerned, make all the contacts with the public. The 12
Reserve Banks, besides performing other functions, lend to
the member banks by rediscounting for them the paper
which they have previously discounted for the public. The
Board at Washington keeps in touch with the 12 Reserve
Banks through 12 Federal Reserve agents, stationed in the
respective banks. Naturally, under this scheme of things,
the interest rates which the member banks can afford to
charge their customers are largely governed by the rediscount rates which the member banks expect to pay to
the Reserve Banks. These central banks, therefore, by
means of the rediscount rate, already regulate, to a considerable degree, the whole country's volume of deposit
currency—for good or ill.
But the reaction of the volume of deposit currency to the
rediscount rates, though great in the end, is relatively
slow, and the Reserve Banks have at their command a
supplementary instrument which works faster.
REGULATION THROUGH "OPEN MARKET OPERATIONS"

Every bank keeps a reserve against its deposits. In the
case of a member bank in the Federal Reserve System, its
reserve consists of its own deposit balance in its Federal
Reserve Bank. This balance must, under the law, be at least
equal to a certain percentage of the total outstanding deposits which have been granted by the member bank to its
customers. For time deposits the requirement is only 3
per cent j but for demand deposits, which chiefly interest



REMEDIES

129

us, the reserve must be 7, 10 or 13 per cent, according to
the location of the member bank,—the higher percentages
being required in the larger and more active business
centers.
The balance held by a member bank in a Reserve Bank
may arise not only from rediscounting but from selling
securities to the Reserve Bank, the proceeds being left in
the Reserve Bank on deposit. It follows that the 12 Reserve Banks, can, by buying bonds from member banks,
enlarge the reserves of these member banks, and, by selling
bonds to them, can lower their reserves. True, if a member
bank is indebted to the Federal Reserve Bank, it may use
its deposit balance (in excess of its existing reserve requirements) to pay off the debt. It thus deprives itself of the
privilege of using the enlarged balance as a reserve for
new credit issues. But after its indebtedness is paid off,
any further excess in its balance is pretty sure to be used
as reserve for further loans to the public.
WHAT IS TRADED IN OPEN MARKET OPERATIONS

This buying or selling of bonds is the "open market
policy."
Practically the only articles in which the Federal Reserve
can legally deal by way of open market operations are
government bonds and "commercial bills." Accordingly,
these operations have aroused the complaint that they interfere with the bond market. Theoretically, any other
property or commodity might be made the subject of open
market operations. Silver, for instance, might be bought
or sold—by the government if not by the Federal Reserve. Buying silver from or through the member banks,
like buying bonds, would enable the banks to put purchasing power into circulation, and thus tend to raise prices



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
generally. The trouble is, however, that this operation
would raise the price of silver in particular and put it out
of line with other prices. Buying wheat or cotton would be
subject to the same objection. Nor could we expect to buy
or sell all goods impartially and in the right proportions.
As to perishable goods, for instance, there would be the
objection that they would perish. Durable goods, on the
other hand, would be unduly held out of use. Similar objections apply to bonds 5 nevertheless, bonds are the most
suitable class of goods in which to deal for stabilization.
The range of selection might, of course, be extended to
include other bonds than those of the government.
Thus, by operating not only the rediscount rate but also
the open market policy, the 12 Reserve Banks can powerfully regulate the volume of the country's deposit currency—for good or ill.
If the Federal Reserve System should decide to exercise its enormous power over deposit currency with the
acknowledged purpose of affecting the price level, the
exercise of this power ought to keep close on the heels of
the price level j for, if once a rapid up-movement of the
price level (say over 10 per cent per annum) were allowed
to get started, it would make the real interest rate 3 so low
that a very high nominal rate would be powerless to check
the borrowing 3 for even 10 per cent nomimal interest would
then leave the real rate at zero. On the other hand, if once
a rapid down-movement of the price level (say over 20 per
cent per annum) were allowed to get started, it would make
the real rate so high that a nominal rate of nearly zero would
not tempt the borrower; for what is a nominal rate of zero,
if the rate actually felt becomes 20 per cent?
But when such an up or down movement does get the
3

See p. 38.




REMEDIES

131

bit in its teeth, it is because the operation of these two
policies (rediscount and open market) has been tardy.
In short, the dictator of "real" interest is the price level,
but nominal interest can dictate the price level if it dictates
in time.
AUTOMATIC REGULATION OF RESERVES

T o be sure of being in time, the machinery of regulation
must be flexible 3 and to that end the reserve requirements
may sometimes need to be temporarily relaxed. The relaxation should be by administrative authority—without
waiting upon the slow process of legislation. An ingenious
plan for one kind of relaxation has been suggested by Mr.
Winfield Riefler of the staff of the Federal Reserve Board.
This plan would prescribe the amount of the reserve required of a member bank, not according to the location of
the bank and the character of its deposits, but according to
the daily activity of those deposits. The slower the deposits,
the smaller the reserve to be required (thus stimulating
lending power) j the faster the deposits, the more the reserve to be required (thus retarding lending power).
This rule would have the advantage of applying not
only between different places but also in the same place
at different times. Whenever the turnover should exceed
the speed limit, the brakes would go on automatically. On
the other hand, if a depression should retard the turnover, an inducement to lending more freely would be
created automatically.
ADJUSTMENTS TO FACILITATE OPEN MARKET
OPERATIONS

T h e law also imposes a reserve requirement on each
Reserve Bank. T h e reserve in such a case must be at least




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
35 per cent of the total deposit balances which a Reserve
Bank grants to its circle of member banks—the 35 per cent
consisting of gold or of "lawful money." Since a 35 per
cent reserve supports nearly three times its own amount
in the form of member deposits, and since each member
bank can, on the average, issue to its own customers about
ten times the amount of its deposit in the Reserve Bank,
the final volume of deposit currency may become nearly
30 times the original reserve of gold and lawful money in
the Reserve Bank.
The Reserve Bank has another currency function: it
may obtain from the Reserve Board an allotment of
Federal Reserve notes. In this transaction, the government
is theoretically the issuer of the notes and guarantees them.
The Reserve Bank obtains the notes from the government
and then circulates them, making itself responsible, both to
the government and to the holders, for the redemption of
the notes. As security for the notes thus obtained from the
government, the Reserve Bank deposits with the Federal
Reserve agent 100 per cent of collateral, consisting either
of commercial paper which it has rediscounted or of gold
or (under the recent Glass-Steagall Act) of government
bonds. All this precedes the actual issue of the notes by the
bank. When the bank actually issues any of them, it must
have, in its own vaults, or with the Federal Reserve agent,
gold equal to 40 per cent of the face of the notes issued;
which means that the gold thus used will support only 2j4
times its amount in the form of Federal Reserve notes.
Thus gold, or other lawful money, may support nearly
30 times its face in deposit currency, and gold may support
iy2 times its face in Federal Reserve notes. The Federal
Reserve Act authorizes the Reserve Banks to reduce their
reserve ratios in an emergency, and there should be some
authority equipped with the power to relax or to stiffen,



REMEDIES

133

in emergencies, all or any of the requirements designed to
secure the proper exercise of either the credit function or
the function of obtaining or issuing Federal Reserve notes.
CONFLICTS OF FUNCTION

The Federal Reserve System might well exercise such
diverse functions as the care of the commodity price level
and the care of the stock market price level. To prevent
these from interfering with each other, a plan has been
proposed by Mr. Luther Blake, President of the Standard
Statistics Corporation of New York City. He would empower the Federal Reserve Board to put special obstacles
in the way of loans to brokers (or to any other class of borrowers), whenever such loans were, in the judgment of the
Federal Reserve Board, about to become excessive. Mr.
Blake suggests that, for this purpose, the reserves required
of the member banks should be allocated among the various
classes of loans, and the reserve requirement against each
class varied from time to time, according as any class
should be found to be over-extended or not. This plan
might make it feasible, as it has not been hitherto, to keep
"separate pools of credit."
A UNIFIED BANKING SYSTEM

Before the organization of the Federal Reserve System,
in 1913, American banking was little better than a junglej
and outside of the system, the jungle is still very incompletely reclaimed. Almost any inexpert person is still free
to call himself a banker and try his luck at the art of surviving or perishing—along with his clients. It is absurd to
think that there can be 30,000 bankers in the United States
really competent to operate in splendid isolation. A run



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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

on an American bank is likely to be fatal, whereas, with
due cooperation, the whole system of banks would come
to the rescue of the individual bank, and "tide it over." In
most other first class countries—England, France, Belgium,
Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries—cooperation among banks is .made secure, either by an inclusive system of "central banking" or by the system known
as "branch banking." Accordingly, in the depression of
1929-32, France had only one large bank failure, Austria
one, Germany one, Britain and Canada none at all, while
the United States in 1931 alone had 2,550 bank suspensions.
The Federal Reserve System is sound within itself, and
even with the present set-up, its credit policy (when it has
one) affects, to some extent, directly or indirectly, all banks.
But a unified credit policy is not enough. Those who exercise it should also be fortified against sheer bank failures.
Most of the small state banks could be brought into the
Federal Reserve System by branch banking. To this end,
something could perhaps be accomplished by making it disadvantageous for state banks to stay out. Perhaps a service
charge might be imposed for clearing their checks. In 1865,
the Federal government, by taxing state bank notes out of
existence, induced many state banks to become national
banks. Some analogous tax might be tried now in order to
tax the deposit currency of non-member banks out of
existence.
STABILIZATION PROPERLY A GOVERNMENT FUNCTION

All that the law now requires of the Federal Reserve
System is "the accommodation of business and commerce."
But sometimes the accommodation of this or that partial
interest of business conflicts with the accommodation of the
whole country's price level. It should not be left to the



REMEDIES

135
discretion of a semi-private banking interest, coupled with
wholly private but enormously powerful bankers, to regulate or not to regulate, and even for illicit ends (if corruption enters) to ^regulate, the whole country's basic
unit of measure. Mr. M. K. Graham of Graham, Texas,
has written a book 4 in which he develops the thesis that
"since deposit currency (that is, bank credit) is money, that
part of it made by state banks is made in violation of the
Federal Constitution, and will in time be so declared."
At any rate the mandate of the law should not only make
the integrity of the price level paramount,—it should take
it wholly out of irresponsible, chance controls and put it
under responsible controls, guided by an exact, scientific
and openly published criterion determined by the Index
Number.
The government puts all its strength behind its legal
tender money j yet deposit currency does ten times the
business of legal tender and has ten times the power to
wreck our most basic unit of measure—the dollar. Already,
by having its representatives on the Federal Reserve
Board, the government has indirectly acknowledged its
responsibility toward the country's deposit currency, but if
the government is to fulfill completely that responsibility,
it might well add to its present operations a policy analogous to the "open market policy" of the Federal Reserve
Banks—for which purpose the following plan has been
worked out: 5
A BOND SECURED DEPOSIT CURRENCY

First, a Stabilization Commission would be set up. This
commission, in case of a depression, would, on behalf of the
4
Continuous Prosperity by M. K. Graham (The Parthenon Press,
Nashville, Texas, 1932).
6
By James H. Rand, Jr., Ragnar Frisch, and Irving Fisher.




136

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

government, sell to all the banking institutions that are
willing, a large number of Treasury short term bonds—
the distribution to be in proportion to the existing deposits
of the respective banks. By way of payment, each bank would
give the government a time deposit for, say, a year, in the
absence of earlier termination by mutual consent. The
interest running from the government to the banks and
the interest running from the banks to the government
would be equal, so as to cancel.
The banks would thus have an additional quick asset
without an additional quick liability. They could sell the
bonds or hypothecate them with the Reserve Banks, obtaining additional deposit credit, against which they could
grant to the public additional deposit currency—10 dollars
of money (on the average) to one dollar of hypothecated
bonds. Even if a bank chose not to sell or hypothecate the
bonds, the fact that bonds were on hand, ready like a fire
extinguisher for emergency use, would so strengthen the
bank's position as to encourage it in a more liberal lending
policy. After the depression, this same method could be
used or reversed; that is, it could be operated either to discourage or encourage lending, according as the existing tendency was toward inflation or deflation.
This mechanism would work fast. The government
could supply io billions of bonds almost over night. The
only lag in enlarging the deposit currency would be the
time required by the banks to negotiate the additional loans
to their customers.
Already, this method has, in effect, been used very
quietly on a small scale and found salutary.
GOLD CONTROL

Credit control has its limitations, due to the relation of
the credit superstructure to the gold base. The only real



REMEDIES

137

importance of gold lies in its function as a reserve j and the
smaller and more precarious the reserve, the greater the
importance of the gold. In short, we have the paradox
that, just because gold is so small a part of our circulating
system it plays a large role. In general in the United
States, the gold base is about 10 per cent of the total money.
Therefore, for adjusting the total money to the needs of
business and the price level, the chief prerequisite is to
adjust the gold base, which supports the other currency,
including credit.

THE SURPLUS RESERVOIR PLAN

There are three chief methods of adjusting the gold
base.
The first is to maintain a margin of safety 5 that is, to
have more gold available for the base than the indispensable minimum, but keep the surplus impounded or "sterilized," drawing upon it or adding to it according as the
price level calls for enlarging or diminishing the credit
superstructure.
This plan of enlarging or diminishing can be operated
so long as we really have a surplus of gold, the surplus
of gold enabling us to accomplish stabilization by credit
control.6 But the instant the surplus is wiped out, credit
expansion is precluded by law.
To make sure of a surplus of the metal base, we might
enlarge the gold base by supplementing it with silver or
otherwise.7
? Provided (and this is only of academic interest) the gold surplus is
not so excessive as to require, to prevent inflation, the wiping out of all
credit.
7
See Rand Plan, Appendix No. VII.



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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
THE LEHFELDT PLAN

The second method is to control the production of gold.
For this purpose, a nation acting alone would be handicapped j and the late Prof. R. A. Lehfeldt,8 therefore
proposed a syndicate of nations including, in particular, the
United States and the British Empire. The syndicate would
act through a commission having both an administrative
bureau and a scientific bureau. All over the world, monetary and price statistics and mining laws and geology would
be studied, and the production of gold would be encouraged or discouraged according to the world's monetary
needs. In an emergency, some of the less productive mines
might even be closed. In that case, the commission would
buy the mines in order to compensate the owners (compensating also the workmen thus put out of work), and
thereafter re-open or close mines according to the world's
monetary needs. In case of insufficient gold, the commission, having prepared itself in advance with surveys of new
gold regions, would purchase or subsidize whatever mining facilities might be required to sustain the price level.
But this plan, too, has a breaking point 5 that is, it would
fail if and when it became impossible to secure enough
gold.
THE "COMPENSATED DOLLAR" P L A N 9

In the absence of such international control, each country
could use the plan which (if characterized in terms of
American money) may best be called the "compensated
8
See Restoration of the World's Currencies, by R. A. Lehfeldt (P. S.
King & Son, Ltd., London, 1923).
9
See The Purchasing Power of Money (Macmillan 1931), Stabilizing the Dollar (Macmillan 1920), The Money Illusion (Adelphi Company 1928), by Irving Fisher.




REMEDIES

139
dollar" plan. That is, if in spite of all other efforts to
regulate the price level, the purchasing power of gold
over goods should fall, the weight of the gold dollar
would be correspondingly increased; or, if the purchasing
power of gold should rise, the weight of the dollar would
be correspondingly reduced.
Under this plan, the actual coinage of gold would, of
course, be abandoned, and, instead of gold coins, gold bars
would be used to redeem the gold certificates. Only the
gold certificates would circulate, and the price of the bars
in terms of these certificates would be varied from time to
time. But, between the buying and selling prices, a small
spread would be provided. Otherwise, when a change in
price was announced, speculators might buy of the government at today's prices and sell back at tomorrow's, or vice
versa, making a profit at the expense of the government.
This plan need not be embarrassed by the gold clause
in some private contracts; for such clauses could be virtually abrogated by taxing their execution.
A simple application of the compensated dollar plan
would be to rely principally upon credit control, and only
at long intervals regulate the weight of the dollar when
other means proved inadequate.
One advantage of the compensated dollar plan would be
that any nation could operate it alone. The only inconvenience would be that each alteration in the dollar's
weight would cause a corresponding alteration in foreign
exchange. But this is a small matter. The Lehfeldt plan,
on the other hand, would necessarily affect all nations;
and no one country could operate it without having also to
control the price levels of all the other countries which had
the golcl standard.
But as world-wide stabilization is highly desirable, all
plans should include international cooperation. The reali


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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

zation of this fact has led to the calling of an international
conference on the problem of price levels.
VELOCITY CONTROL

We turn now from the volume of money (M) to its
velocity ( 7 ) . When velocity misbehaves, it misbehaves in
the same direction with volume. We have already seen,
for instance, that, in the depression of 1929-32, while the
volume of deposit currency in member banks was falling
21 per cent, the velocity of it was being reduced by 61 per
cent. In the case of a rising price level, the remedy for the
velocity must perhaps be looked for in the volume of
money, by taking the surplus M out of the overflooded
circulation 3 for people cannot spend what they do not
have. The price level would come down, and V would
come down. On the other hand, people can hoard what
they do have 5 so that, in the case of a depression and a
falling price level, a mere new supply of money, to replace
what has been liquidated or hoarded, might fail to raise
the price level by failing to get into circulation. If, for
instance, there is fear of going off the gold standard, the
very effort to expand credit may, by increasing that fear,
defeat itself, the new money being more than offset by
withdrawals for hoarding. For a prompt boost of the price
level, therefore, a mere increase in M might prove insufficient, unless supplemented by some influence exercised
directly on the moods of people to accelerate V—that is,
to convert the public from hoarding.
The authorities charged with the duty of rescuing confidence in a depression would have to be careful not to
make bad matters worse by raising false hopes, or by using
suggestions which automatically induce counter-suggestion.
But wise measures whose wisdom the public can be made to



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141

see should be made public with all the enthusiasm they
deserve.
CONFIDENCE IN BANKS

The banks, if they are enabled to re-capture the hoards
(and also to re-capture their own confidence, so as to quit
hoarding on their own account), are better equipped than
any other agency to put the re-captured money to work,
because banks can use this money as the basis of many
times its face in the form of credit currency. Therefore,
anything that will restore and justify confidence in the
banks is eminently desirable. If, for instance, deposits in
banks were guaranteed by an authority satisfactory to the
depositing public, some of the hoards would melt and
flow back into the banks and help support credit currency.
In America, this guaranty expedient has been tried j but,
I regret to say, with poor success, due usually to the failure
of the guarantors to justify confidence by excluding "bad
risks" from their guaranty. Abroad, guaranty policies have
apparently served a useful purpose.
For a successful guarantor of properly selected banks
there might be a coalition of banks, or the Federal Reserve System, or the government. Preferably, the government 5 for, in a depression, the banks themselves are as
badly scared as the public, and only the government is
strong enough to handle such a scare. The Canadian
government, in 1930-31, in order to facilitate the marketing of grains, guaranteed to the several chartered Canadian
banks certain credits granted by those banks to the grain
industry. This transaction was accomplished by an Order
of Council under specific statutory provisions.10
I have already suggested that the Federal Reserve
10
Budget Speech of Hon. Edgar N. Rhodes, Minister of Finance in
the House of Commons, April 6, 1932. (F. A. Acland, Ottawa, 1932.)




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
System be enlarged and that the government take a more
direct interest in credit currency by depositing bonds to support it. Few things would go further toward dispelling the
hesitations of both banks and borrowers.
STIMULATING

BORROWERS AND

BUYERS

The government could, for the duration of the emergency only, offer subsidies which would have the effect of
negative interest.11
But there is one more cause for the hesitation of the
borrowers. Business does not wish to borrow until it is
sure of buyers j and in a depression, the buyers wait for
business to inspire confidence, and business cannot inspire
confidence till it gets back on a normal borrowing basis. If
only buying could be started first, business borrowing
would follow. For the purpose (of directly stimulating the
buyers), a unique "stamped dollar" plan has been devised
—a sort of stamp tax on hoarding.12 This plan did not come
to my attention until after this book had been finished. The
plan offers the most efficient method of controlling hoarding and probably the speediest way out of a depression.
In this chapter, we have seen the main methods available for credit control, gold control, and velocity control.
The last named is badly needed only in emergencies. In
ordinary times, credit control through open market operations would suffice, reinforced at long intervals by gold
control, or otherwise.
11
See Appendix VII for proposals of Col. Malcolm C. Rorty, H. B.
Brougham, E. F. Harvey, and Byron DeForest.
12
See Appendix VII for the anti-hoarding plan of Silvio Gesell. In the
same Appendix will also be found fuller details, including a number of
stabilization and reflation methods not mentioned in this chapter.




CHAPTER XI
T H E W O R L D M O V E M E N T F O R STABLE
MONEY
NOT ALTOGETHER NEW
TWENTY-ONE hundred years after Pythagoras, and a century after Copernicus, Galileo was still afraid to tell people
that the earth was round, not for fear of religious persecution (as commonly supposed) but for fear of public
ridicule.
French peasants who have tuberculosis still shut their
windows lest fresh air be allowed to get in and make
them worse j and a generation ago, all the rest of us refused to believe that "a bad cold" (as tuberculosis seemed
to be) could be cured by the air, which we had always been
taught to shut out—what else were houses for?
Perhaps the lag between the acquisition of knowledge
and its general acceptance was shorter in the case of tuberculosis than in that of astronomy, because its application
was of practical importance. The question of stabilizing
the dollar lies in an intermediate region. It is immensely
important, since the instability of money is a major cause
of poverty and of the diseases (including tuberculosis)
which go with poverty; but, as in the case of astronomical
truth, the disposition to see the truth about the dollar is
forestalled by a very definite illusion. On the whole, the
progress of the movement for a revamped and safeguarded
monetary unit (dollar, franc, pound, mark) has been



143

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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

gratifying. We haven't yet arrived, but we have been
going for only about a hundred years!
In 1824, John Rooke l proposed that the price of gold
be so regulated as to counteract variations in the wages of
farm labor (which were visible even without an index
number).
In 1879, in The North American Review for September, Simon Newcomb, the famous astronomer who was
also the author of an excellent treatise on economics, published an article called "The Standard of Value." In this
he proposed with considerable detail what has since been
called the "compensated dollar" plan.
In 1888 Knut Wicksell,2 a Swedish economist, proposed
an elaborate scheme for regulating discount rates j and he
cited on this point a still earlier work by Weiss. The compensated dollar plan and other plans for stabilization were
described by the distinguished English economist, Alfred
Marshall in 1887. One of these was in principle the same
as the "Open Market Policy." In 1898, Alfred Russel
Wallace, the naturalist, made a plea for stabilizing money
by means of a managed currency. Many famous economists,
such as Carl Menger, Charles Gide, and E. Benjamin
Andrews, anticipated the "managed currency" proposals
which Professor Keynes is now urging with so much
ability.
Today, though there is not yet full agreement as to
methods, the necessity of stabilizing the world's monetary
units is affirmed by such economists and business men as:
(in England) Sir Josiah Stamp, once professor of economics and now chairman of one of the largest railways
in England, and a director of the Bank of England 3 Reginald McKenna, who has been chancellor of the British
1
2

In Inquiry into the Principles of National Wealth, Edinburgh, 1824.
In Geldzins und Gutepreise.




MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

145

Exchequer and is now Chairman of the Joint City and
Midland Bank} Lord D'Abernon, a banker—once Britain's
minister to Germany 3 John Maynard Keynes, the economist who represented Britain at Versailles and who foretold the economic consequences of the treaty made there j
and the Honorable Pethick-Lawrence, formerly a member
of Parliament^ (in Germany) Professor Schulze-Gaevernitz; (in Sweden) Professor Gustav Cassel, who was an
official adviser to the League of Nations; (in Norway)
Professor Ragnar Frisch} (in America) Professor E. W .
Kemmerer, Professor John R. Commons, and many others.
In 1919, in America, a Stable Money League was
formed which later became the Stable Money Association.
THE PRESENT WORLD MOVEMENT

During the World War, there began to be a demand to
put theory into practice. A committee of the American
Economic Association on the Purchasing Power of Money
in War Time (including E. W . Kemmerer, Royal Meeker,
Wesley Clair Mitchell, and Warren M. Persons) reported
as follows: "The Committee regards the stabilizing of the
value of monetary units under international agreement as
desirable and economically feasible. The details of the
plan, the time of its introduction and the question whether
international agreement is indispensable should receive the
immediate attention of statesmen and economists."
After the war, in 1922, at Genoa, the representatives of
35 nations unanimously adopted a resolution, reading in
part as follows: "The essential requisite for the economic
reconstruction of Europe is the achievement, by each country, of stability in the value of its currency," and suggested
specific steps "to avoid those wide fluctuations in the purchasing power of gold which might otherwise result • * ."



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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

The Dawes Reparation Plan contained a provision (due
chiefly to Sir Josiah Stamp) for varying the amounts to be
required of Germany, according as the price level might
vary. Unfortunately, this was not incorporated in the
Young Plan.
The Central Bank of Sweden is reported to have
adopted a definite stabilization policy for Sweden, making
use of a new index number for their guidance, and, an,
article in a Swedish Journal,3 applauding the movement, bespeaks a similar declaration by Britain.
Both Sweden and Britain and many other countries are,
at this writing, off the gold standard, and Honorable
Pethick-Lawrence asks their cooperation, remarking that
many of them have already chosen to link themselves to
the paper pound rather than gold as an international
standard. He testifies to the benefits of a regulated currency in England since she was forced off the gold
standard, in so far as a rise of prices followed, and predicts that Britain may not return to gold, unless gold, too,
shall submit to regulation—or, as he puts it, become "a
constitutional sovereign which shall no longer possess arbitrary power, but shall guide the destinies of nations according to the people's will."
In the opinion of many, it has been Britain's intention
"to institute a system of stabilization of the price level,
when prices have reached a position at which they yield
an adequate margin of profit and when unemployment has
fallen well below a million." 4 Indeed, in 1931, in a report
made to Parliament by the Macmillan Committee on
Finance and Industry, headed by Lord Macmillan, it was
said: 5 "Our objective should be, so far as it lies within the
s
Skandinaviska Kreditakttebolagetj No. 4, October 1931, article on
"The Suspension of the Gold Standard."
4
From a private letter to the present writer.
6
June, 1931, pp. 117-8.




MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

147

power of this country to influence the international price
level, first of all to raise prices a long way above the present
level, and then to maintain them at the level thus reached
with as much stability as can be managed. W e recommend
that this objective be accepted as the guiding aim of the
monetary policy of this country. The acceptance of such an
objective will represent in itself a great and notable change.
For, before the war, scarcely anyone considered that the
price level could or ought to be the care and preoccupation,
far less the main objective, of policy, on the part of the
Bank of England or any other Central bank."
Once in the Taft Administration a resolution for the
purpose of calling an international conference on price
levels passed the Senate but reached the House too late to
be acted upon before the expiration of the Congress in
I9I3On May 14, 1932, a sub-committee of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures recommended
that the President call an international monetary conference. In June, Premier MacDonald inquired of our
State Department (which replied favorably) whether the
United States would consider an international conference
on raising and stabilizing commodity price levels. Later
the official invitations were received and accepted, the conference being called by the League of Nations, and the
subjects to be discussed including almost all the problems
of world economics including price levels.
THE AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE MOVEMENT

The Federal Reserve Act was first known as the GlassOwen bill, and in 1913, in one of its first drafts, there was
a stabilization clause which originated with Senator Owen.
This, however, was taken out by the conferees who represented the House.



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BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

Congressman Husted in 1919 introduced a bill for
stabilization j and afterwards similar measures were proposed by Congressman Dallinger, Congressman Goldsborough (1922) and Congressman Strong (1926). On
both of these last two bills there were extensive hearings,
public interest in which, though slight at first, has grown
with remarkable speed.
There has recently been in America a degree of genuine
popular pressure for legislative action along these lines.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has had a stabilization committee for several years. This society and the other
two leading farm organizations (the National Farmers'
Union and the National Grange) have given active support to stabilization proposals j and the same is true to
some extent of the labor organizations, including the
American Federation of Labor.
THE FEDERAL RESERVE EFFORTS

Meanwhile some actual, though quiet—almost secret—
efforts toward stabilization have been made through the
Federal Reserve System. The late Benjamin Strong,
Governor of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, formed
an unofficial committee, consisting of himself and the heads
of four other Reserve Banks, for the purpose, among other
things, of using the open market policy to prevent the inflation which then threatened. Mr. Strong's committee was
later taken over by the Federal Reserve Board and enlarged into a conference including the heads of all the
Federal Reserve Banks. But, except Governor Strong, the
members of this conference have never very definitely
accepted the basic idea of stabilization.
Governor Strong himself was loth, publicly and specifically, to favor stabilization, and is even on record as oppos


MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

149

ing a bill in Congress for that purpose. But before he died,
he privately expressed his acquiescence and helped frame
the last draft of the bill. He also declared himself as
willing to avow his approval publicly, provided the
Federal Reserve Board would avow theirs, which, however, they withheld. The bill was that of Congressman
James C. Strong (not a relative of Governor Strong).

THE GOLDSBOROUGH BILL OF 1 9 3 2

Nevertheless, for ten years, Congressman Strong and
Congressman T. Alan Goldsborough have kept an educational movement alive in the House of Representatives j
and, at last, in 1932, the Goldsborough bill, designed principally to requisition the rediscount and open market
policies for the express service of the country's price level,
was brought to a vote.
Of course, the Goldsborough bill was only a first step.
A perfect monetary system for America would not rely
solely on the Federal Reserve System. It would put the
currency as a whole—not deposit currency alone—under
the control of a permanent agency, say a commission
devoted to that single purpose. The duties of such a commission would not be complicated by personal side-issues,
such as those which beset a bank manager. On the other
hand, it would have the cooperation of bank managers and
of all those government agencies whose functions bear on
the currency. There would be the cooperation of the
Bureau of Labor Statistics for computing the index number
of prices, and also for studying wages and other matters.
There would be the cooperation of the Treasury and the
mint, and, above all, of the Federal Reserve System. The
commission would also cooperate with local, foreign and



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
international banks. Further details for such a commission
will be found in Appendix VI.
The House passed the Goldsborough bill by an overwhelming vote: 289 to 60. But despite powerful support,
including that of Farm and Labor organizations, the bill
failed in the Senate when it came before the Committee on
Banking and Currency. Senator Glass, whose influence
when he was in the House, in 1913, had eliminated the
stabilization clause from the Glass-Owen bill (which became the Federal Reserve Act), was chiefly responsible for
the failure of the Goldsborough bill.
The bill aroused opposition and a fear that it would
force the United States off the Gold Standard and embark
on unrestrained German inflation. This fear was especially evident abroad. It was due partly to real reason, the
precarious gold situation, and the seeming impossibility of
raising the price level as high as the 1921-9 level specified,
but partly and chiefly to misunderstanding and consequent
misrepresentation which unduly excited a public mind already rendered over-excitable by the prolonged depression.
OPPOSITION TO THE GOLDSBOROUGH BILL

The opponents of the Goldsborough bill said that it
sought to regulate prices contrary to the "law of supply and
demand." Those who glibly used this phrase did not
realize that supply and demand presuppose a price level, 6
nor did they understand the distinction between individual
prices and the scale of prices.
Even less reasonable were those who denounced the
Goldsborough bill as "inflation." When the bill was introduced, the country's malady was ^flationj and deflation
G
See, for instance, Elementary Principles of Economics, by Irving
Fisher, Macmillan, 1928.




MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

151

can be cured only by a certain amount of "reflation" 5 that
is, inflation justified as counteracting recent, rapid and
great deflation. But "inflation" is a word with a bad
history; and the economic illiteracy betrayed by those who
used it was all the more dangerous because they used an
historic word.
"WHAT'S IN A NAME?"

Many of those who decried the Goldsborough bill as
inflationary were themselves explicit champions of what
Mr. Ogden Mills, Secretary of the Treasury, has described
(and proposed) as "controlled credit expansion." Controlled credit expansion and controlled inflation (or reflation) are one and the same thing. Controlled inflation was
the very purpose of the open market bond purchases which
the Federal Reserve Banks had been carrying on, and
these open market operations had the support of many
conservative bankers. The oflicial publication of the National City Bank in May, 1932, said, "the effort to revive
business and raise the price level should have support
everywhere. The Reserve System is giving the lead."
Finally, some held that the Goldsborough bill would
put too much power in the hands of a small committee
sitting in Washington. But the Federal Reserve Board
already has the power and already has done sufficient
harm, both by exercising it and failing to exercise it, inasmuch as they exercised it and failed to exercise it without
due reference to the price level. The Goldsborough bill
would commit them to the price level expressly 5 and the
price level would serve at any rate as a limit to their
power, which is now unlimited so far as concerns credit
expansion and contraction—that is, inflation and deflation.
A former member of the Federal Reserve Board has char


152

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

acterized the Federal Reserve System as "rudderless." It
is a case of power without direction.

OUR DOLLAR'S BAD RECORD

The greatest absurdity of all, however, is the claim
(implied in all this obstruction) that sound money is the
kind of money we have been having for all these tortured
generations. The first requirement for soundness is stability 5 and the purchasing power of a dollar is stable in
proportion as the price level is stable. How stable that has
been may be judged from the following chart of its history
from i860 to 1932 (chart 6).
This crooked line should some day serve as an inscription on the gravestone of unstable money. It is largely
responsible for countless actual gravestones of children
starved and of men killed in the wars between capital
and labor $ for these wars were generated in large part
by this crooked line. Every dip in the line, including
the numberless minor jogs, means thousands of debtors
cheated (unconsciously) by their creditorsj and every
climb of the line means thousands of creditors cheated (unconsciously) by their debtors. In both the debtor and the
creditor camps there have been both rich and poor. A poor
debtor, for instance, builds a cabin with the help of a mortgage. He borrows $1,000 in 18655 anc* in 1896, having
paid all the interest, he pays the principal—$1,000 that are
worth over 3,000 of the 1865 dollars which he had borrowed. And for an example of a poor creditor, take a
person who in 1896 put $100 in the savings bank, and in
1920 draws out (including compound interest) $256 that
are worth 77 of the 1896 dollars which he had deposited.
If we treat the 1913 dollar as 100 cents, then the follow


L^v

i

r

i

W fl—I /"\T

550

i
r r

i
Al

r

i
/"'/^ U

t
U

t

i

Z \ P N lHP'N/'

i

i

I—*I—\T^I I—

i

i

i

Yk ir\p-\ f

350

WHOLESALE COMMODITY FKIU1 INULA "
iyio

500

;rax
500

AVLWQUI--IUU

250

250

225

2Z5

200

200

175

{75

150
125

PtCCLNT
BISE3 IALU

00

100

90 1

1°

60

60 1

|io

70

|zo

60

4¥

50

I fa

125

\

100

40

150

Iw , ^

lo|

70

30

60

I

50

1140

Aft 1

50

1665

1870




1675

1680

1685

1590

1895

(900

CHART 6

1905

1910

1915

1920

1925

1950

J955 |

154

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

ing schedule shows the various buying powers which the
dollar has had at various times since i860.
in i860, it was
a
in 1896, " a
in 1913, " u
in May 1920, " a
in 1922, " a
in 1923, " a
in 1924, " a
in 1929, " u
in 1930, " a
in i93i> " a
March 19, 1932, " a
the third week of June, 1932, " a

in Jan. 1865, "

96
47
150
100
45
72
69
70
71
81
98
in
118

cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents
cents

Or, if the 1929 dollar was 100 cents, then the dollar of
the third week of June, 1932, was $1.62.
Nor does this take into account what happened abroad,
in and after the World War, in the way of "calamity
booms," as the Germans called them—which wiped out
the middle classes—many by death, including suicide, because their incomes (consisting of salaries or of interest on
bonds) did not rise when the price level did. In Britain,
between 1913 and 1920, the price level rose more than
3 fold; in France, more than $JA fold; in Italy, more
than 6J/2 fold; in Austria, between 1914 and 1922, more
than 17,000 fold, which, in 1925, became more than
21,000 fold; in Russia, by 1922, over 4,000,000 fold, and
this, in 1923, became more than 6,000,000,000 fold. In
Germany, for 1920, the rise was only 15 fold, but at the




M O V E M E N T FOR STABLE MONEY

155

peak of inflation in 1923 it went far above the astronomical
figure of a trillion fold.7
WAR, A DE-STABILIZER

In its relation to monetary derangements (which are
themselves almost as cruel as war) war is the greatest obstacle to the movement for stable money. There is no
money device which war will not wreck. War debts, war
inflation, and post-war deflation are all on too large a scale
to be checked by delicate machinery.
But there is no reason why the same cure that was effectively applied to frontier brawls should not be applied to
war—that is, judicial machineryj for war, like frontier
gun-play, is a crude form of litigation, which must always
go on so long as there is anything to litigate and nothing
else to litigate it with. War guilt is not in my department,
but I believe that no scholar now assigns the entire guilt
of the World War to any one nation. Some assign it almost
or quite' entirely to what G. Lowes Dickinson calls "The
International Anarchy," 8 under which nations had to conduct their commercial rivalry. To avoid war, the balance of
power became a sort of insurance policy 5 and, for a time,
it did preserve the peace; but sooner or later it had to
turn bad—no balance of power can stay put; and, when it
began to slip, all the great powers of Europe, according to
this view, reluctantly chose war as the less of two evils.
Since the international forms of litigation are a thousand
years behind the municipal forms, the first step for the
purpose of superseding war must, of course, be quasijudicial—not yet fully judicial.
r
December, 1923—1,261,560,000,000 fold. Another official figure
(November 1923) 1,422,900,000,000 fold.
8
In his book by that name.




156

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
CAN WE KEEP CAPITALISM?

The threat of Socialism (if it deserves to be called a
threat) is, of course, often made by those who would stir
people to the need of making things better. But the threat
seems to become more logical every yearj witness Russia
since 1919, and Chile in 1932.
Both war and the unstable dollar (with its hunger and
its strikes) play into the hands of Socialism. What we call
the Capitalistic System might better be called the System
of Private Profits 5 and a depression, being a profit disease,
is one to which Capitalism is peculiarly liable. So typical an
exponent of Capitalism as Nicholas Murray Butler has recently affirmed that the system is on trial today. His
remark, if he is right, can only portend that, unless Capitalism shall clean house by taking the dirt of depression
out of profits, some form of Socialism may tear the house
completely down. For profits are always at the mercy of the
unstable dollar,—always in danger of disappearing en masse
whenever the price level shrinks, while debts and debt service do not.
Socialistic thinkers of all degrees make common cause
against private profits, and add that, without such profits,
crises would disappear. Accordingly, in 1929-32, the plight
of the capitalistic world drew a good deal of derision from
the Russians, who, though not prosperous, were apparently
going up while we were going down. I shall not here debate the comparative merits of the two systems. Capitalism
boasts of its rewards for initiative \ Socialism claims a less
selfish stimulus for the same virtue. But, for the present
purpose, suffice it that each system has been compelled to
borrow from the other. The capitalistic system, for instance, is not wholly capitalistic: witness government itself j
witness public schools, the post office, and the Panama



MOVEMENT FOR STABLE MONEY

157

Canal. On the other hand, Russia, which furnishes the only
large-scale example of a socialistic experiment, has, in ten
years, drifted perhaps as far toward Capitalism as we, in a
thousand years, have drifted toward Socialism.
Meanwhile,—to close this book with the quotation with
which it began—Sir Josiah Stamp, in the introduction which
he was so kind as to write to the English edition of my
little book, The Money Illusion, puts it thus: "Money, as
a physical medium of exchange, made a diversified civilization possible . . . and yet it is money, in its mechanical
even more than its spiritual effects, which may well, having brought us to the present level, actually destroy
society."
POSTSCRIPT

As this book goes to press (September, 1932) recovery seems
to be in sight. In the course of about two months, stocks have
nearly doubled in price and commodities have risen 5%. European stock prices were the first to rise, and European buyers
were among the first to make themselves felt in the American market.
These developments might be due to various causes, including an increase in the volume or velocity of currency, or both.
In fact, velocity increased while volume (at first) slightly
decreased. This paradox, signalling a rise in prices, is the opposite of the one that signalled the fall. Confidence was aroused,
pardy by the virtual cancellation at Lausanne of German
Reparations, and partly by our announced preparations for reflation. These un-froze some of the hoards and raised prices;
and the increased value of collateral encouraged some debtors,
who had been hanging on, to liquidate, thus temporarily reducing the volume of credit currency. But the stage is set for
further reflation through such measures as: the recent Glass
inflation Act, allowing an increase in bank notes; the GlassSteagall Act, in February, "freeing" gold; the consequent



i58

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

open market operations of the Federal Reserve System on an
unprecedented scale; the credit operations of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; the Home Loan Banks Act, and
other reflationary measures. T h e banks had achieved "liquidity."
Gold, also, has begun to flow back from Europe.
If the end of the great depression is really at hand, it will
be the result, apparently, of human effort more than a mere
pendulum reaction.
But the most noteworthy recent case of human effort to
control the price level is that of Sweden. T h e programme
mentioned on page 146 of this book has, according to Professor Cassel, "been carried through with complete success. T h e
present purchasing power of the Swedish currency is,
within the limits of unavoidable statistical error, just the
same as it was in September last. This achievement is of
great importance. It shows that a deliberate regulation of the
purchasing power of a paper currency is possible and that a
Central Bank actually can, by a suitable policy, control this
value." 9
9
See Quarterly Report of the Statistical Department of the bank
"Skandinaviska Kreditaktiebolaget," Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malno,
Sweden, July, 1932.




APPENDICES
TO PART L

THEORETICAL

APPENDIX I

Approximate Typical Chronology of the Nine Factors
APPENDIX II

Sorts of Data Available on the Nine Factors
TO PART II.
APPENDIX

FACTUAL

III

Statistics of Debts leading to Depression of 1929-32
APPENDIX IV

Gold Base (and Gold Shortage)
APPENDIX V

Depression of 1929—32
TO PART III.

REMEDIAL

APPENDIX VI

Outline of a Complete Stabilization Program
APPENDIX

VII

Other Plans for Reflation and Stabilization
APPENDIX VIII

Selected Bibliography







APPENDIX I

APPROXIMATE TYPICAL CHRONOLOGY OF
THE NINE FACTORS
T h e following table of our nine factors, occurring and recurring (together with distress selling), gives a fairly typical,
though still inadequate, picture of the cross-currents of a depression in the approximate order in which it is believed they
usually occur. ( T h e first occurrence of each factor and its subdivisions is indicated by italics. T h e figures in parenthesis show
the sequence in the original exposition.)
I

II

( 7 ) Mild Gloom and Shock to Confidence
( 8 ) Slightly Reduced Velocity of Circulation
( 1 ) Debt Liquidation
( 9 ) Money Interest Falls on Safe Loans
( 9 ) but Money Interest Rises on Unsafe Loans

III

(2)
(7)
(3)
(1)
(3)

Distress Selling
More Gloom
Fall in Security Prices
More Liquidation
Fall in Commodity Prices

IV

(9)
(7)
(1)
(2)
(8)

Real Interest Rises; REAL DEBTS INCREASE
More Pessimism and Distrust
More Liquidation
More Distress Selling
More Reduction in Velocity




161

I&2

V

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

( 2 ) More Distress Selling
( 2 ) Contraction of Deposit Currency
( 3 ) Further Dollar Enlargement

VI

(4)
(4)
(7)
(8)
(1)

Reduction in
Net-Worth
Increase in Bankruptcies
More Pessimism and Distrust
More Slowing in Velocity
More Liquidation

VII

(5)
(5)
(7)
(8)
(1)
(6)

Decrease in Profits
Increase in Losses
Increase in Pessimism
Slower Velocity
More Liquidation
Reduction in volume of stock trading

VIII

(6)
(6)
(6)
(6)
(7)

Decrease in Construction
Reduction in Output
Reduction in Trade
Unemployment
More Pessimism

IX

(8)

X

(8)
(8)
(8)
(8)
(7)
(8)
(1)
(2)
(3)

Boarding
Runs on Banks
Banks curtailing Loans for self-protection
Banks selling Investments
Bank Failures
Distrust Grows
More Hoarding
More Liquidation
More Distress Selling
Further Dollar Enlargement

As has been stated, this order (or any order, for that,matter)
can be only approximate and subject to variations at different



APPENDIX

I

163

times and places. I t represents my present guess as to how, if
not too much interfered with, the nine factors selected for explicit study in this book are likely in most cases to fall in line.
But, as has also been stated, the idea of a single-line succession is itself inadequate, for while Factor ( 1 ) acts on ( 2 ) , for
instance, it also acts directly on ( 7 ) , so that we really need a
picture of subdividing streams or, better, an interacting network in which each factor may be pictured as influencing and
being influenced by many or all of the others.




APPENDIX II
SORTS OF DATA AVAILABLE O N
NINE FACTORS

THE

T o answer adequately the questions raised in Chapter VI,
statistical studies are needed. For this purpose, the following
series are today available in more or less satisfactory form as
raw material:
Debts:
Brokers' loans from banks
Brokers' loans "by others" (corporations, etc.)
Bank collateral loans
Other bank loans
Installment sales loans
Corporation bonds
Farm mortgages
Non-farm mortgages
Municipal bonds
State bonds
Federal bonds
Loans to and from abroad—intergovernmental and otherwise
(All the above debts may be sub-classified as to length, security, etc.)
Money—Volume and Velocity:
Individual bank deposits subject to check
Velocity of bank deposits
"Money in circulation"
Hoarding
Loan-liability ratios
Investments of banks



164

tfs

APPENDIX II
Prices:

(

common, preferred
rails, industrials, utilities
listed, unlisted

Bonds (See "rates of interest")

Prices of Commodities classified as

consumers', producers',
raw, semi-manufactured, finished
agricultural, nonagricultural

Prices of real estate
Rent
Wages
Net Worth:
Bank failures (number and the values involved)
Commercial failures (number and the values involved)
Profits:
Dividend payments
Corporation profits
Profit and earning ratios
Trade, Production, and Employment:
Trade Volume
Shares traded
Unfilled orders
Car loadings
Panama Canal traffic
Net ton miles freight carried
Trade value (volume multiplied by price)
Department store sales
Chain store sales
Farm crops marketed
Imports, exports
Postal receipts
Railway freight traffic receipts
Railway gross earnings
New securities issued



166

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

Real estate transfers
Life insurance
Advertising
New York clearings (and debits to individual accounts)
Outside clearings (and debits)
Out-put
Pig iron production
Coal, iron, copper, wool, cotton (produced or consumed)
automobiles, certain other important items
Number of blast furnaces in blast
Electric power consumption
Farm crops
Live stock
Equipment
Building permits
Residential
Commercial
Factory
Public works and utilities
All other
Employment
Numbers
Payroll
In all industries
In specified industries
Rates of Interest:
Call rates
Commercial paper rates
Rates on acceptances
Rates realized on bonds
Industrial
Railroad
Government
Reserve Banks' Rediscount rates
T h e only one of the nine cyclical tendencies not represented
in the foregoing list is the psychological sequence—the sequence



APPENDIX

II

167

of confidence and discouragement. But these moods are more
or less definitely registered by some of the other statistics, for
instance, statistics of: hoarding; deposits subject to check; time
deposits; deposits withdrawn from either class; exports of gold;
the so-called "money in circulation"; velocity of circulation of
bank deposits; the changing spread between high grade and low
grade bonds; changing proportions of bank notes, Federal R e serve notes, and gold certificates.1
1
See The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. XL, No. 1, February,
1932, "Distrust of Bank Deposits as Measured by Federal Reserve Note
Issue," by Harold L. Reed.




APPENDIX III

STATISTICS OF DEBTS LEADING TO
DEPRESSION OF 1929-32
INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE

DEBTS

TABLE 3
PRIVATE AMERICAN LONG TERM INVESTMENTS ABROAD*

(millions)

$ 1,902
8,020

1912
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931

8,877
9»i35
10,004

10,876
11,684
12,656
J3.973
14,764
15,170

* United States Department of Commerce. A New Estimate of American Investments Abroad, pp. 24-25.
PUBLIC

DEBTS

The federal debt, which, of course, grew enormously during
the war, declined (in dollars) quite rapidly until 1931 when
new borrowings to meet deficits have again brought an increase
of about 2 billion. From June 30, 1914, to June 30, 1919,
the gross federal debt grew 21 fold.
State and local debts, in the six years between 1922 and
168




APPENDIX III

169

1928, increased by 76 per cent, or about 12% per cent per
year. T h e amount in 1922 was $7,153.6 million, in 1928,
$12,608.7 million, and in 1932, $15,017.2 million (estimated).
T h e debts of the 146 cities of the United States having more
than 30,000 inhabitants have been increasing heavily since
1 9 0 3 ; and the debts of all the states have been increasing since
1913. T h e debts of these 146 cities increased from $2,319
million in 1903 to $7,192 million in 1929. Bankers have grown
cautious and have refused to lend money to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and other debt ridden cities until these
cities give evidence that extravagant and wasteful expenditures
are eliminated.
T h e per capita debt (federal, state and local) grew rapidly
up to 1919 when it reached the maximum, $291.95. It then declined to $246.08 in 1930 since which it has increased to
$271.18 in December, 1931. Table 4, which follows, gives
the estimates made by the National Industrial Conference
Board * for state and local debts down to and including 1928.
Estimates of these debts since 1928, made by D r . Royal Meeker,
are rough approximations but can not be greatly in error. T h e
Conference Board has calculated the ratio of state and local
debts to total national tangible wealth from 1922 to 1928. These
ratios are interesting, but there is too much guess work as to
total national wealth to make them trustworthy. According to
the Board's estimates, the total public debt "per capital," i. e.,
per thousand dollars of wealth, increased from 1917 to 1919
more than 2 % times while the per capita debt increased nearly
5% times. T h e "per capital'* debt reached its first peak in 1922,
when it was 3 % times that in 1915. I t declined sharply to 1925,
rose somewhat to 1927, then declined again until 1929, since
which it has risen 9 per cent in 1930 and 67 per cent by the
end of December, 1931. From 1929 to 1930, the per capita
debt declined slightly; and from 1929 to December, 1931, it
increased only 8 per cent. (See Table 4.)
T h e story of public debts is even worse in other countries. I n
Germany practically all domestic public debts were wiped out
1
Cost of Government in the United States, 1928-1929^. 43.



TABLE 4
COMBINED FEDERAL STATE AND LOCAL DEBTS

Fiscal
Year
1915
1917
1919
1922
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931 ( E n d

of Dec.) !

State and
Local
Debts
(millions) •

Combined
Federal State
Local Debts
(millions)

Population
(millions)

7>*53-6
9,802.7
10,702.7
11,717.8
12,608.7
13,365.2
14,033-4

$1,191.3
2,975.6
25,482.0
22,964.1
20,516.3
19,643.2
18,510.2
17,604.3
16,931.2
16,185.3

$5>5<55.7
7,893.2
30,655.8
30,117.7
30,319.0
3o,345.9
30,228.0
30,213.0
30,296.0
30,218.7

99-3
102.2
IO5.O
IO9.9
115.4
I 17.1
II8.6
I20.Q
I 2 I.4
122.8

16,061.2

17,825.4

33,886.6

124.9

$4,357-4
4,917.6
5JI73-8

Federal
Debt
(millions)

Combined
Public
Debt Per
Capita *

Total Wealth
in Current
Dollars
(billions)

Combined
Public Debt
Per Thousand
Dollars

$56.05

$200.2

77.23
291.95
274.05
262.73
259.14
254.87
251.78
249.56
246.08

351.7
431.0
320.8
362.4
35<5.5
346.4
360.1
361,8
329.7

$27.80
22.44
71-13
97.19
83.66
85.12
87.26
83.90
83.74
91.66

271.31

241.2

140.50

The figures on State and Local debts for 1915 to 1928 inclusive are taken from Cost of Government in the United
Statesj iQ28-ig2<)y by the National Industrial Conference Board. Figures for these debts since 1928 are rough
estimates.
Figures for total -wealth are taken from the Conference Board Bulletin No. 62, February, 1932. Figures for the
end of December 1931 are estimated by Dr. Royal Meeker. The estimate of total wealth is made on the assumption
that tangible wealth was the same as in 1929 and that its value in current dollars declined one-third through the
increase in the purchasing power of the business dollar,
* In current dollars.




APPENDIX III

171

by the "devaluation" of the mark at a trillion to 1. In Italy,
France, Poland, Austria, and Russia the "devaluation" amounted
to the repudiation of by far the larger portions of the domestic
debts.
The growth of the British national and local debts in pounds
sterling are shown in Table 5.
TABLE 5
PUBLIC DEBTS OF BRITAIN

Total Debt of the
United Kingdom
1914
1915
1916
1917
1918
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931

Total Debt of the
Local Authorities

£706,154,110

Grand Total of
National and Local
Debts

£562,630,045

5,921,095,819
7,481,050,442
7,875,641,961
7,623,097,128
7*720,532,214
7,812,562,525
7,707,537,545
7,665,880,145
7,633,722,502
7,652,687,904
7,630,972,670
7,620,853,547
7,596,210,899
7,582,899,661

S^5y$5^y^7
557,983,804
550,508,799
544,184,848
555,145, 2 9 2
657,760,895
768,566,752
803,880,725
820,262,540
864,882,330
934,656,498
1,027,857,547
1,121,258,965
1,174,984,992

£1,268,784,155

6,471,604,618
8,025,235,290
8,430,787,253
8,280,858,023
8,489,098,966
8,616,443,230
8,527,800,085
8,530,762,475
8,568,379,000
8,680,545,451
8,752,231,635
8,795,838,539

Source: Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, 1932, pp. 140,
196-7.

AMERICAN FARM MORTGAGES

So far as there is truth in the theory of over-production as a
cause of this depression, it applies particularly to our farms,
though it must be borne in mind that over-production was an
effect before it became a cause. But on the farms, its effects
were real. Conveniences and luxuries you can buy forever,



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
if you have the money. Food you buy only so far as you are
hungry. I n this respect, the present depression differs from
that of 1921. In 1921 there was little agricultural overproduction. T r u e , in both cases, agricultural prices fell; but
in 1930 they fell much more than they would have fallen had
it not been for increased production. Increased acreage brought
under the plough by the high prices of 1917—1920 and improvements in agriculture have hurt the farmers by driving
prices below costs of production.
One other handicap was more or less peculiar to the farmer.
W h e n the time came to reduce acreage, he revealed his immobility. By sticking to his farm through thick and thin, he
became further the victim of his debts. Between 1910 and 1928
(including an inflation as well as a deflation period) farm
values rose, in the net, from $35.6 billion to $43 billion; but
mortgage debts, during the same period, rose faster: from $ 3 , 600 million to $9,500 million. T h e net result was that, in
1910, farmers' equities were 90 per cent of the values of all
farms, mortgaged and unmortgaged, and in 1928 only 78 per
cent, (See Table 6.)
TABLE 6
FARM MORTGAGES*

Year
1910
1920
1925
192S
1930

Amount
(millions)
$3,599.0
7^57-7
9,360.6
9,468.5
9,400.0

Value of Farms
{millions)
$35,600

Percentage of
Debt to Value
10 per cent

43,000

22 per cent

* Compiled from Year Book of Agriculture, 19315 and mimeographed sheet, "Total Farm Mortgage Debts in the United States'* prepared by the United States Department of Agriculture.

See Report of the Secretary of Agriculture for 1931, p. 3 1 .
T h e results are worse in terms of the farmer's dollar than
shown in the table. T h e real debt burden upon farmers has
increased more than is shown by these figures. T h e prices of



APPENDIX III

173

the products farmers sell have been reduced to 45 per cent of
the prices in 1929, 2 whereas all commodities have declined only
to 65 per cent. Since the "farmer's produce dollar" has become
$2.20, this nominal "decrease" of 20 per cent in money mortgage debts is a real increase of about 75 per cent in the farmer's
real mortgage debt burden. For other agricultural loans the
increase in real debt is 111 per cent.
MORTGAGES OTHER THAN FARM MORTGAGES
T h e report made by Professors John H. Gray and George W .
Terborgh for the Real Estate Research Committee of the
Brookings Institution in Washington 3 presents the available
information of the holdings of non-farm first mortgages by
various institutions, roughly as follows: building and loan associations, $6.6 billion; mutual savings banks, $4.8 billion; life
insurance companies, $4 billion; all other banks, $6.4 billion.
T h e authors add: " H o w incomplete this calculation is, becomes
apparent when we realize that no account whatever is taken of
the mortgage holdings of mortgage companies, fire and casualty
insurance companies, educational and other institutions, foundations, trustees, and individual investors . . . but it is certain
that in the aggregate they are large. It seems indeed a safe
conclusion that first mortgages on non-farm real estate in the
United States total over 25 billions of dollars."
This estimate excludes all second mortgages and other junior
mortgages. It surely is conservative to estimate the total nonfarm mortgage debt in 1928 at not less than $29.5 billion and
in 1929 at $37 billion.
If we can assume that the growth in total mortgage indebtedness has been equal to the growth in mortgages held by building and loan associations alone, then the total non-farm mortgage debt in 1920 was about $9.6 billion and the percentage
increase up to 1929 was more than three fold. T h e decline
2
z

See Crop Reporterf February, 1932, p. 87.
First Mortgages in Urban Real Estate Finance, by John H. Gray
and George W. Terborgh, Washington, D. C, 1929.



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
from 1929 to the beginning of 1932 in all types of non-farm
mortgages is estimated to be $11 billion which probably errs
on the side of conservatism.
CORPORATE LONG AND SHORT DEBTS
There is no dependable measure of total corporate indebtedness and the changes therein. New and refunding issues of all
types of corporate securities are reported by the Commercial
and Financial Chronicle, but there is no way of calculating the
amount of long term and short term debts retired, Carl Snyder
estimated total corporate bonds at 30 to 40 billion dollars in
1926. If this is accurate, it would seem to suggest a total of
long term bonds and short term bonds and notes of about $65
billion in 1929. Professor G. F . W a r r e n quotes M r . E . White,
Chief Statistician, Office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, as authority for the figure of $76,096 million for corporate
liabilities in 1929. T h e decline in these corporate dollar debts
since 1929 has probably been not less than $11,414 million or
15 percent.
Corporate bonds, both new issues and refunding issues, were
at a low of 23.I per cent of all security issues in 1919. T h e
proportion increased to 41,6 per cent in 1920 and to 79.1 per
cent in 1921, when industry was at the bottom of the slump
following the crash of 1920. T h e percentage of long term bonds
declined continuously until 1926 and 1927 when it rose slightly
to 66.9 and 68.7 per cent respectively. In 1928, when the stock
market boom was fully under way, the proportion of long term
bonds suddenly slumped to 45.8 per cent while the percentage
of common stock shot up from 10.5 per cent to 30.2 per cent.
In 1929 bonds fell to 25.3 while common stock skyrocketed
t0
53*9 P e r c e n t - I n I 9 3 ° J t n e first year after the big crash, the
proportions had become reversed, 56.7 per cent being long term
bonds and 22.3 per cent common stock, while in 1931 they were
68.7 per cent and 8.2 per cent, respectively.
T h e slump in the proportion of common stock and the increase in long term and short term bonds and notes has con


TABLE 7
CORPORATE DOMESTIC SECURITY ISSUES 1919

TO

1931

(millions of dollars)
LONG TERM BONDS

Total
Domestic
Amount
Corporate '
Issues
1919
1920
1921
1922

$2,739-7
2,966.3
2,419.8
2,949.2

1923

3,178.9
3,520.8
4,222.1

1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931

t

i

6,930.2

3,174-1
2,369.4
2,810.3
1,628.0

2,371.2

$540.2
660.8
226.4
133.8

74-4

2,319-5
2,667.3
3,059.1
4,466.2

9,376.6
4,957-1

23.1
41.6
79.1

633.7
1,234.4
1,915.2
2,195.0
2,262.5

4,573.7
6,506.9

Amount

Per Cent
of Total

j

71.2
65.9
63.2
66.9
68.7
45.8
25.3
56.7
68.7

180.5

335.7
308.0
294.5
302.5

1

264.9
250.6
620.3
400.1

Per Cent
of Total

Amount

Amount

9.4
4.5
5.6
9*5
7.3
6.4
4.6
3.8
2.7
12.5
16.9

$

332.8
406.7
346.1
636.8
543-6
1,054.7
I,397.I

1,694.7
421.3
148.0

Chronicle.

11.3
12.2

9.8
15.1
11.9
16.2
20.2
1S.1

%.s
6.2

Per Cent
of Total

$1,565.8
1,071.1
278.2
287.8
329.2
519.6
610.1

Per Cent
of Total

19.8
22.3

Compiled from statistics published in the Commercial and Financial




COMMON STOCK

PREFERRED STOCK

SHORT TERM NOTES

57-1
36.1
11.5

676.6
683.5

!

2,094.1
5,061.8
1,105.0
195.1

9.8
10.4
14.8
14.4
14.8
10.5
30.2

53-9
22.3
8.2

176

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

tinued in 1932 as is shown by comparing the January and February issues in 1931 with 1932. (See Chart 7 and Tables 7
and 8.)
TABLE 8
CORPORATE DOMESTIC SECURITY ISSUES, JANUARY 193I AND 1932 AND
FEBRUARY 193I AND 1932
LONG TERM BONDS

Total
Domestic
Corporate
Issues
Jan.
Jan.
Feb.
Feb.

1931
1932
1931
1932

460,706,279
48,163,750
88,225,944
44,55o,775

Amount
39*>235>ooo
41,345,000
48,420,000
30,138,000

SHORT TERM NOTES

Per
Cent
85.x
85.8
54.9
67.6

PREFERRED STOCK

Total
Domestic
Corporate
Issues
Jan.
Jan.
Feb.
Feb.

1931
1932
1931
1932

460,706,279
48,163,750
88,225,944
44,550,775

Amount

Per
Cent

4,250,000
7,509,000

5-8
8.8
8.5

2>3*2>775

5-2

26>503>779

Amount
23,168,750
2,400,000
13,040,100
10,600,000

Per
Cent
5.0
5.0
14.9
23.8

COMMON STOCK

Amount
18,798,750
168,750
19,256,844
1,500,000 i

Per
Cent
4.1
•4
21.8
3^4

BANK LOANS AND DISCOUNTS

Investments of all banks increased from $5,541 million in
June, 1914, to the peak of $17,801 million in June, 1928, an
increase of nearly 354 times. They declined to $16,634 million
in 1929 which was a three-fold increase over 1914. Investments slowly increased after December, 1929, to a new peak
of $19,637 million in June, 1931, since which they have slowly
ebbed to $18,481 million in December, 1931, which is 18 per
cent above October, 1929.
The loans by Federal Reserve member banks reached the



BIL1WN5
OF*
10.0

DOMESTIC CORPORATE
,
ISSUES

10.0

A

8.0

A\

/

6.0

kn

HALTY1MP^TT^ r/v

5.0

POBTF-^

uuru.o i ivy \^V/K

UllyH

ISSUES

4.0

ao
Zb

y"" —

2.0
1.5
1.0
*8

A
5

"
S

L 3NG T F D

BO!WS

^TOT*J -

1
1

I
.5

/
i
>

V

1 ;il

_•'

5.0

\

)

§

\A
v

4.0

y

.A \
1

\T

3.0
^

2.5

STOjJC
I'

^

A

\/

/]

II

1.5

\
*

1.0

~\~v
__LL

II
1

r

.5

^
r^
^ * - P C I riTFOfMJTt. •.I
>*^

\\ "3^"

i

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/
v^i

A
.••^

6.0

rl

^

•

•

v

AV A
f

,ow
c \0N

UoCOWVON $rocx
*

' i

/

\J

'

LrLUIhuus

*
>TOC K

A\

v'

.61
.5
.4

\

V* •

1

ft**"*

w
1"

3H0BTTEfittNOI 13

.2

i i

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ao

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A

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BILI
C

.3
.2

4
19 1920 21 2£ 25 Z 1925 26
4




CHART 7

*LiL _29_

1950

JLiL

178

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

peak in October, 1929, at $26,165 million, a four-fold increase
over December, 1914 ($6,419 million) and very nearly 50
per cent over December, 1922 ($17,930 million). T h e rates
of increase correspond very closely to the rates for all banks
combined.
T h e decline of 26 per cent to $19,261 million at the end
of December, 1931, brought their loans to the lowest figure
since June, 1924.
T h e percentage declines in loans for all banks and for Reserve member banks are nearly identical.
W e may here note, in passing, that bank deposits (demand
plus time), which are directly related to bank loans and investments, reached their maximum for all banks in December,
1928, at $56,766,000,000—an increase of three-fold since
1914 and of 50 per cent since 1922. No available figures exist
for demand deposits outside of the Federal Reserve System. T h e
net demand deposits of Federal Reserve member banks alone
reached the peak in November, 1929, at $19,979 million which
is an increase of more than three-fold over December, 1914, and
nearly 24 per cent more than December, 1922. 4
T h e trend has been steadily downward since 1929. T h e
figure for November, 1931, was $16,358 million, a decrease
of 18 per cent from the peak. Demand deposits had sunk in
February, 1932, to $14,789 million, 26 per cent below the
peak, the lowest figure since March, 1922.
T h e percentage increases and decreases in loans on the one
hand and demand deposits on the other are almost identical.
Beginning in December, 1929, Reserve Bank credit fell until,
from February to July, 1931, it was about $525 million below
the average for October, 1929. This great drop in credit nearly
counterbalanced the entire increase of $577 million in gold
imports during this period. After July, 1 9 3 1 , Reserve Bank
credit increased $996 million from July to December, 1931?
but member bank reserve balances declined $338 million. This
decline in reserve balances was almost entirely due to with4
See "Reports of the Federal Reserve Board" for 1930, pp. 94. and
95, and "Federal Reserve Bulletins" for June, 1931 and for April, 1932*




APPENDIX

III

179

drawals of gold for export and the increase of money "in circulation" which resulted from the large number of bank failures
and the loss of confidence in the stability of the dollar, and in
the solvency of our whole banking system both at home and
abroad. (See Tables 9 and 10, also Chart 4 in Chapter V I I L )
TABLE 9
LOANS, INVESTMENTS AND TOTAL DEPOSITS

All Banks in the United States
(millions of dollars)
Loans
June 30

Dec. 31

Investments
June 30

Dec. 31

Total Deposits
Excluding Interbank Deposits
June 30

Dec. 31

1913
14

15,248

15
16

15,643
17,961
20,510
22,392
24,710
30,824
28,970
27,732

17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28

30,378
31,523
33,8^5
36,i57
37,360

30

39>464
41,512
40,618

31

35,384

29

18,566
19,131
22,759
26,352
28,765
33,603

5>54i
5*823
6,626

30,778
32,440
35»64o
36,759
38,407
40,763
41,898
38,i35
31,616

7)777
9,421
11,860
10,861
11,029
12,224
13,360
13,657
14,965
15,404
16,391
17,801
16,962
17,490
i9>637

37,72i
35*742
13,225
14,742
14,963
15,260
17,043
i7>504
16,519
18,074
18,481

37,6i5
40,688
43,405
47,612
49*733
51,662
53,398
53,852
54,954
51,782

42,163
45,853
49,224
50,029
52,909
56y766
55,289
53,039
46,261

Source; Annual Report Federal Reserve Board, 1930, pp. 89-90,
tables 42-43 and Federal Reserve Bulletin, April, 1932, p. 297.




i8o

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE 10
LOANS AND DEPOSITS OF A L L M E M B E R BANKS
(in millions)

Loans*

Call Date

6,419
6,720
7,622
7>964
8,714

1914—Dec. 31
1 1

9 5—June

2

3

Dec. 31
1916—June 30
Dec. 27
1917—June 30
Dec. 31
1918—June 29
Dec. 31
1919—June 30
Dec. 31
1920—June 30
Dec. 29
1921—June 30
Dec. 31
1922—June 30
Dec. 29
1923—June 30
Dec. 31
1924—June 30
Dec. 31
1925—June 30
Dec. 31
1926—June 30
Dec. 31

9»370
12,316
13,233
14,224
15,414
18,149
*9»533
19,555
18,119
17,394
17,165
17,930
18,750
18,842
19,204
J
9,933
20,655
21,996
22,060
22,652

Investments
2,079
2,044
2,239
2,35i
2,561
3,083
4,580
5,274
6,368
6,827
6,630
6,026
5,976
6,002
6,o88
7,017
7,649
7,757
7,645
7,963
8,813
8,863
8,888
9,123
8,990

Net Demand
Plus Time
Deposits^

Net Demand
Deposits

7,468
8,163

6,235
6,811

9,477

7,97i
8,226
9,502
9,690
12,487

10,001

11,485
11,993
15,643
15,612
i8,397
19,069
21,88l
22,333
2i,533
20,688

12,217

14,563
14,725
16,576
16,422

20,900

15,345
14,321
14,449

22,714
23,848
24,444
25,027
26,042
28,273
28,65?
29,9-3
29,977
30,362

15,539
16,203
16,066
16,376
16,838
18,468
18,277
19,260
18,804
18,922

Time
DepositsX
1,233
i,352
1,506
i,775
1,983
2,304
3,i56
3,395
3,834
4,344
5,305
5,9H
6,188
6,367
6,451
7»*75
7,645
8,378
8,651
9,204
9,805
10,381
10,653
u,i73
11,440

* Includes rediscounts and overdrafts; excludes acceptances of other
banks and bills of exchange sold with indorsement.
t Deposits subject to reserve requirements.
X Includes postal-savings deposits, except that such deposits of State
bank members prior to June 20, 1917, are included with demand deposits.
Source: Seventeenth Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Board, for
the year 1930, pp. 94-5 j Federal Reserve Bulletin, May, 1932, p . 296.




APPENDIX III
Call Date
1927—June
Dec.
1928—June
Dec.
1929—June
Oct.
Dec.
1930—June
Dec.
1931—June
Sept.
Dec.

Loans
30
31
30
31
29
4
31
30
31
30

Investments

22,938
23,886
24,303
25,155
25,658
26,165
26,150
25,214
23,870
24,678

9,818
10,361
10,758
10,529

20,301

31

18,471

10,052

9*749
9>784
10,442
10,989
12,106

12,199
",3H

181

Net Demand
Plus Time Net Demand
Deposits
Deposits
31,460
32,870
32,629
33)397
32,^02
32,269
33)03^
32,982
32*5*6
31,602
28,218
27*353

19,250
20,105
19,191
19,944
18,977
18,952
i9>797
19,170
18,969
18,055
16,358
i5>925

Time
Deposits
12,210

12,765
*3>439
13*453
13*3^5
I3»3i8
13*233
13,812
I3>546
i3>548
11,860
11,428

BROKERS' LOANS

T h e Federal Reserve System tried—in 1928 and 1929—
to discourage the rash speculative boom partly by moral suasion
and then by the exercise of its rediscount power to force member banks to discriminate against brokers' loans. There are
those who think they would have succeeded if more skill and
promptitude had been marshalled. But even so, lending is too
fluid to be effectively stopped by a dam half-way across the
stream. T h e desired result was circumvented by borrowing not
from the banks but from corporations and individuals who
preferred to get 10 per cent on call loans rather than to invest
in enterprises which were paying only 4 to 6 per cent. A portion
of "loans by others" were made by banks for out of town customers who carried large deposits which they instructed their
banks to lend for them on call. During the frenzied boom of
1929 the "loans by others" exceeded greatly the loans by member banks to brokers.
Chart 8 and Table 11 show the growth of all security loans
including brokers' loans during the boom and their sudden collapse since 1929.



BL I N
I LO S
OF

SECURITY

$




LOANS

.

,

4TOTAL 3EOJCITY.
L0AN5i

CHART 8

MU W
JD
OF

4>
t
17

APPENDIX III
TABLE i i
TOTAL REPORTED SECURITY LOANS

(in millions of dollars)
BROKERS' LOANS

Total
Security
Loans

Dates
1928—Oct.
Dec.
1929—Mar.
June
Oct.
Dec.
1930—Mar.

3
31
27
20
4
31
27

June 30
Sept. 24
Dec. 31
1 9 3 1 — M a r . 25

12,429
14,052
14,643
I5JH4
16,954
i2»955
12,544
12,085
11,701
10,364

June 30
Sept. 29f

9>75*
8,943
8,378

Total
6,359
7,4n
7,843
7,996
9,464
4,913
5,260
4,614
4,436
2,783
2,685
2,112
1,7^4

By
Member
Banks
2,749
3,53i
2,893
2,946
2,824
2,463
3,050
3,184
3,246
2,173
2,205
i,732
i,444

By
To
To
Other
Lenders Banks Others*
3,610
3,880
4,95o
5>o5o
6,640
2,450
2,2lO
1,430
1,190
6lO
480
380
280

274
269

5*796
6,373

274
320

6,526
6,813
7,170

357

7,685

260
230

7,024
7,242
7,090
7,266
6,848
6,602

335

^75
3i5
219
229
312

6,333

Source: Federal Reserve Bulletin, Jan. 1932, p. 18.
* Commercial borrowers,
t Preliminary.
TOTAL

DEBTS

Estimates of public and private debts have been made by
Professors G. F . Warren and F . A, Pearson. 5 They have
omitted all foreign debts due to American nationals and have
included estimates of loans on life insurance policies and by
pawn brokers and loan sharks. Some of their figures for other
debts differ considerably from estimates made by other students.
T h e y make no estimate of the reduction in the total money
debt since 1929 and of the amount of the real debt today in
terms of 1929 dollars. They say in part:
"Extremely rough estimates of the total indebtedness are
shown in table 3 . T h e total debt is approximately $1,700 per
6

Farm Economics, No. 74, February 1932, pp. 1667-1668.




184

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

capita, or about one-half of the national wealth in 1929. If the
value of commodities is to drop one-third and remain at that
level, the debt would become about 75 per cent of the value
of the property. So much of this can never be collected that
it is probable that the lenders would have a greater buying
power if they were paid in full at a price level of 150. T h e
usual argument for reducing wages is that a dollar has more
buying power. This same argument might be applied to debts
which are the most serious result of deflation.
"Table 3.—Rough Approximation of Public and Private Debts (from
table 2)
Capta

37-4

$ 618

18.2

301

17.3
10.3
8.9
4.4

284
171
146

1.5
i-S

24
24

1

0.5

8

$203

100.0

$1,649'

Corporations
$
Urban mortgages e
Bank loans
State, county and local
National
Farm mortgages
Life insurance policy loans and premium notes
Retail installment papers 7
Pawn brokers' loans and unlawful loans of all
kinds 8
Total

Per

Per
Cent

Amount
{billions)
76
37
35
21

18

9
3
3

73

T h e estimate in the table prepared for this book by D r .
Meeker of 234,281 million for the total money debts in 1932
corresponds approximately with D r . E die's estimates ranging
from a minimum of 120 billion to "more probably 150 billion." D r . Edie excluded bank loans, 39 billionj consumers'
6

Based on estimates furnished through the courtesy of George Terborgh of the Brookings Institute.
7
Based on reports of the National Association of Finance Companies.
8
Ryan, F. W. "Family Finance in the United States, The Journal of
Business of the University of Chicago, Vol. Ill, No. 4, Part I, p. 404,
October 1930.



APPENDIX i n

185

credits, 2.2 billion, external debts, 25.6 billion and apparently
life insurance loans, 2.4 billions, which would raise his totals
to 189.2 billion as a minimum and 219.2 billion as a more
likely figure.




APPENDIX IV

GOLD BASE (AND GOLD SHORTAGE)
DEPRESSION OF 1929-32
Mr. Joseph Kitchin is the leading authority on gold scarcity,
and based on his data the gold scarcity idea has been emphasized by Professors Gustav Cassel, J. Maynard Keynes and
other economists of international reputations. These views have
been endorsed in their several Reports in 1930 and 1931 by
the Gold Delegation of the League of Nations and by the Report of the Macmillan Committee of Parliament in June, 1931*
Meanwhile, the production of gold has increased somewhat
beyond the estimates made by Mr. Kitchin and the metallurgical
engineers. Instead of gold production falling one-half of one
per cent, it increased by 5 per cent from $416.8 million to
$438.4 million from 1930 to 1931 and it is still increasing. It
is reported that large new fields of low grade gold ores have
been discovered in Canada. India, the great gold absorbing
sponge, is being squeezed and has become a leading exporter of
gold. During 1931, she exported $95.7 million gold, whereas
in 1930 she imported $57.7 million. During January and
February 1932 she exported $51.4 million but in these two
months in 1930 she imported $9,214,000 and in 1931, $727,000.

The total world monetary gold supply increased in threeyear periods as follows:
December,
"
"
"
"

1913—December, 1916,
I I
19 1 6
"
9 9>
1919
"
1922,
1922
"
1925,
1925
"
1928,
1928
"
1931*
186




34
2.5
23.6
6.9
11.8
12.2

per
per
per
per
per
per

cent
cent
cent
cent
cent
cent

APPENDIX IV

187

In the two months from December, 1931, to February,
1932, the increase has been one per cent. Beginning in 1929,
there has been a tremendous falling off in production and trade,
thus reducing greatly the demand for money.
T h e r e is great inequality in the distribution of gold. I n the
United States, until the Glass-Steagall bill released more "free
gold," gold was virtually scarce because so much of it was
technically tied up and unusable under our laws. T h u s while
statistically gold has been abundant, so far as usability is concerned, it has been scarce. T h e scarcity has been accentuated by
the higher price level since the war.
See also " T h e English View" by Sir Henry Strakosch, in
Fortune, April, 1932, pp. 5 2 - 5 5 and 104—108, and America
Weighs Her Gold by James Harvey Rogers, Yale University
Press, 1 9 3 1 .
Sir Henry attributes the persistent flow of gold to France and
the United States to the Reparations and war debts. He attempts
to show that the policy of debt collections in gold brought on
liquidation and plunged the whole world into the disastrous
plight of deflation.
Sir Henry says that from the beginning of 1925 to the end
of 1927 countries other than France and the United States
absorbed gold at a slightly greater rate than the rate of total
world production. Early in 1929 an abnormal gold movement
began which increased the gold holdings of France 76 per cent
and of the United States 23 per cent from January 1, 1929,
to June 30, 1931, while the rest of the world (excluding Russia)
lost 15 per cent of their holdings.
T h e concentration of gold in France has continued unchecked. Between June 30, 1930, and March, 1932, the gold
holdings of the United States have declined from $4,593,000,000 to $3,985,000,000, a loss of 13 per cent, while the holdings of France have risen from $2,212,000,000 to $3,002,000,000 or almost 36 per cent. T h e rest of the world lost
about 1.8 per cent of their gold. In March, 1932, France held
more than 26 per cent and the United States, about 35 per cent
of the world's monetary gold.



188

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

Professor Rogers has shown that the accumulation of gold
in the Federal Reserve Banks of the United States has not made
money in circulation abundant, nor made the gold standard
secure against the possibility of overthrow by raids from the
French banks and other holders of short term credits. O u r total
gold holdings are misleading. O u r "free gold," which is neither
required as collateral and reserves against Federal Reserve Notes
nor foreign owned gold masquerading as American gold, is
not greatly in excess of our legitimate requirements. T h a t is the
reason for the apprehension of our bankers during the raid on
our gold holdings in the fall of 1931.
Table 12 compiled from data published in the Federal Reserve Bulletins gives the distribution of gold at the end of December in each of several years from 1913 to 1931 and for February, 1932.
TABLE 12
GOLD HOLDINGS OF CENTRAL BANKS AND GOVERNMENTS

(millions of dollars)
Total
1913 D e c
1916
1919
1922
1924
1925
1928
1929
1930
1931
T- t.
1932 Feb.

United
States

France

England

Germany

Italy

Japan

Spain

All
Others

$4,933-4 $1,390.4 $ 6 7 8 . 9 $164.9 $278.7 $^65.5 $ 65.0 $ 92.4 $3,097.6
6,619.6 2,202.2
652-9 395-8 600.4 223.4 113-4 241.4 2,190.1
6,788.1 2,517.7
694.8 578.1 259.5 200.1 350.0 471.5
1,716.4
8,394.1 3,505.6
708.4 742.7 239.4 217.3 605.5 487.0 1,888.2
8,947.9 4,090.1
710.4 748.2 180.9 218.4 585.7 489.2 1,925-0
8,965.3 3,985.4
7 H . 0 694.8 287.8 218.8 575.8 489.5 2,002.2
10,018.7 3,746.1 1,253.5 748.4 650.1 265.7
540.9 493.8 2,320.3
10,297.0 3,900.2 1,633.4 709.8 543.8 273.0 542.5 495-1 2,199.2
10,907.4 4,225.1 2,100.2 718.4 527.8 278.6 411.8 470.5 2,175.0
JI 2
» 4 2 . o 4,051.0 2,699.0 588.0 209.0 296.0 234.0 434.0 3 , 7 3 i . °
11,364.0 3,947-Q 3,942.0 588.0 221.0 296.0 215.0 434.0
2,7^>o
Percentages

1913 Dec.
»9i6
1919
1922
»924
1935
1928
1939
1930
193 1
1932 Feb.

100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100

Compiled from Federal




26.2
33.3
37.1
42.0
45.7
44.5
37.4
37.9
38.7
36.0
34.7
Reserve

13.6
9.9
10.2
8.4
7.9
7.9
12.5
15.9
19.3
24.0
25.9

3.5
6.0
8.5
8.8
8.4
7.7
7.5
6.9
6.7
5.2
5.2
Bulletins.

5.6
9.1
3.8
2.9
2.0
3.2
6.5
5.3
4.8
1.9
1.9

5.4
3.4
2.9
2.6
2.4
2.s
2.7
2.7
2.6
2.6
2.6

1.3
1.7
5.2
7.2
6.5
6.4
5.4
5-3
3.8
2.1
1.9

1.9
3.6
6.9
5.8
5.5
5.5
4-9
4.8
4-3
3.9
3-8

42.5
23.0
25.4
22.3
21.6
22.3
23.1
21.2
J
9-8
24.3
24.0

APPENDIX V

DEPRESSION OF 1929-32
STATISTICS OF CURRENCY VOLUME AND VELOCITY
(FACTORS 2 AND 8 )

For the First Half of 1930
Federal Reserve Member Banks reported that time deposits
increased by $570 million, and demand deposits decreased by
$627 million in the first half of 1930.
Money in Circulation

{nominally)

T h e total "money in circulation" in the United States normally drops abruptly every year from the end of December to
the end of January. From December 1926 there was a slow
downward trend to December 1930, when the amount was
$4.9 billions, nearly 16 per cent below December 1926. T h e
"money in circulation" during 1930 had been excessively low,
reaching $4.4 billions in August. From that time the amount
was sharply increased to December 1930. During 1931 the
depressive effects of sagging prices continued despite large increases in Federal Reserve Notes in circulation. These increases
were due largely to bank failures which led to the use of cash
in place of bank checks. Total "money in circulation" reached
$5.65 billion in December 1931—an increase of 16 per cent
over December 1930 and 22 per cent over April 1931. Federal
Reserve note circulation increased 80 per cent from $1.46
billion in February 1931 to $2.6 billion in December 1931.
(See Chart 9.)
Meanwhile, deposit currency (demand deposits) for member



189

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
banks of the Federal Reserve System acted as follows (measured by a velocity index number based on 1919-25 as 100):

IN NEW YORK CITY

From October 1929 to March 1932
Volume fell 13 per cent (from $5,752 millions to $4>959
millions); velocity fell 72 per cent. The resulting efficiency
(87% X 28%) was 24% of what it was in October, 1929.

IN I 4 0 CITIES OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK CITY

October 1929 to March 1932
Volume fell 28% (from $13,373 million to $9,616 million); velocity 4 4 % . Resulting efficiency (jzfo X 5^>%)
40%.

FOR ALL MEMBER BANKS IN I 4 I
INCLUDING NEW YORK

CITIES

October 1921 to February 1932
Volume fell 2 1 % (from $18,726 million to $14,789
million); velocity fell 61 fo. Resulting efficiency ( 7 9 % X
39%) 3 i % See Table 13 and Chart 9, also Charts 3 and 4 in Chapter
VIII, p. 94STOCK PRICES (FACTOR 3 )

From December 27, 1929, to April io, 1930, the level of
stock prices rose 20 per cent. From April 10, 1930, to December
1930, it fell 43.5 per cent; and this continued till it reached
48.8 at the end of January 1932.



TOTAL MONEY IN CIRCULATION

MUI0N5
OF*

BtLUONS

6.0

CtBCULAXiON

K 1915 16 17 18 19 1920 21 22 23 24 1925 26 27 28 29 1950 31 52




CHART 9

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE 13
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF N E W YORK
REPORTS DEPARTMENT
INDEXES OF VELOCITY OF BANK DEPOSITS

Daily basis. Normal equals 1919-1925 average. Seasonal allowed for
Velocity based on relation of debits to individual account to demand
deposits in weekly reporting member banks

Years
1919
1920
1921
1922
1933
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
1932

Jan. Feb. Mar.
80
84
84
101
95
95
83
92
95
95
99 103 105
102 106 102
104 108 108
120 118 128
5
127 134
140 138
216
202 210 102
129 143 159
83
87
97
68
73
7o

Years
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
1932

140
Mar,
97
107
92
93
98
101
98
105
ios
in
128
116
9i
77

II

'I

Jan. Feb.
103
98
112 107
102
94
9 9

S §

98
99
100
106
108
109
121
115
97
90

98
100
97
104
108
104
125
us

N E W Y O R K ; CITY
Aug.
112
95
89 93 92
84 91
105 100 IOO 102 IOO
107 102 I05 101
99
100 100 IOO
97 103
100 113 XI2 112 116
124 114 U S 123 132
134 131 128 135
164 169 177 i54 166
195 201 182 208 228
150 143 Z46 118 112
99 93 96 80
77

A

ts May June July
94 I04 III
96 89 88 91

II
CITIES (OUTSIDE
May June
Apr.
96 102 i n
109 n o 109
94
95
94
92
94
94
102 IOO IOO
100
98 97
97 100 99
105 103 101
107 108 106
116 117 119
124 123 126
i n 112 114
90
91 89

NEW
July
112
113
96
94
99
96
101
108
no
114
131
105
88

YORK
Aug.
in
in
95
9i
99
97
IOO
103
104
113
136
103
86

Sept.
106
93
96
106
102
97
117
127
153
190
242
118
84

Oct. Nov.
no 115
99 101
95 96
113
97
98 104
9 2 101
121 120
129 U 5
144 135
188 191
244 189
US
87
80 62

Dec,
105
99
94
97
ios
99
115
124
I36
201
139
95
71

Aver.
99
95
91
100
103
100
I*2
122
I36
170

CITY)
Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec, Aver,
108 108 i n 107 105
109 105 n o
in
101
98
94
96
92
94
97
93
98 100
102
99
92
97
93
92
IOO
102 100 100
9 8 105
99 101 103
109 n o 106 104 107
121 117 117 121 115
135 137 130 115 128
95 107
94
100 100
83
85 88 81

141 CITIES (INCLUDING NEW YORK CITY)
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec, Aver,
Years
1919
95
92
90
93 101 109 113 113 105 no 112 107 103'
1920
105
99 100 102 100
97 101 103 101 104 103 103 102
1921
98
89
86
88
92
90
94 93
96 96 98 95
1922
94
95
95 101
99 97 99 96
99 104
94 98
98 101 100 103 100 100
1923
103 100
99 98 98 97 9
100 102 101 101
1924
99 IOO
99 103
98 95 98 100 IOO
103 102 103
99 107 105 106 108 108 in 109 209 106
1925
113 n o 117 114 108 108 114 116 no 115 104 H 3 112
1926
117 120 120 121 120 117 123 126 131 128 124 123 123
1927
128 124 141 143 146 148 134 140 154 150 153 165 144
1928
1929*
160 164 169 155 160 149 167 176 1S2 195 160 129 164
1930
120 126 136 131 127 130 no 106 108 109
90
97 Il6
90
89
96
95
1931
93 92
84 81 85 84 71 77
1932
81
75 73
* Decrease in 1929 in the 14i cities is probably due to revision in "net due to
banks" figures; therefore index is not exactly comparable to those in the past years.




°.

Si

APPENDIX V

Commodity

193

Prices

Commodity price index (1926 equals 100) the peak 167.2
in May 1920, low 9 1 4 in January 1922, then 104.3 in August
2 2
9 5> 93-7 in May 1927, 100.1 in September 1928, then down
a little and relatively stable instability until July 1929. For what
happened after that, see Chapter V I I I with Chart 1; also see
Charts 1 o and 11 (as to both stock and commodity prices).
NET WORTHS AND FAILURES (FACTOR 4 )

I n 1919, (one year after the World W a r ) the record was
the best since 1890, not only in the percentage of existing firms
that went to the wall, but in the absolute number and in the
sum of their liabilities. Ever since then, though the record has
varied a good deal, its trend on the whole has been to the bad.
T h e year 1931 was the worst on record for the number of
failures and for the liabilities of the failed firms, and the percentage of failures to firms in business. (See Table 14.)

Bank Suspensions
T h e failure or the suspension of a bank is of vastly more
consequence than the failure of an industrial or commercial
company, because banks are the custodians of the funds and
the creditors of most industries.
Canada has long since come out of the banking jungle. She
was as hard hit by the economic crisis and depression as we
were, but not a Canadian bank or branch has closed its doors.
Her banking system is much stronger than ours because her
chartered banks are strong financially and serve the country
by means of branch banks. There are 10 large banks with 4,000
branches. T h e r e have been only three bank failures in Canada
during the past 22 years with total liabilities of $27.8 million.
As for the United States, see Tables 15 and 16.



INDEX-

-INDDd

300

—pod

250

STOCK PRICE INDEXES
1913-1917 DOW JONES, 1918-19Z5 STANDARD STATISTICS,
1926-1952 ICY1NG FI5HEB
- 1926 AVERAGE-100

1913. I 1914 \ 1915 11916 I 1917 11918 11919 ! I9Z011921 II9Z2 1923119Z41 1925




CHART IO

1250
PUBLIC
• UTILITIES -

1NDJ2

1

500
275
Z50

J

1

INDEXES
COMMODITY™ i PRICET t v n f «
,
,
.
aunt-Alt
»nr\n « w »

1

I

lN

[KBCOiTl

era

l O ? £ AVFOATtF mlf\f\

i y c o AVLWAuL'lUD
|io

225
200
175,

*$&
*
*

150
125
100
90
60
70

A yN
/ Xy .
/

'HO

AKI1U-LO

n

/f-

FINISHED
PRODUCTS

v

f

\r

"PAS //UTCWAL3
^^A\S^

1
150

J'O
/V

"V

• ^ ^%

1

|
1

1

,

1 1

ALL COMMODITIES1

125

i \

1 1 .
1

100
90

*i£a*au, n * ^ ^ r ^ ^

N0N-; \Gt2lCULTUE A
L
PfiODUC i o

ao

i

70

V i \
N

ffefe.
1

160
50

Pi

SLm-MNlJ?ACrURED

1913

1914 1915 1916




1917

J

%; \
\ \

1918 1919 1920 11921. 1922 1923 11924 11925 11926 !i927 192a 1929 19301 |95l 1932
CHART

II

.^l
275
250
225
200
175
150
125
100
90
60
70
60
125
100
90
60
70
60
50

196

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE 14

PERCENTAGES OF COMMERCIAL FAILURES TO THE TOTAL NUMBER OF
BUSINESS CONCERNS IN THE UNITED STATES

Years

No. of
Failures

1891
1892
1893
1894
I 9

12,27Z
10,344
15,242
13.885

1896
1897
1898
1899
1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
1906
1907
1908
1909
1910
1911

15,088
13.351
12,186
9,337
10,774
11,002
11,615
12,069
12,199
11,520
10,682
".725
15,690
12,924
12,652
13,441

SS

No. of
Business
Concerns

No. of
Failures |

1.07
.88
1.28
1.25
1.09
i.3i
1.26
1.10

1,142,951
1,172,705
i,i93.U3
1,114,174
1,209,282
i,i5i,579
1,058,521
1,105,830
1,147,595
1,174,300
1,219,242
1,253,172
1,281,481
1,320,172
1,357,455
1,392,949
1,418,075
1,447,554
| 1,486,389
1,515,143
1,525,024

.81
•92
.90

•93
•94
.92
.85

:ll

1.08
.80
.80
.81

1912
1913
1914
1915
1916
1917
1918
1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
i93i

No. of
Business
Concerns

Per Cent
of Failures

15,452
16,037
18,280
22,156
i6,993
13,855
9,982
6,451
8,881
19,652
23,676
18,718
20,615
21,214
21,773
23.146
23,842
22,909
26,355
28,285

| Per Centl
' of Fail- Years
ures

1,564,279
1,616,517
1,655,496
1,674,788
1,707,639
1,733.225
1,708,061
1,710,909
1,821,409
1,927,304
1,983,106
1,996,004
2,047,302
2,113,300
2,158,400
2,171,700
2,199,000
2,212,779
2,183,008
2,125,288

^8~~
•99
1.10
1.32

.38
•49
1.02
1.19
•94
I.Ot
1.05
1.01
1.07
1.08
1.04
1.21
1.33

Source: Dun's Review, Jan. 16, 1932, p. 6.

TABLE 15
BANK SUSPENSONS
NUMBER OF BANKS
Month

1021

1022

Jan.
Feb.
Mar.
Apr.
May
June
July
Aug.
Sept.
Oct.
Nov.
Dec.

59
^7
45
44
39
20
27
35
3i
61
57

17
14
28
17
28
35
35

Total

502

354

51
43

21

1923
4i
41
46
28
30
32
36
46

1924
US
92
69

ft
5i

121

47
34
36
39
47
62

650

777

H
no

1925
103
6i

8
54
34
29
14
3o
53
74
69
.612

1926
65
52

1927

1!

75
49
47
68
41
77
37
140
27
52 ; 36
44
; 43
49
956 : 662

Si
&

1928

1929

1930

53
50
66
43
29
28
24
21
20
4i
72
44

I4
60
5i
29
112

99

491

642

t

17
39
43
68
52

i

193*
202
7%
86
64

II

167

65
67
66
72
254
344
1,345

158
305
522
169
61S
2,550

°2

Total Suspensions 1921-1931—number, 9,541.
, _
Sources: Annual Reports ot the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve
Bulletin, Jan* 1932.




TABLE 16
BANK SUSPENSIONS

Deposits (in thousands of dollars)
Month

Jan.
Feb.
Mar.
Apr.
May
June
July
Aug.
Sept.
Oct.
Nov.
Dec.
Total

1921

1922

23,301
25,202

13,873
20,024

17,86?

m*

1929

1930

16,413
21,746

28,903

78,130

32,800

9,002

23,769

35,123
35,285

n,7S0

16,953
8,190

7,790

33,388

42,417

13,198

6,394

24,090

19,315

43,963

10,784

13,496

19,219

70,566

195,951

12,162

5,368

66,161

32,333

17,364

8,532

21,951

10,050

23,666

41,334
185,902
236,511

24,599

493,751

186,306

83,409

1928

1924

1925

1926

9,032

45,403

25,477

13,384

32,038

10,983

9,240

26,501

15,593

11,763

25,157

18,352

15,196

14,629

15,667

10,142-

10,249

31,222

17,843
29,861

16,055

12,512

15,930

16,324

9,033
16,620

10,368

34,229

5,882

48,618

7,545
6,081

1,837

10,001

1923

1927

9,653

9,404

7,887

13,957

8,430

7,961

17,543

4,389
4,071

14,110

6,493
4,804

7,733

15,946

3,223

11,367

14,141

12,050

8,988

6,147
7,888

15,972

5,072

18,209

n,542

9,011

10,105

9,824
10,418

I5,58i

18,825

19,791

45,983

11,210

24,784

13,153
22,646

32,422

9,201

21,534
30,617
33,129

18,648

22,103

39,166

8,476

11,076

15,730

367,119

287,148

198,354

110,721

188,805

213,444

172,900

272,488

193,891

138,642

234,532

864,715

1,758,924

12,315

13,353

Total Suspensions 1921-1931—deposits, $4,347,416,000.




198

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
PROFITS AND INCOMES (FACTOR 5 )

Total dividend and interest payments by corporations are an
imperfect index even of corporate earnings and they are often
quite misleading as to changes in total net national income. No
soundly managed corporation ever pays out in dividends during
prosperous years all its earnings above fixed charges. Part of
net earnings is set aside as surplus against the proverbial rainy
day and part is turned back into the enterprise. W h e n adversity
comes, dividends are paid out of the accumulated surplus as
long as possible or desirable.
T h e net profits of corporations are better indicators of business conditions. T h e Federal Reserve Bank of New York has
compiled reports of quarterly earnings from more than 500
corporations including 163 industrials, 171 Class I railroads,
103 telephones and 63 other large public utilities. T h e averages
for 1931 are not strictly comparable with other years.
T h e net profits of all reporting corporations increased 41 per
cent from the third quarter of 1925 to the third quarter of 1929.
They declined for the third quarter of 1931, 64 per cent, and
for the fourth quarter 15 per cent.
Telephone net profits increased 41 per cent from the fourth
quarter of 1925 to the fourth quarter of 1929. T h e decline
the last quarter of 1931 is 11 per cent. Profits of other large
public utilities increased 52 per cent from the last quarter of
1925 to the last quarter of 1929, the third quarter of 1931
showing a decline of nearly 80 per cent. T h e last quarter profits
rose, reducing the slump to 71 per cent since 1929.
Net Profits of Class I railroads for the third quarter increased
11 per cent from 1925 to 1929 and declined 58 per cent to
the same quarter of 1931, and sunk for the last quarter to
nearly 70 per cent below the 1929 peak.
Net profits of industrial companies for the third quarter increased 75 per cent from 1925 to 1929 and slumped 75 per cent
in that quarter in 1931, and more than 100 per cent in the
fourth quarter to a net deficit.



APPENDIX V

199

Table 1 in Chapter VIII, pp. 97-8, shows these and other
facts.
Inflation and over-borrowing swelled corporation profits inordinately from 1925 to 1929. Deflation and "liquidation"
since 1929 have reduced these profits appallingly and have even
transformed them into deficits in many leading industries.

Total and Per Cafita National Income
The estimates of total national income and per capita income
are better indicators of the amounts available for expenditure
for consumption. These estimates of income give no measure of
well being or ill being, because they cannot indicate anything
regarding the distribution of the national income. Total national income has been estimated by the National Bureau of
Economic Research, by the National Industrial Conference
Board and by Mr. W. R. Ingalls.
All are but approximations, sometimes so rough as to be
mere guesses, but they do show an astonishing degree of agreement. 1 The Bureau's figures 2 are reproduced here because
they are based on much more careful research and the estimates
in current dollars are converted into 1913 dollars. (See
Table 17.)
Figures for the years 1929, 1930 and 1931 are added using
the methods employed by the Conference Board in making
their estimates for 1929 and 1930.3 The decline in current
dollar income in 1931 was estimated at $15 billion or 21.2
per cent. The amounts obtained in current dollars have been
1
Mr. W. R. Ingalls compares the three series for 1920-1928 in his
article, "The National Income for 1929 Tentatively Estimated at EightyThree Billion," in The Annalist, January 30, 1931, p. 270.
2
The National Income and Its Purchasing Power, by W. I. King,
National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., New York, 1930, pp. 74.
and yy.
3
See New York Times, January 25, 1932, p. 30, and Conference
Board Buletin, Feb. 20, 1932, No. 62, pp. 497-500.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE 17
ESTIMATED REALIZED INCOME AND PURCHASING POWER IN 1913
DOLLARS OF THE PEOPLE OF CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES

(millions of dollars)

Year

Total Income
in Current
Dollars

Total Income
in 1013 Dollars

1909

$27,661

$29,221

$322

1910

*9,345

30,207

1911

29,660

30,634

327
332

1912

3i)755
33)393

3^,373
33,4U

33,227

32,841

1915

34,690

34)137

1916

40*585

36,996

1917

48,314

37,6i3

346
335
335
367
368

1918

56,65*

37,261

360

1919

61,628

35,098

334

1920

68,442

1921

58,271

310

i9*3
1914

Per Capita Income
in 1gx5 Dollars

341

322

1922

61,187

34,348
33,638
37,623

1923

69,295

42,072

1924.

43,577

*9*5

7i,9o5
76,561

1926

80,284 *

45,i9i
47,261 *

1927

82,921 *

49,655 *

403
419

1928

84,119 *

50,692 *

423

1929

51,200

421

1930

87,500 t
72,900 f

44,500

1931

57)5oo t

38,900

365
3U

342

377
384
392

Source: The National Income and Its Purchasing Power, by W. I. King,
pp. 74 and 77.
* Preliminary estimate.
t Estimates made by applying the methods used by the national Industrial Conference Board.




APPENDIX V

201

deflated into 1913 dollars by the United States Bureau of
Labor Statistics cost of living indexes for those years.
T h e most striking comparisons brought out by these figures
are that 1917 was the peak year in total "real" national
income and that 1920, instead of showing an increase as is
commonly assumed, shows a decrease in real income of $750
million, or 2 per cent compared with 1919.
T h e per capita buying power shows a continuous increase
except for 1914-15 and 1 9 1 8 - 2 1 . T h e depression of 1914
cut down the buying power per person only $11 from 1913,
or 3 per cent. T h e depression of 1921 cut it only $12 below
1920, or 3.7 per cent. T h e depression of 1924-25 actually increased the buying power per person over 1923 by $15, or 4
per cent. T h e present depression has for 1931 cut the buying
power per capita by $107, or 25 per cent, below the 1929
peak and the trend is still downward.
D r . W . I. King has shown that the crisis and depression of
1920 and 1921 took from some of the people of the United
States $40 billion. This consisted mostly in transfer of ownership. T h e actual loss of national income in 1920 compared
with 1919 was only $750 million, or $12 per person. T h e
statistical estimates confirm the view that depressions transfer
ownership of wealth and income but destroy little if any real
values. T h e present depression has transferred ownership probably more sweepingly than ever before and at the same time has
seemingly destroyed for the time being approximately 34 per
cent of the money income, or 25 per cent of the real national
income. T h e loss in real wealth cannot be estimated, but
deterioration of plants and equipment has been disconcertingly
great.

THE FARMER'S INCOME

T h e farmer, as usual, has been chief sufferer, next to the
unemployed. In the first place, he did not fully recover from
the depression of 1920 to 1922. Beginning with 1926, the



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
slump in agriculture was caused by falling prices which were in
turn caused by increased production in the United States,
Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Russia and Eastern Europe, coupled with diminished consumption due to debts
and depression. Agriculture in 1 9 2 9 - 3 1 was an easy mark for
any monetary appreciation.
T h e greatest losses in commodity prices have hit farm
products. According to the Crof Re-porter, published by the
United States Department of Agriculture, farm products declined from October 1929 to January 1932 by 55 per cent
while the goods bought by farmers receded only 22 per cent.
T h e ratio of the prices farmers received to the prices they paid
in January 1932 was 53, which means that the farmers' "commodity dollar" will buy only slightly more than half as much
as it would buy on the average in the period 1 9 0 9 - 1 9 1 5 . T h e
farmer who contracted a debt in 1929 must pay today about
two and one-quarter times as much in produce as the original
debt was worth.
T h e Department of Agriculture estimates that the total farm
income for 1929 was $11,851 million, for 1930 $9,300
million, and for 1931 only $6,920 million—a decline in two
years of 42 per cent in the dollar income of farmers, despite
the fact that physical production has increased for most products. (See Table 18.)
T h e statistics of gross incomes from farm production in
earlier years are somewhat inconsistent and confusing, but
from 1924 the Department of Agriculture reported gross incomes as in Table 19. T h e loss in buying power of the farmer's
commodity dollar, coupled with the loss in the number of dollars farmers receive, gives a startling statistical picture of the
agricultural depression. T h e evils of deflation and liquidation
through bankruptcy and default manifest themselves more
malevolently in agriculture than in any other great industrial
group.




APPENDIX V

203

TABLE 18
INDEX NUMBERS OF FARM PRICES RECEIVED BY COMMODITIES, AND
RETAIL PRICES PAID BY FARMERS

Index Number of
Farm Prices
{August, 1909—
All Groups

Year and
Month

Prices Paid by
Farmers for
Commodities
bought *

209
205
116
124

205
206
156
152

102

135
134
14-7
136

153

88
87

131
139

154
156

90

138
117

*SS

89

146

80

134
131
126
127
124
123
i n
108
i n
106
103

153
152
151
150
150
149
148
147
146
144
142

88
26
83
*5
83
75
74
76
74
73

97

139

70

94
90

137
136

9i
91

134
132

69
66
68
69

July, 1914 =

1919
1920
1921
1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930

100)

iS4
159
156

Ratio of Prices
Received to Prices

faid
99
75
81

92

87
85

1930:

January
February
March
April
May
June

July
August
September
October
November
December

82

1931:

January
February
March
April

Source: Crops and Markets, June, 1932.
* These index numbers are based on retail prices paid by farmers for
commodities used in living and production reported quarterly for March,
June, September, and December. The indexes for other months are straight
interpolations between the successive quarterly indexes.



204

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
TABLE 18—Continued

INDEX NUMBERS OF FARM PRICES RECEIVED BY COMMODITIES, AND
RETAIL PRICES PAID BY FARMERS

Year and.
Month

Index Number of
Farm Prices
(August, ioog—
July, 1914 = 100)
All Groups

MayJune
July
August
September
October
November
December

Prices Paid by
Farmers for
Commodities
bought

86

72

131
129
127
125
123

68

122

7i

120

66

119

63
60
61

118
116
114

59
56

113 f
112 f

80

79
75

Ratio of Prices
Received to Prices
paid
66
62

6%
60

53
56
59
55

1932:

January
FebruaryMarch
April
May

53
52

54
531
Sot

t Preliminary.
TABLE 19
FARMERS' GROSS INCOMES, EXPENDITURES AND BALANCE AVAILABLE
FOR CAPITAL, LABOR AND MANAGEMENT

(millions of dollars)
Year

(0

1924
1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
1930
1931

Gross Income

w

",337
11,968
11,480
11,616
11,741
11,851
9,300
6,920

Total
Expenditures
(3)
5**53
6,233
5)939
6,041
6,263
6,273

Source: Yearbook of Agriculture, 1931, p. 979.



Balance Available
for Capital, Labor,
and Management
(4)
5,486
5,735
5,54i
5,575
5,478
5>57«

APPENDIX V

205

For corporate profits, see Table 1, Chapter V I I I , pp. 9 7 - 8 .
P R O D U C T I O N , TRADE AND E M P L O Y M E N T

(FACTOR

6)

T h e decrease in department store sales under-estimates the
loss of physical trade, because the figures come from the large
department stores which, in the depression, took over smaller
ones and so showed a gain when sales as a whole declined. O n
the other hand, the growth of the dollar made the money sales
decline much more than the volume of goods. Department
Store sales reached the peak in September, 1929, and from
then to January, 1932, fell 30 per cent 4 —the volume of goods
probably fell only about 18 per cent.
T h e Federal Reserve Board and the several Reserve Banks,
especially the Reserve Bank of New York have compiled most
valuable index" numbers relating to Trade, Production, E m ployment and Consumption. T h e Reserve Board's compilations are based on 1923—1925 equals 100. T h e index of total
freight car loadings increased 38 per cent from 78 in May
1922 to 108 at the peak in June 1929, then declined 41 per
cent to 64 in January 1932. Merchandise less than carload lots,
which are more representative of retail trade, showed an increase of 14 per cent from December 1922 to 104 at the peak
in October 1929 and slumped 22 per cent to 81 in January
1932. These are quantitative indexes and therefore reflect accurately changes in tonnage transported by rail. T h e slump
in car loadings has been greatly aggravated by the competition
of auto-trucks, especially on merchandise shipments. Average
monthly tonnage passing through the Panama Canal increased
32 per cent from 1,975 thousand tons in 1925 to 2,621 thousand tons in 1929, T h e monthly average declined 67 per cent
from 1929 to 864 thousand tons in 1931. T h e tonnage for
January 1932 was 652 thousand tons or 77 per cent less than in
January 1929 (2,859 thousand tons).
Industrial production indexes are published each month in
4
The sale of house furnishings increased about 18 per cent for substantially the same period.




206

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

the Federal Reserve Bulletin. These indexes were originally
constructed for the Board by D r . Woodlief Thomas. 5 These
are indexes of physical quantities. T h e base is the period 1 9 2 3 1925 equals 100 and all indexes are adjusted to eliminate seasonal variations.
T h e combined index increased with only a slight interruption in 1924, from the low of 65 in April, 1 9 2 1 , to 125 at the
peak in June, 1929, a gain of 91 per cent. T h e decline in 2^4
years to 67 in March, 1932, or 46 per cent, was much more
rapid than the rise during 8 years. During the same periods manufacturing production rose from 63 to 129 or 105 per cent and
fell 50 per cent to 64. Mineral production rose from 71 to 118
in October, 1929, or 66 per cent and fell 29 per cent to 84
in March, 1932.

BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION

Building and construction is one of the most important types
of production. Indexes of value of building contracts awarded
are published in the Federal Reserve Bulletins. These indexes
show extraordinary fluctuations in the construction industries.
All classes of building rose from the low of 43 in February,
1921 to the high of 139 in June, 1928, an advance of 223 per
cent. This index for March, 1932, is 26, which is 81 per cent
below the peak and nearly 40 per cent below the low of 1921.
Residential building has fluctuated even more widely during
this period, shooting up from the low of 24 in 1921 to the high
of 142 in February, 1928, and down to 15 in March, 1932.
T h e rise was 492 per cent and the drop 90 per cent, bringing
this type of building nearly 38 per cent below the low of 1921.
Construction has in certain past depressions been the key
industry to keep business alive during the lean years and to lift
it out of the slump. In this depression it has been a chief cause to
aggravate and prolong the depression.
5
The methods of construction are fully described in Federal Reserve
Bulletins for February and March, 1927.




APPENDIX V
Employment

207

and Payrolls

Employment and payroll indexes 6 as indicators of production activity and of the total wage bill are valuable if used with
due caution. T h e figures cannot include small establishments
or newly established plants and industries; hence they are likely
to be misleading during periods of rapid change in industrial
production, organization and technique.
T h e Federal Reserve Board makes use of the employment
figures collected by the United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics, correcting them with the more complete figures of
the Census and adjusting them for seasonal variations. T h e
base is the same as that of the other indexes published by the
Board, 1923-1925 equals 100.
T h e index of total factory employment rose 32 per cent from
the low of 80.4 in July 1921 to the high of 1 0 6 4 in June
1923. I t reached a secondary high of 102.8 in July 1929, 28
per cent above the 1921 low. Since then it has slumped to 66.4
in March 1932, nearly 36 per cent below the 1929 high and
17 per cent below the low of 1921.
T h e factory payroll index was 72.2 in July 1921, the lowest
recorded during that depression except for January 1922. It
rose 56 per cent to the peak of 112 in September 1929 and
dropped 54 per cent to 52.3 in March 1932, or 22 per cent below the low of 1921.
T h e declines in production, employment and payrolls have
been especially drastic in iron and steel, machinery, textiles,
lumber and lumber products and especially automobiles.
Iron and steel production rose more than five-fold from
30 in July 1921 to 155 in June 1929. It then fell 78 per cent
to 34 for March 1932. Employment in iron and steel rose 86
per cent from 54.5 in July 1921 to 101.4 in August 1929
and fell 40 per cent to 60.9 for March 1932. T h e payrolls in
iron and steel rose nearly three-fold from 37.4 in July 1921 to
6
Revised indexes of employment are shown in Federal Reserve Bulletin for November 1930 and of payrolls in the Bulletin for November
1929.




INTEREST RATES ON DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOANS

loii UOH 11015 I tois i ion 1 lata




1021 I mi 1 1Q2S t' WZ4 I 1925 t 1526 1 »27 1 1926 I t9£Q I IflSO 1 IS51 IIQM

Hot©i Data on R.R- Bond Yields not available Aug.-Oct., 1914.

CHART

12

INDEX-

BOND PRICE INDEXES
mVING FISHfti
1926 AVECAQE-lOO

10U.5G0VT.'

1952

1926




CHART

13

TABLE 20
INDEXES OF PRODUCTION, EMPLOYMENT AND PAYROLL
WITH SEASONAL ADJUSTMENT
1923—1925 averages = 100
Iron
c
0
o
3
O
u

and

1921
1929
1931
1931
1932
1932
1932

30
46
38
43
41
34

St
66

1

54.5
101,4
65.3
65-4
64.0
62.4
60.9

37

'i

III.O
41.2
41.0
36.3
37.2
35.4

PH

1921
1929
1931
1931
1932
1932
1932

25
166
36
66

1

4S
35
28

0
O

O

71.4
120.8
73.6
72.2
71.1
72.4
71.0

and Food

66.1
108.8
.

60
128
97
97
101
98
99

lit!
55-5
59.8
59-3

Products

All

66

04

31.9
131-4
56.1
68.8
67.1
64.7
,
60.9

2S.2
152.0
42.3
48.O
47.7
52.0
51.3

e

83.9
106.3
89.7
89.2
88.3
87.2
86.2

rt
PH

76.4
114.9
90.6
91.0
85.5
83.S
82,4

Leather

a
3

8
70
117
77
82
84
89
92

en
0

66

St
66

"
3

80.4
102.8
69.3
69.4
68.1
67.8
66.4

76.1
111.7
56.2
55-8
S2.4
53.5
52.3

OH

u

>,
PH

77
103
90
89
94
1 9o
84

92.4
100.1
85.9
86.3
85.3
83.7
83.1

89.8
108.8
83.O
82.7
78.6
76.3
74-4

63
129

71

I

73
71
68
64

for March 1927, November 1929, November 1930, and subsequent issues.

Products

«

St
66

1
PH

PH

Manufacturing

V)

and

•2

c

.2
t!

w

*o

P.4J

66

P-t

64
121
89
85
89
86
82

en

St

V*

c

Sources: Federal Reserve Bulletins




•2

CO

,2c

Food

0

Low
in
High
in
November
December
January
February
March

•2

P-.

tJ
0

Printing

c

Automobiles

3

Pa/><?r a « d

Textiles

n

PH

Low
in
High
in
November
December
January
February
March

Steel

73.4
96.0
70.1
75.3
75-4
78.1
80.2

72.0
117.8
47.0
50.3
53-3
61.4
62.3

APPENDIX V

211

111.6 in May 1929, then sunk 68 per cent to 3 5 4 in March
1932. T h e low and high points did not fall in the same months
in 1921 and 1929 for each industrial group.
Automobile production rose 6% times from 26 in 1921 to
166 in 1929 and dropped 83 per cent to 28 in March 1932*
It will be noted that the index volume of production in all
the groups shown was higher in 1932 than at the low in 1921.
Employment indexes are somewhat lower than in 1921 in
foods and all manufacturing combined. Payroll indexes are
smaller in all groups shown, except paper and printing and
automobiles.
See Chart 5 in Chapter V I I I , p. 99, and Table 20.
INTEREST RATES (FACTOR 9)
T h e variations in the interest rates on the principal types of
loans are given in Chart 12 for comparison. T h e rates on call
loans have always varied the most. T h e high call loan rates in
1929 indicate the feverish speculative demand during the boom.
Changes in the prices of bonds reflect in part changes in
the long term rate of interest and in part changes in the riskiness of the bond as an investment. Hence there is a marked
contrast in the movement of the price indexes of Government
bonds and first grade and second grade corporations' bonds, as
will be noted on Chart 13.
[ T o find the "real" interest for a given period, take the percentage by which the dollar has increased and add to it the
annual interest, raised by said percentage. For 1929 to 1932
the dollar increased by 53 per cent and to the third week of
June 1932, by 62 per cent.]




APPENDIX VI
AN O U T L I N E OF C O M P L E T E STABILIZATION P R O G R A M
which, if adopted) would provide stabilization expedients sufficient to meet all circumstances which could reasonably be expected to arise.
COMMISSION ON

STABILIZATION

1. Create a commission on stabilization.
Members: Governor of Federal Reserve Board, ex officio
Comptroller of the Currency, ex officio
One representative of the Governors of the
Federal Reserve banks, to be chosen by
them.
Four other (appointed) members with terms
of 3, 6, 9, 12 years; all replacements to be
for 12 years.
The Commission to elect its own chairman.
2. The Secretary of the Treasury to be authorized and
directed to execute and deliver to said commission short term
U. S. Government 3 % bonds.
3. The Commission to offer to every national and state bank
and trust company, in proportion to its deposits, its quota of said
bonds, and in return be credited with deposits. These deposits
to be time * deposits bearing the same rate of interest as the
x
Demand deposits could also be used. They would have the advantage
of quicker results but the disadvantage of being less acceptable to the
banks in time of depression. They would make taxation unnecessary to
the extent of the demand deposits. This is precisely what was done during




212

A P P E N D I X VI

213

said bonds; thus no expense will be incurred by either party.
4. Said time deposits to be withdrawn only after the expiration of one year or by mutual agreement between the Commission and the individual bank.
5. T h e bonds are to be the property of the bank and may be
resold or hypothecated with the Federal Reserve Banks.
6. T h e Commission to agree to accept at par at any time said
bonds in payment for any of said deposits.
T h e effect of the bonds as liquid assets for the banks would
be to improve their position so as to enable them to increase
their loans and investments, thus creating new purchasing
power for the public, and raising the price level. T h e effect
on the individual bank would be almost the same as pouring
into a bank's vaults the equivalent of its quota of bonds in gold.
Only 3 % is required as reserve against the time deposits.
This strengthening of the banks' position can be accomplished
by telegraph within a day or two, even before the physical delivery or even the printing of the bonds.
7. After the price level has been restored to the legal normal,
the commission to stabilize the price level by repeating or reversing the above operations, increasing or decreasing the amount of
said bonds and deposits, as may be necessary, to maintain the
stated level.
8. Such stabilization to be with the cooperation of the
Federal Reserve System, and if possible, of foreign governments and central banks.
COOPERATION OF FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM

9. T h e
clude :
(1)
eligible
(2)

main policies of the Federal Reserve System to inOpen market operations—that is, buying and selling
bills and securities.
Buying and selling gold or gold certificates in ex-

the World War. The Government paid for war materials out of these
deposits and raised the price level thereby (to the country's injury at
that time).



BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

change for Federal Reserve notes or other funds (the price
of gold being, unless hereafter changed as hereinafter provided, $20.67 P e r o u n c e °f P u r e g°1^3 *'e-> $ J P e r 2 3 - 2 2
grains of pure gold).
( 3 ) Adjustment of rediscount rates.
( 4 ) Rationing of credit.
( 5 ) Adjustment of gold reserve ratios of Federal Reserve Banks as hereinafter prescribed.
( 6 ) Advice to member banks and non-member banks,
with the object of securing their cooperation in stabilization
policy, including, especially, adjustment of discount rates to
customers, open market operations and rediscounts with Federal Reserve banks.
( 7 ) Relations, consultation, cooperation, and lawful
transactions with non-American banks, including the Bank
for International Settlements at Basle known as the World
Bank.
( 8 ) Statistical studies.
( 9 ) Publicity.
( 1 0 ) If the free gold of the system is deemed, at any
time, to be too near exhaustion, the system is authorized to
utilize its holdings of Government bonds as backing for
Federal Reserve notes. This would perpetuate the like provision in the Glass-Steagall bill now limited to one year.
( 1 1 ) If the securities held by the Federal Reserve System, and available for sale, seem at any time, to be too near
exhaustion, the System is authorized to issue and sell, in the
open market (and at any later time, rebuy) new interestbearing debentures in such volume and of such date of
maturity and rate of interest as may be deemed by it most
suitable.
( 1 2 ) All net profit or loss from buying and selling said
debentures or paying interest thereon shall accrue to the
United States Government and shall annually be paid into,
or reimbursed from, the Treasury of the United States.
( 1 3 ) If the gold reserve ratio is deemed to be too near
to the prescribed minimum, the System is authorized and di


A P P E N D I X VI

215

rected to lower the legal minimum reserve requirement for
Federal Reserve Banks in accordance with and under the
conditions and restrictions already prescribed in Section I I ,
subsection c of the Federal Reserve Act;
If, on the other hand, the legal minimum gold reserve
ratio is deemed to be too high, the System is authorized and
directed to raise the legal minimum ratio for Federal Reserve Banks.
10. If the gold reserve is deemed by the commission to be
too near to the prescribed minimum, the commission is authorized, if the other methods already authorized appear inadequate,
to raise the official price of gold.
If, on the other hand, the gold reserve ratio is deemed to
be too high, the commission is authorized, if the other methods
already authorized appear inadequate, to lower the official
price of gold.
11. Should, at any time, the price of gold thus be changed,
either up or down, the commission is authorized to introduce
temporarily a differential between its selling and buying prices
sufficient to prevent speculators (for instance, on rumor of a
proposed change in price) from taking advantage of the commission, the Federal Reserve System or the United States Government either by buying gold from them at one price and
later selling it back to them at a higher price, or by selling gold
to them at one price and later buying it back from them at a
lower price.
12. At all times the United States Treasury, mints, Government assay offices, and any other agencies authorized to buy or
sell gold to employ the same identical prices as those employed by
the Federal Reserve System.
T h e reason why there should be a special safeguard against
speculation injurious to the Government is because the Government, unlike an ordinary buyer and seller, now stands ready
to buy and sell at the same price instead of making a profit in
the selling price over the buying price.
After the price of gold has been sufficiently changed to safeguard the reserve ratio so that the new price may, presumably,




ai6

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

again be left unchanged for a considerable period, the differential
may be removed so that the buying price and selling price may
again coincide.
13. All profits and losses from buying and selling gold to
accrue to United States Treasury.
COMMENTS

It will be observed that there is no mandate put upon the
commission ever to change the price of gold. Such a change
is merely authorized if and when found necessary to prevent inflation or deflation. As long as the retention of the
present basis of $20.67 an ounce continues to be compatible
with the maintenance of a stable price level, that basis will
remain.
But if and when the retention of a constant price of gold and
the maintenance of a fairly constant level of prices are found to
be incompatible, a change can and should be made. T h e authorities can be trusted not to make it any sooner than need be.
But it is only fair to them that, when given the responsibility
to stabilize the price level and to keep the legal gold reserve
ratio, they should not be eventually hamstrung in their attempts
by the fixity of the price of gold. Inasmuch as the only proper
purpose of maintaining a uniform price of gold is to prevent inflation and deflation, no one can properly object to changing the
gold price if that purpose can better be served thereby.
Any change, made with such a purpose, is not an abandonment of the gold standard but simply a revaluation of gold to
correspond to any great change in its purchasing power. T h e
present price of $20.67 a n ounce might conceivably be maintained indefinitely without producing material inflation or deflation, and it is altogether probable that no change would be
required in many years.
It is further to be noted that any change which might become
necessary after it is once made in a thoroughgoing manner so
that the reserve ratio is again moderate—neither absurdly high




A P P E N D I X VI

217

nor low—this new price will probably stand unchanged for
many years.
Under these circumstances there seems no occasion for alarm,
on the part of those who regard the figures $20.67 as sacred,
over the remote prospect of its being some day changed, especially as any change is authorized only in furtherance of maintaining the gold standard and its chief purpose—stability.
Thus, while all the virtues of the gold standard are retained,
its periodical evils are avoided. Instead of those periodical evils
of inflation and deflation there will be occasional* readjustments
in the price of gold. But these changes in the gold price basis
will be made solely in order to avoid changes in the commodity
price base. I n this respect, they will differ from such revaluations as those of France and Italy in recent years. These nations
regained the gold standard after war-time inflation, through devaluing the gold franc and lira.
T h e above provisions make possible the perpetuation of the
gold standard under all possible circumstances. They also permit
the retention of the present price of gold, $20.67 P e r ounce, and
the corresponding weight of the dollar except when, if ever, a
change of price should be necessary to supplement the other
efforts to prevent deflation or inflation of the price level. T h e
chief justification of the gold standard has been that it afforded,
to some extent, a safeguard against inflation such as has so often
occurred when a country has gone off the gold standard and has
adopted irredeemable paper money.
But this safeguard against inflation has only been partial.
For instance, we experienced a great gold inflation between 1896
and 1920.
Moreover, the gold standard has afforded no safeguard
whatever against deflation. England in effect, preferred going
off the gold standard rather than suffer further deflation.
Under the present plan there would never be any need of
America following the English example by abandoning the
gold standard. She would have a gold standard safeguarded
against deflation and inflation alike, a gold standard almost fully




2i8

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

assimilated to a virtual goods standard—in short, a genuine
standard of purchasing power, fair to debtors and creditors
alike. It may never be necessary to change the price of gold;
but when, if ever, a change should become necessary, it would
always be a benefit and never an injury.
If the price of gold is ever raised it will only be because
otherwise we should suffer deflation. T h a t is, the price of gold
would be raised only when gold became so scarce that its price
clearly ought to be raised.
Contrariwise, if the price of gold is ever lowered it will only
be because otherwise we would suffer inflation. I n other words,
the price of gold would be lowered only when gold becomes so
superabundant that its price clearly ought to be lowered.
Should, at any time, the price of gold be raised, this operates
automatically to raise and thereby improve the reserve ratio in
two ways, namely:
( i ) It stimulates the sale by gold owners of their gold
to the Federal Reserve System and discourages the purchase
of gold from it.
( 2 ) It increases the dollar value of the gold in the vaults of
the Federal Reserve banks.
If, for instance, the price of gold is increased by I per cent,
a hundred million ounces of gold in the vaults now worth
$20.67 an ounce or 2,067 million dollars is thereupon worth,
instead, 1 per cent more, rising, namely, to $20.8767 per ounce
or to 2,087.67 million dollars, an increase of 20.67 million dollars which can be entered on the books of the Federal Reserve
banks as a profit.
Contrariwise, if at any time the price of gold should be reduced, this operates automatically to reduce the reserve ratio in
two ways, namely:
( 1 ) It discourages the sale by gold owners of their gold
to the Federal Reserve System and encourages the purchase of
gold from it.
( 2 ) It decreases the dollar value of vault gold.
This, of course, registers a loss on the books of the Federal
Reserve banks.




A P P E N D I X VI

219

There is practically no limit under this plan, to the power of
the commission system, either to counteract deflation or to
counteract inflation. Its buying power is practically unlimited
and, when exercised, it will raise the prices of securities and
other goods, not only of those it buys but of the great mass of
others. This is true not only because of the sympathetic movement of securities but because the buying power does not cease
with its exercise by the system. Those who receive this buying
power pass it on by buying other securities and goods of all sorts,
raising their price in turn and so on indefinitely. This new buying power is not at the expense of some other buying power as
in the case of an individual spending money already in circulation before he gets it. T h e Federal Reserve notes or other forms
of credit are newly created, a net addition to the circulating
medium. Until withdrawn this new circulating medium adds
permanently to the annual buying power of the country.
T o see how resistless is the power of the Federal Reserve
System to sustain the price level, under this plan suppose that, as
was threatened recently, there should be a nationwide run on
banks and continued hoarding, causing an increasing vacuum in
our circulating medium; this vacuum, however great, could be
filled as fast as created, by pouring out Federal Reserve notes in
purchasing securities, or by paying in deposit balances. Yet the
gold reserve need never be too low if the price of gold be raised
sufficiently. Furthermore, if action were prompt enough there
would be no hoarding, as hoarding is the result of deflation. If
action were not prompt enough, hoarding might take place;
but it could probably be more than neutralized by vigorous
action, although the fear that grips the hoarder is apt to be unreasonable and capricious.
For the same reasons the outflow of gold to foreign countries can not prevent safeguarding the price level against deflation so long as there is the power to raise the price of gold.
T h e only limit to be encountered would be reached when the
Federal Reserve System had exhausted the entire legally available security market so as to have gathered within its own walls
all Government bonds, and other securities on its eligible list.



BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

T o take an example of the reverse sort, suppose there should
be a threat of inflation, due, say, to speculative activity resulting
in increasing loans and swelling the volume of deposits subject
to check. T h e Federal Reserve could then, if need be, sell newly
created debentures without limit, receiving back their own
Federal Reserve notes (or deposit balances on their books to the
credit of member banks or the United States Government).
This shrinkage of outstanding Federal Reserve credit would
cause member banks in turn to curtail the credit extended by
them to their customers. Otherwise their reserve ratios would
be reduced below the legal requirement. This shrinkage would
have no limit since there is no limit to the possible issue of
debentures.
T h e importation of gold from abroad can not upset the
control of the Federal Reserve over inflation so long as the latter
can decrease the price of gold.
Of course, every change in the price of gold changes the
rates of foreign exchange. But the slight additional inconvenience caused by this to foreign commerce will be as easily and
regularly allowed for as any other, and the inconvenience is
small as compared with the advantages obtained in the fact that
domestic commerce has a stable level of prices; for foreign
commerce is of very small volume, say one-tenth the volume
of domestic commerce.
Moreover, at present, several of our chief foreign customers
are now off the gold standard, so that there is scarcely any inconvenience added to that we already have. Ultimately, it is
altogether likely that all important commercial nations will
adopt uniform stabilization laws and policies.
There is only one obstacle to fully safeguarding the price
level against both inflation and deflation. It can not stop the
danger of Government inflation. T h e Government can, in its
sovereign power, break any or all rules laid down, break away
from the gold standard, and inflate the currency to suit itself.
In times of great distress, such as war, this usually happens.
There is no way by law to prevent inflation by the Government; for the Government is the law-maker. But as long as



A P P E N D I X VI

221

the rules here laid down are observed, the commission and Federal Reserve system have full control of the circulating medium,
including deposit currency, and can stop either inflation or deflation to any conceivable extent.

SOME TECHNICAL DETAILS

14. If at any time the price of gold is changed as herein
provided—
(a) T h e coinage of gold by the Bureau of the Mint shall
cease.except as provided under ( d ) below, although its equivalent, the unlimited purchase of gold at the official price, shall
continue.
(b) T h e redemption, by the United States Treasury, of
United States notes, Treasury notes, and all other paper
money, now redeemable in gold except gold certificates, shall
be accomplished by selling gold bullion therefor, at the official
price.
(c) T h e United States Treasury shall continue to redeem
gold certificates, being warehouse receipts, in gold bullion or
gold coin at the option of the holder, at the present rate of
$20.67 an ounce of pure gold, or 23.22 grains per dollar.
( d ) T h e mint is authorized and directed to coin at the
present rate of 23.22 grains of pure gold per dollar such
of the gold bullion belonging to the Government as may be
required to satisfy any demand for gold coin by holders of
gold certificates.
(e) Any (full weight) gold coin in circulation shall be
redeemable by the United States Treasury at its face value
in gold bullion and shall continue to be full legal tender.
(f) Gold bullion shall be full legal tender at the official
price at which the Federal Reserve System sells it, provided
this bullion is in the form of standard gold bars nine-tenths
fine, officially stamped as to such fineness and as to weight
by the United States Government under rules and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury.



BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

COMMENTS

T h e holders of gold certificates or gold coin can thus
have no cause for complaint. For they can, at any time, become holders of gold coin; and the holders of gold coin can,
if their coined dollars of 23.22 grains each are bigger than
the new current gold bullion dollar, melt them into bullion
and get more dollars than they originally had; while, on the
other hand, if their coined dollars of 23.22 grains are smaller
than the new current bullion dollars these coins can be
used like token coins, at their face value, or redeemed in the
new and bigger bullion dollars.
15. In preparation for the contingency that the price of gold
may sometime be changed, the Federal Reserve System is authorized to accumulate systematically gold certificates in exchange for Federal Reserve notes, and the Treasury is authorized, as occasion offers, to retire and destroy systematically such
certificataes when not further needed, to the end that, long
before the possible contingency arrives of a change in the price
of gold, the gold certificates in circulation shall be almost wholly
replaced by Federal Reserve notes.
16. If, in the opinion of the commission, there is danger of
deflation, Federal Reserve notes returned to Federal Reserve
banks may be reissued and put back in circulation either via
member banks or otherwise.
17. Six months after the passage of this act all bonds, notes
or other contractual obligations then outstanding containing
the well-known "gold clause"—"payable in gold coin of the
present standard of weight and fineness," or other words to
that effect, shall be subject to a tax of
per cent unless
both parties shall have within said six months agreed to substitute in said contract the stabilized dollar in place of the gold
dollar of the present weight and fineness.
FEDERAL

RESERVE

18. If there is danger of deflation, the system is authorized, on due notice in addition to or in conjunction with other



A P P E N D I X VI

223

measures already authorized in such a contingency, to lower the
minimum reserve requirements of member banks, the reduction
to be by a uniform percentage.
If, on the other hand, there is danger of inflation, the system is authorized, on due notice, in addition to, or in conjunction with, other measures already authorized in such a
contingency to raise the minimum reserve requirements of
member banks, the increase to be by a uniform percentage.
19. Better than the last is the plan proposed by D r . Riefler
of the staff of the Federal Reserve Board and recommended
by the Board, whereby bank reserves shall be adjusted according to velocity of deposits, being 5 per cent plus half the daily
turnover (with a maximum limit of 15 per cent).
This would operate to control member bank credit very
promptly and effectively.
20. T h e act of March 3, 1865, imposing a tax on state bank
notes is to be amended by adding:
" T h e Federal reserve system is authorized and directed to
make a service charge of
per cent on all checks cleared
for nonmember banks."
An alternative is to tax State banks' deposits, just as their
notes were taxed in 1865 and for the same reason: to help
bring about a unified national medium of exchange.
2 1 . T o the above may well be added the "Stamped money
plan" described below in Appendix V I I .
Many of the foregoing provisions would be unnecessary if
the others were adopted. They are inserted, however, to show
the abundance of means available for stabilization under almost
all conceivable circumstances, although even the means enumerated do not include all possible ones. Of the various means, we
may note that:
( 1 ) Those already more or less consciously used for stabilization purposes, that is to combat inflation and deflation, are
changing the rediscount rate and the open market operations.
( 2 ) T h e speediest in their action on the price level are
probably the stamped money plan of paragraph 21 and Appendix V I I , the bond deposit plan, described in paragraphs 3 - 9



BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
supra, and the automatic adjustment of reserves to velocity of
deposit turnover of paragraph 19.
(3) The freest from hampering limitations is the plan of
changing the price of gold.




APPENDIX VII
O T H E R PLANS FOR REFLATION AND
STABILIZATION
M A K I N G G E N E R A L USE OF

ACCEPTANCES

Mr. Andrew W. Robertson, Chairman of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, suggests that,
wherever possible, we should all pay our bills by 90 day acceptances—drafts on us by tradesmen. These would to some extent
operate like an addition to the medium of exchange and, if
widely adopted, would tend appreciably to raise the price level.
SUBSIDIES TO

PRODUCERS

A plan for subsidizing producers has been suggested by
Col. Malcolm C. Rorty. Enterprises that have been holding
back from desirable undertakings could be rewarded by a government subsidy for borrowing from the banks the necessary
funds for such undertakings—the enterprisers bidding against
one another for the favor.
SUBSIDIES TO

RETAILERS

A retailers' subsidy scheme has been suggested by H. B.
Brougham and E. F. Harvey. According to this plan, the Government would add a percentage to the daily deposits coming
into the banks from the tills of the retailers, thus enabling the
retailers to give discounts to their customers. Temporarily, the
discounts would reduce retail prices, but eventually the general
price level would rise on the increased expenditures—that is, on
the increased circulation.



22$

226

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

LOANS TO RETAILERS' CUSTOMERS

A scheme is in actual operation (June 1 9 3 2 ) , known as
" T h e Great Falls, Montana, Plan." It is propounded by Byron
DeForest, manager of the Great Falls Credit Exchange. As
far as it has gone, it is simply a plan for trusting the humble
but embarrassed purchasers. Nearly all steady workmen eventually pay up. Unsecured loans to them are usually as safe as most
other loans—provided health remains and the job is restored.
T h e plan enables these storekeepers to raise money by endorsing their customers' notes. T h e proposal has been thus expressed by M r . Deforest:
" W e propose a 'Finance Corporation' set up by Congress
putting at the disposal of the various credit bureaus throughout
the United States billions of dollars to be loaned to worthy
men and women, said loans to be repaid in easy payments,
over as long a period as is necessary, at any rate of interest
not to exceed six per cent per annum, and with no security
other than the endorsement of the creditor. Such a plan would,
at once, release billions of dollars into trade channels."
THE STAMPED MONEY PLAN

Nearly ten billion dollars of deposit currency have disappeared
since 1929, and the residue has only 40 per cent of the 1929
velocity. T h e greater part of this depletion is due to the timidity
of business borrowers. They would borrow if they were sure of
buyers. If a plan could be devised whereby the buying could
start first, the business borrowing would follow.
T o stimulate buying, an ingenious scheme of which the following is an adaptation has been suggested, though I cannot
find by whom. 1 Let the government print billions of special
dollar bills, the reverse side to be divided into 12 spaces, each
1
Since the above was
was proposed by Silvio
actually used locally in
Hans R. L. Cohrssen in




written, I have learned that essentially this plan
Gesell of Argentina in 1890. It was, in effect,
Germany in 1931. See an article, "Wara," by
The New Republic, August 10, 1932.

APPENDIX VII

227

the size of a one-cent postage stamp and each space dated;
the dates to represent the first day of 12 consecutive months.
Let one hundred of these dollars be given to each citizen (or
every registered voter, or every person designated in such other
way as may be deemed best suited to be fair and not subject to
fraud and duplication). This "gift" would be to all of us from
all of us (and so no gift at all), the object being merely to increase circulation and raise the price level. Each dollar bill would
be legal tender provided it had the required one-cent stamps on
it up to that month in which it is tendered. No one could refuse it
at par because it would be legal tender; and no holder would
be likely to keep it more than one month, lest it cost him another
stamp; much less would he hoard it. I n many cases it would
circulate several times in the same month, at the saving of a cent
to each user until the stamp date arrives at the beginning of the
next month. Presumably such a dollar would circulate on the
average more than 12 times a year. T h e plan would operate as
a stamp tax on hoarding—increasing the velocity as well as the
quantity of money.
After all the 12 stamp spaces have been filled, the dollar
could be redeemed either by another of the same kind or by an
ordinary dollar, at the option of the Government. If the stamped
dollar, renewed, runs for nine years (108 months), the funds
for this redemption will have already been provided to the government by the public in the 108 cents paid for the affixed stamps,
—with 8 cents in excess.
If $100 have been given to each of 40 million people, this
excess will amount in all to $8 X 40 million or $320,000,000
revenue for the government.
This unique plan would put immediate purchasing power
into the hands of every consumer, including the unemployed.
I n fact, if desired, it could be confined to the unemployed and
the original gift raised to, say, $500 per person, which, for, say,
8 million unemployed, would make the same total issue. It would
then help solve two problems at once, immediate unemployment relief and reflation.
These new dollar bills would constitute an addition to the cir


228

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

culating medium. Moreover, they would circulate faster than
money ordinarily circulates. 2
Finally, as soon as the effect in raising the price level was
felt appreciably, if not in anticipation of this effect, hoarding of
other money would cease and all money, including deposit currency, would quicken its pace. In short, the new money would
simply prime the pump or start the machinery going, both by
providing new purchasing power and by putting a penalty on
any delay in using it.
There would be a slight recession in other circulation
medium. T h e money paid by the public in purchase of the stamps
would divert this amount from other uses. But this money diverted is only equal to one per cent of the new money each month.
Even if all this money paid in by the public for stamps were kept
idle by the government until the 108 months were up, there
would always be outstanding (except in the last eight months)
more of the (new) dollar bills than of the (old) money paid
into the government and held for their redemption. T h e excess
would average for the nine years about two billions, or half of
the total issue. But presumably the government would not
keep idle all of the money paid in for stamps. 3
One advantage of this plan is that it puts no added strain on
gold reserves. Nor would it involve any raid on the Treasury,
nor be special legislation, like the bonus bill (unless specially
used as unemployment relief and, in that case, only the sort
of special legislation which has long been sanctioned in
emergencies). While it might be called a dole if used especially
2

See "The Purchasing Power of Money'* by Irving Fisher (Chapter
XII), Macmillan, 1931.
3
There would, of course, be other readjustments. For instance, as
soon as hoarded money came out of hiding there might be temporarily
in circulation a disproportionate amount of pocket currency.
This would result in the deposit in banks of some of the superfluous
or redundant pocket currency—largely Federal Reserve notes. The depositor would receive a deposit credit, thus increasing deposit currency*
The Federal Reserve notes would be sent to the Federal Reserve Bank
and cancelled, and the 4.0 per cent gold behind them would be released
for reserve against bank deposits.



APPENDIX VII

229

for unemployment relief, it would at least be a costless dole.
In fact, it would actually enrich the rest of us through attacking the dollar disease just as the cancellation of inter-governmental debts would probably enrich, not impoverish, the taxpayers of the United States. These paradoxes will surprise no
one who realizes the overwhelming importance of correcting
the broken-down price structure.
Nor should there be fear that such a gift to the unemployed
would encourage unemployment, for there would be no chance
of repeating such a distribution until, or unless, another depression came upon us. Certainly no unemployed person will
voluntarily stay unemployed in order to enjoy another $500
years hence.
Meantime, involuntary unemployment would disappear with
recovery.
But if, in spite of this argument, gifts to the unemployed or
gifts to anybody are objected to, the reader is reminded that the
stamped money could be put into circulation, though more
slowly, in several other ways.
This strange-appearing plan will not seem so strange if we
think of it as a loan to the public from the government, to be repaid in monthly installments of one per cent. It is as if M r . Everyman were to borrow, on good security, of the Reconstruction
Finance Corporation, agreeing to repay in monthly installments,
repayment to be made in postage stamps (whether by one person
or by 108 persons makes no difference).
There is no one who has any cause for complaint in these
transactions. T h e Government has ample security; that is, repayment is certain. T h e borrower (the original recipient) gets
what seems to him individually a gift, and he seems to pass on
to others most of the burden of repayment—although, of course,
he himself will be called upon to supply stamps when, in his turn,
he receives such dollars. All the stamp-affixers get more benefit
than injury because of the up-turn in business which the plan
will so speedily bring. Each stamp-affixer will merely feel that
he is paying a small "stamp-tax," or sales tax, just as now he
pays a stamp-tax on checks. (And in 1898 the individual draw


BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

ing the check had the trouble of affixing the stamps personally.)
There would, of course, be administrative details to be arranged. It might save some bickering if the person offering one
of these dollars in payment for less than a dollar's worth of
goods should be required to pay the other party the one cent
for the next stamp due (so that the other party would not have
to bear more than his one per cent).
T h e plan could conceivably be put into operation as a private
expedient—by individuals, corporations, banks, clearing houses,
or municipalities, instead of by the Federal Government, if the
latter raised no objection—just as clearing house certificates
have been so used; even the help of a legal tender law might not
be necessary. It was, in fact, in such a voluntary way that substantially the same plan was used locally in Germany. 4 But
properly, of course, the plan should be under the control of
the Government to secure any prescribed reflation.
Besides serving as a temporary expedient to break the
depression, stop hoarding, and start reflation, the plan could
also be adapted to serve as a permanent instrument of stabilization by varying the interval between stamps, or the quantity in
circulation, or both. Of course the Government could issue such
bills in payment of its own expenses or purchase of bonds. ( I n
fact, the original issue itself could be made in this way instead
of as a gift.)
With this power the volume of the bills could, from time to
time, be regulated up or down as required. This regulation
should, of course, be restricted by law to the sole purpose of
stabilization according to an index number.
THE GOLD TRUCE PLAN

D r . Hermann Scheibler, head of the European branch of
4

This so-called "Wara" money was also backed by a 100% reserve
of German marks, so that its substitution for those marks in circulation
made no net addition to the total circulating medium, its only superiority
being its more rapid circulation. A facsimile of the back of one of these
"Wara" notes which had actually circulated and had had stamps affixed
is given in Chart 14.




«: *

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t. W*ra wiv«l vo» alk»n *$#**<&«» d*r
»i ,V<*sd'mft8$t*Hv uo4 &
^fira M * n Mark o. aftdwo GBMSOM** *tttekkaufea, «in# OuH&u&cfc^mhr vun i %,
erfe

Au deu to tfeu For.




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1 Cent
fa'!* * u W . : , , ' ,5 !,! ' ,«l

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F^«r^ftU^e«jrche». wird, V\>m 20. l>$* t«3i
hi, JO. <,h„ |»;3 Kird ,IK W?r* von <Wr

19 3 1
TAUSCHOESE?>L$CviAFT

U^U*eh«h r«sohi m«hr 4t^>-

i

232

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

my Index Number Institute, has proposed a plan. A resolution
of the International Labor Organization, April 29, 1932, states:
" T o this end the Conference requests the League of Nations
to place before its competent bodies as early as possible the
proposal for a gold truce." I t has been discussed by the Economic Council of the League of Nations.
T h e essential point of the plan, in D r . Scheibler's words, is:
"The high contracting powers guarantee each other the possession of their present gold holdings.
"In order to make this guarantee effective the contracting parties
report monthly or quarterly on the movements of their gold holdings to an international clearing office. Those countries, which
during the period preceding the settling-day received more gold
from abroad than they paid out, would hand over this surplus gold
to the international clearing office as a long-term loan at a certain
rate of interest with provisions for specified sinking fund payments
—both being fixed in advance by the gold truce convention. The
clearing office would, in turn, forward these amounts of surplus
gold to those parties which had a gold deficit for the period under
consideration. In short, on each settling-day the status quo as to
effective gold holdings would be reestablished between the contracting parties."
This plan would largely remove the fear of gold withdrawals
which now paralyze banking and commerce in countries short
of gold.
MISCELLANEOUS

Among other "reflationary" expedients that might be used
in a depression are:
As during the World W a r , an embargo could be put on
gold. This would greatly enlarge the amount of currency that
can maintain parity with gold and so help avoid losing gold
parity and going off the gold standard completely.



APPENDIX

Vn

233

National banks could be authorized to issue bank notes based
on government bonds. 5
Clearing House certificates could be used as emergency currency, as before the Federal Reserve Act was passed.
ON SILVER AND GOLD

T h e gold standard is chiefly useful because of the fact that
it has a traditional prestige, and of the fact that gold is the most
convenient medium for international settlement. T h e notion
that gold has, in itself, stability in value is unwarranted; and
in 1932 (the present writing) when so many nations are off the
gold standard and some of them seeking something more stable
to take its place, it is quite possible that the gold standard may
be generally abandoned or modified. One such modification
("the compensated dollar") has been mentioned above.
Another modification would consist in a partial rehabilitation of silver, so as to enable silver to serve with gold in broadening the base of our credit structure.
T h e demonetization of silver in India by England's action in
1926 caused a fall in the price of silver in terms of gold as
well as a fall in silver's purchasing power over commodities.
This is well shown by the rise in the commodity price level in
China, the only important silver standard country now remaining. This rise of prices in silver standard countries has helped
their business and exports, just as the fall of prices in gold
standard countries has hurt their business and exports.
A rehabilitation of silver would help overcome this handicap to the gold countries as compared with the silver countries.
I t might be worth the while of the United States for this purpose to bring about a rise in the price of silver in terms of
gold. But the principal advantage probably would be the one just
named—to broaden the base of our currency. There are several ways in which this might be done. Silver might again lawfully serve for bank reserves. This is the purpose of broadening
B
Since this was originally written, the Glass-Borah bill has been passed
for this purpose.




BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS
the base of our credit structure. Apparently there is (1932)
not enough gold to maintain the predepression price level with
safety. Or if there is enough it may in a few years cease to
be enough. This would mean that either we must be resigned to
a lower price level and all its embarrassments to debtors, or
else, if we do return to the old levels, we must run the risk of
again suffering a collapse in the price level.
In any case, to make silver again available for bank reserves
would make for a safer and longer continued maintenance of
a proper price level. There are various ways of restoring silver.
One is bimetallism. But this is not very satisfactory because it is
itself so precarious.6 Sooner or later bimetallism is sure to turn
into monometallism of one kind or the other.
Another method is "symmetallism," or linked bars of gold
and silver. But this, even if politically feasible, would require
going off the gold standard immediately. This, while theoretically desirable, would be fraught with practical complications,
including "gold clause" contracts (although, as already indicated, these could be taxed out of existence).
The best plan it seems to me, is one proposed by James H.
Rand, Jr. He suggests that we (preferably with other countries) buy silver as we did under the Sherman Act, at market
prices and, with the silver so purchased, issue, or stand ready
to issue, new gold-silver coins, using in each dollar 40 cents of
gold (a "forty per cent gold reserve" as Mr. Rand calls it)
and an amount of silver equal to the silver in our present silver
dollar. These new dollars would, like our silver dollars, be
full legal tender. Certificates (more or less like silver certificates) would be issued, representing these gold-silver coins (or
the bullion equivalent).
Subject to a maximum limit, the governmental purchase of
silver would be continued until the gold-silver dollar became
"intrinsically" worth a dollar, i. e., until the silver bullion in it
came to be worth 60 cents. This, with the 40 cents gold, would
make up a full value dollar. The silver purchases would then
6
See "The Mechanics of Bimetallism," by Irving Fisher, (British)
Economic Journal, 1894.




A P P E N D I X VII

235

cease. If and when the silver came to be worth more than 60
cents, say 61 cents, so that the "intrinsic" worth of the goldsilver dollar would be 101 cents, the government would then
sell silver bullion instead of buying it, until the gold-silver dollar was no longer intrinsically worth more than one dollar. If
and when it again became intrinsically worth less than a dollar,
the purchases would recommence. In this way, the gold-silver
dollar would be kept at, or very near, par.
Such gold-silver dollars could serve as reserve and yet gold
would remain the standard.
There would be limits beyond which the silver purchases
and sales could or should not go. No more silver could or
should be sold than was possessed by the government and no
more should be bought than could be bought without surrendering the gold standard.
SHALL WE KEEP THE GOLD STANDARD?

I n case the gold standard is to be entirely abandoned and all
nations resort to a managed currency, the place of gold for
redeeming other money can be taken by managed fiat paper
money, just as, already in the Federal Reserve System, "lawful
money," such as our silver dollars and silver certificates (which
are "fiat" money in the sense of being legal tender for much
more than their "intrinsic" w o r t h ) , operates as reserve against
the deposits of member banks. T h e new fiat base would preferably be international paper money made legal tender in all
countries by treaty. 7
But going off the gold standard is not an easy matter, especially in the United States.
I n Britain it was done as follows: on Sunday, September 20,
1931, the Cabinet met and decided to suspend the provisions
of the Bank Acts of 1825 and of 1844 which obligate the Bank
of England to buy all gold that is offered at the rate of £3 17s o,d
per troy ounce of standard gold ( n / 1 2 fine) and to sell to all
7
This money could be created as a part of a plan for international
debt settlement as proposed by James H. Rand, Jr.




236

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

purchasers standard gold at the rate of £ 3 17s ioy2d per troy
ounce. Notice of this decision was sent to the officers of the
Bank of England. Accordingly, when the Bank opened on the
morning of Monday, September 2 1 , the officers refused to buy
or sell gold. This refusal by the bank officers was illegal until
Parliament passed an act later in the day, formally suspending
the gold purchase and sale provisions.
In the United States, we have no traditions for such summary legislation. While our Senate was debating the question,
our gold would be withdrawn by foreigners and speculators
and every bank would be forced to suspend specie payments. No
other and more orderly way of going off the gold standard
seems practicable for the United States. T h e legislation would
have to come after the harm had been done.
In 1932 there was once an attempt to secure legislation authorizing the Federal Reserve Board to alter the buying and
selling prices of gold. One thought in the legislation was that
it could be used, in an emergency, to put us off the gold standard summarily by raising to a prohibitive figure the price at
which gold would be sold by the government (i. e., used in redemption). In other words, the Board would lower the weight
of the gold dollar enormously. T h e chief virtue of this proposal
was that its implications might not be understood until the
action was taken! But the very fact that it was not understood
prevented its adoption.
One of the chief difficulties for America in getting off the
gold standard is the existence of a great mass of gold clause contracts, by which payment is stipulated in gold coin u of the
present weight and fineness." I t is true that the greenback decision certified the right of Congress to make United States
notes legal tender for the payment of debts contracted prior to
the legislation. T h e legal tender act, it is true, related only to
contracts to pay money generally and not to contracts to pay
a specific kind of money such as "gold coin of the present weight
and fineness." But Justice Bradley (12 Wall. 457, 566, 567)
said: " I do not understand the majority of the Court to decide
that an Act so drawn as to embrace in terms contracts payable



APPENDIX VII

237

in specie would not be constitutional. Such a decision would
completely nullify the power claimed for the Government."
But it is probable, I am told on good legal authority, that
Congress does not have the power, constitutionally, to abrogate
the gold clause contracts.
Apparently the most promising way to handle these gold
clause contracts would be to tax prohibitively their fulfillment.
T h e power to tax seems to be almost unlimited.
However, the complications and disturbances which would
be incident to going off the gold standard seem, in America, to
be so great that for this reason alone it would be advisable, if
possible, to retain the gold standard.
T h e r e remains one possibility which may be worth mentioning. Since gold today does not really contribute appreciably
to the value of other money, but, on the contrary, derives its
value almost wholly from other money, it might prove feasible
( l ) to add to the "lawful money" (now available for reserve
against the member bank deposits) enough other "lawful" fiat
money to make gold superfluous; ( 2 ) to make this other money
available for reserve against Federal Reserve notes also; and
( 3 ) having thus no further need of gold as a redemption base,
demonetarize it to the extent of no longer requiring redemption
in it, but requiring only that gold money be required to be redeemable in other money, and not the other money in gold.
Gold would then still keep parity with other money, could still
serve in settlements of international balances, and would still
keep its place in gold clause contracts, as Sir Arthur Salter has
recently suggested.
Ideally a fiat paper money base would be far superior to any
metallic standard; but, as Sir Arthur says, we must wait until we
can have confidence that the issuing government will not abuse
the privilege. Perhaps if the issue were under the auspices not
of one nation only but of a number, there would be security in
numbers. No country would be likely to permit the other
countries in the agreement to abuse the privilege.
Gold is far from being a satisfactory standard, despite its
traditional reputation for being "the best standard which has



238

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

been tried," and despite the recent efforts of conservative followers of tradition to bolster it up—including the majority report of the League of Nations "Gold Delegation" in June
1932. T h e majority almost invariably follows tradition right
or wrong.
It is interesting to find in conservative England a few economists, business men and bankers who favor a continuance of
managed currency. Sir Basil Blackett, a director of the Bank
of England, was quoted in the newspapers of October 22,
1931, as saying,
"We are bound to ask whether there is an alternative international standard, such as bimetallism, symmetallism or a non-metallic
standard which would work better than gold. Even if there is such
an alternative, however, the question will still be asked whether
conditions are ripe for its adoption.
"If by sacrificing the stability of exchange Britain can be made
the master of its own economic destiny, not to be dragged at the
wheels of the chariot of the Federal Reserve System of the United
States or the Bank of France, and give real stability to the internal
price level, the alternative of a managed sterling currency system
is at least worth examining."
T h e gold standard is too much subject to the accidents of
gold discoveries and too easily manipulated, consciously or unconsciously. I t sometimes seems, as it were, suddenly to pull
a string and precipitate a depression because of accidental coincidental influences depleting some great bank's reserves, as in
the case in 1931 of the Bank of England.
A fiat base could be instantly reinforced. It would require
far less skill than the open market operations now require to
pump the fiat money reserve in or out so as to maintain a really
stable price level. Depressions could scarcely occur in any degree
worthy of the name. And, in case a depression did occur, instead of "balancing the budget" governments would pay bills
with fiat money, thus killing two birds with one stone—solving



APPENDIX VII

*39

the problem of public finance and solving the problem of deflation.
Fiat money has a bad name and deservedly. But its shortcomings are purely political, not economic, and economists
ought not to be afraid to say so. The old ideas that money must
derive its value from something else has been exploded both
by theory and experience. Sweden during the war made its
paper money more valuable than the gold which was supposed
to give it value! In the Ukraine, paper money circulated after the
invading German general who issued it and his government had
passed off the scene! In neither of these two cases nor in others
which might be mentioned could the value of the money be
explained by any hope of redemption. Our own silver certificates
are redeemable only in silver dollars which are worth "intrinsically" twenty-five cents and which are not redeemable in gold.
Before the gold standard act of 1900 there was not even any
express policy of parity—only legal tender and quantity limitation. Moreover, if we were now to change this status and to
make silver certificates and silver dollars not legal tender but
redeemable in gold, requiring, say, a 40 per cent reserve as for
Federal Reserve notes, the result would be to weaken not
strengthen our monetary system, to put an added strain on our
gold reserve, to run the risk of sudden raids and manipulations
which might at any time pull the string which would bring
deflation with a jerk.
Yet, curiously enough, all our haphazard silver and greenback
money now has the sanction of tradition. If it all had not been
handed down to us but were today to be proposed as something
new, it would be laughed to scorn—as it should be.
If we could only have inherited a logical systematic fiat system dedicated to stability in value, it also would have had the
sanction of tradition. But, if this were now proposed as something new, it would probably be laughed to scorn—though it
should not be.
Possibly, however, the time has come when such suggestions
as those of Sir Basil Blackett can be seriously considered. At
any rate our list of good expedients would not be complete



240

BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

without the inclusion of a fiat substitute for gold reserves and
as ideal in economic^ if not in political, theory.
SUMMARY

Whenever there has been any intense interest in the stabilization problem it has always been after some great suffering
from inflation or deflation. But after great and rapid deflation,
as in 1932, some inflation is required; and after great and rapid
inflation, as in 1920, some deflation. Either correction is properly
to be called "reflation."
T h u s reflation is, in practice, always the first and most
urgent problem preliminary to stabilization as a permanent
policy.
Practically all the means available for reflation are also
available for stabilization and conversely. W e have seen that the
chief of these means available for the Federal Reserve System
are two, both of which are for credit control only: adjustments
of rediscount rates, and open market operations.
But any central bank will always be confronted with so many
other problems that it can never be the ideal medium for effecting reflation and stabilization, though its influence must always
be reckoned with and should always be a cooperative influence.
W h a t is really needed is a special agency of the government
such as a Stabilization Commission.
W e have found as the most important means available to
such a stabilization agency:
For Gold Control
T h e compensated dollar plan
T h e plan of gold-mine control,
T h e sterilized or surplus gold plan;
For Credit and Pafer Money Control under a Gold Standard
T h e stamped money plan,
T h e bond deposit plan.
If the gold standard be abolished the principal method is:



APPENDIX VII

241

Adjusting legal tender paper money, to be used as a basis
for credit instead of gold.
Preferably this paper money should be under international
auspices. In that case each nation could have its own system of
regulation of the credit structure based on said international
paper money just as it may now, based on gold.
Either under the gold standard or a substitute it would be
possible for each nation to have its own independent system of
regulation. If they all employed the same index number, say,
that of wholesale prices in London, they could keep their foreign
exchanges substantially fixed, and maintain substantially fixed
ratios between their several money units and also between their
price levels.
An alternative would be to have one world system of stabilization.
MR. HOOVER's RELIEF PROGRAM

President Hoover in his annual message on December 8,
1931, submitted to Congress and the country a comprehensive
program for emergency relief and several measures which
should help to mitigate the fearful booms and crises in business.
The program attempted by the Administration and Congress
included: (1) planning public works in advance to give employment in times of depression; (2) an Economic Council to
plan production and prevent or care for unemployment; (3)
intergovernmental debt revision to restore solvency to Germany
and the world; (4) the National Credit Corporation formed of
bankers to unfreeze frozen bank assets and relieve distressed
depositors; (5) the Railroad Pool for helping weaker railroads
to meet interest payments on their bonds; (6) the Home Mortgage Corporation to make real estate borrowing easier and
cheaper, thus stimulating building, especially residential building; (7) the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to make
loans to distressed farmers, banks and any other distressed businesses so as to thaw out congealed assets and cause money and
credit streams again to flow; (8) the Glass-Steagall Act amend


242

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

ing the Federal Reserve Act to expand bank credit by making
it possible for member banks to obtain loans from Reserve banks
on their own promissory notes and to issue Federal Reserve
notes secured by United States bonds, thus setting free gold reserves; (9) a vigorous (so it was then hoped) anti-deflation
policy on the part of Federal Reserve Banks through lowering
rediscount rates and buying United States securities in the open
market, thus building up the gold reserves of member banks
and encouraging them to inaugurate a more liberal loan policy;
(10) further amendments to the Federal Reserve Act unifying and strengthening the banking system by bringing all or
almost all banks into the Federal Reserve System; (11) the
anti-hoarding campaign; (12) Committees of bankers and industrialists formed for the purpose of setting the unemployed
bank reserves to work.
Some relief measures have not fulfilled the hopes entertained
when they were conceived. The disappointment has been especially acute with the Public Works program, the Farm Board's
Revolving Fund, and the Debt Moratorium.
The Reconstruction Finance Corporation may be described
as the peace time prototype of the War Finance Corporation
which served so well during the World War. It is referred to
as the $2 billion Finance Corporation, but its capital stock was
originally limited to $500 million, all of which was "subscribed
by the United States of America, payment for which shall be
subject to call in whole or in part by the Board of Directors of
the Corporation." Later the capital was increased by 2 billion.
The Corporation may loan this capital and issue $1.5 billions
of its notes and other obligations with maturities of not more
than five years. Fifty million dollars were made immediately
available to the Secretary of Agriculture for emergency farm
relief with the possibility of extending the amount to $200
million. The Corporation was "empowered to make loans, upon
such terms and conditions not inconsistent with this act as it
may determine, to any bank, savings bank, trust company,
building and loan association, insurance company, mortgage
bank, Federal intermediate credit bank, agricultural credit cor


APPENDIX VH

243

poration, live stock credit corporation, organized under the laws
of any state or of the United States, including loans secured by
the assets of any bank that is closed, or in process of liquidation." Not more than $200 million is to be used for the relief
of closed banks. The Corporation "may also, upon the approval
of the Interstate Commerce Commission, make loans to aid in
the temporary financing of railroads and railways engaged in
interstate commerce,'* or under construction or in receivership.




APPENDIX VIII

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
For fuller bibliographies see:
Booh

about Business Cycles, Illinois University College of
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Schmid, Anton, "Bibliographic der Konjunktur- und Krisenforschung," Archiv der Fortschritte
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183-99.

Abbati, A. H., The Final Buyer, P . S. King & Son, Ltd., London, 1928.
Adams, Arthur B., Economics of Business Cycles, McGrawHill Book Co., Inc., New York, 1925.
Adams, Arthur B., The Trend of Business, 1922-1932, Harper
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Aftalion, Albert, Les Crises Periodique de
Surfroduction,
Paris, 1913.
Ahern, J., Economic Progress and Economic Crises, London,
1928.
Altman, George T . , An Investigation into the Causes of the
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Anderson, Montgomery, " A n Agricultural Theory of Business
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244

A P P E N D I X VIII

245

Beckhart, B. H., The Discount Policy of the Federal Reserve
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Beckhart, B. H., The New York Money Market, Columbia
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Berridge, William A., Cycles of Unemployment
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Hayek, F . A., Prices and Production, George Routledge &
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APPENDIX VIII

247

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1926, pp. 94-128.
Persons, Warren M., Foster, W . T., and Hittinger, A. J., The
Problem of Business Forecasting, Houghton Mifflin Co.,
Boston & New York, 1924.
Pigou, A. C , Industrial Fluctuations, Macmillan Co., New
York, 1929.
Pownall, G. H., "Periodicity of Crises," Palgrave's Dictionary
of Political Economy, Vol. I, A-E, Macmillan & Co.,
Ltd., London, 1925, pp. 466—67.
Reed, H. L., Federal Reserve Policy, 1921-30, McGraw-Hill
Co., 1930.
Ricci, Umberto, "Les Crises £conomiques et la Depression
Presente," UEgyfte Contemforaine, Vol. XXII, pp.
249-307.
Riefler, W . W., Money Rates and Money Markets m the
United States, Harper & Bros., New York, 1930.
Robertson, D. H., Banking Policy and the Price Level, P. S.
King & Son, Ltd., London, 1926.
Rogers, James Harvey, America Weighs Her Gold, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1931.
Roos, C. F., "A Mathematical Theory of Price and Production
Fluctuations and Economic Crises," Journal of Political
Economy, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 5, October, 1930, pp.
501-522.
Salter, Sir Arthur, Recovery, the Second Effort, The Century
Co., New York, 1932.




250

BOOMS AND DEPRESSIONS

Schumpeter, J., Theorie der Wirtschajtlichen EntwicUung,
Duncker u. Humblot, Munchen, 1926.
Snyder, Carl, Business Cycles and Business Measurements,
Macmillan Co., 1927.
Sombart, Werner, Der moderne Kafitalismus, 3 vols., Vols.
I - I I , 3rd Ed. Duncker u. Humblot, Munich und Leipsig,
1919; Vol. I l l , 1927.
Soule, George, A Planned Society, Macmillan Co., New York,
Spiethoff, Arthur, "Krisen," Handworterbuch der Staatswtssenschaften, Vol. VI, 4th Ed., Jena 1925, p. 8-91.
Sprague, O. M. W., History of Crises under the National Banking System, Supt. of Documents, Washington,
1910.

Sprague, O. M, W., "Major and Minor Trade Fluctuations,*'
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Vol. XCIV, Part
IV, 1931, pp. 540-549Strong, Benjamin, Interpretations of Federal Reserve Policy,
Harper & Bros., New York, 1930.
Thorp, Willard Long and Mitchell, Wesley C , Business Annals, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., New
York, 1926.
Timoshenko, V., The Role of Agricultural Fluctuations in the
Business Cycle, Mich. Bus. Studies 2, June, 1930.
Tugan-Baranovski, Michel, Les Crises Industrials en Angleterre, Paris, 1913.
Wagemann, Ernst, Economic Rhythm, McGraw-Hill Book
Co., New York, 1930.
Walker, Karl, Das Problem unserer Zeit und seine Meisterung,
Rudolf Zitzmann Verlag, Lauf a. Pegnitz.
Warren, G. F. and Pearson, F. A., "Commodity Prices,"
Farm Economics, New York State College of Agriculture, February, 1932, pp. 1659-1705.
Warren, G. F., and Pearson, F . A., "The Future of the General Price Level," Farm Economics, New York State
College of Agriculture, Jan., 1932, pp. 23-46.
Warren, G. F., and Pearson, F . A., "Prices," Farm Economics,



APPENDIX VIII

251

New York State College of Agriculture, Jan., 1932, pp.
1742-51.

Wicksell, Knut, Vorlesungen fiber Nationalokonomie; Geld
und Kredit} Verlag von Gustav Fischer, Jena, 1928.
Young, A. A., Analysts of Banking Statistics for the United
Statesj Harvard Press, 1928.
The World's Economic Crisis and the Way of Escape, by Sir
Arthur Salter, Sir Josiah Stamp, J. Maynard Keynes, Sir
Basil Blackett, Henry Clay, Sir W. H. Beveridge, The
Century Co., New York, pp. 185.
Interim Report of the Gold Delegation of the Financial Committee of the League of Nations, Series of League of Nations Publications II. Economic and Financial, 1930, II.
26.

Second Interim Report of the Gold Delegation of the Financial
Committee of the League of Nations, Series of League of
Nations Publications, II. Economic and Financial, 1931,
II. A2.
Final Report of the Gold Delegation of the Financial Committee of the League of Nations, Geneva, June 1932.
Report: Committee on Finance and Industry, H. M. Stationery
Office, London, 1931.
Report: The Course and Phases of the World Economic Depression, Secretariat of the League of Nations, Geneva,
*93iReport of the Committee of the President's Conference on
Unemployment, Business Cycles and Unemployment,
Mcgraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1923.
Hearings before the Committee on Banking and Currency of
the House of Representatives, on Goldsborough Bill, H.R.
11788, 1923, H.R. 494, 1925.
Hearings before the Committee on Banking and Currency of
the House of Representatives, on Strong Bill, H.R. 7895,
1927, H.R, 11806, 1928. (See especially testimony of
J. R, Bellerby, W . R. Burgess, John R. Commons, Gustav Cassel, E. A. Goldenweiser, Adolph C. Miller, Ed


BOOMS AND

DEPRESSIONS

mund Piatt, Walter W . Stewart, R. A. Lehfeldt,
O . M . W . Sprague, Henry A. Shearer, Benjamin Strong,
O w e n D . Young, Roy A. Young.)
Hearings before the Sub-Committee on Banking and Currency
of the House of Representatives, on Goldsborough Bill
(similar to Strong Bill of 1927 and 1 9 2 8 ) , H . R . 10517,
1932. (See especially testimony of Willford I . King, Irving
Fisher, Robert L . O w e n . )
Hearings before the Joint Commission of Agricultural Inquiry,
Senate, 1921. (See especially testimony of Governor
Strong.)

Journals

Containing

Special Articles

on the

Subject

Econometrica (beginning January 1 9 3 3 ; will give special attention to Booms and Depressions).
Review of Economic Statistics
Journal of the American Statistical Society
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society
American Economic Review
Journal of Political Economy
Quarterly Journal of Economics
Journal of the Royal Economic Society
Vierteljahrshefte %ur Konjunkturforschung
(Berlin)




INDEX
A
American Economic Associations, 145
American Farm Mortgages, 171 et seq.
B
Bacon, Reverend Leonard, 5
Bank of England, 102
Bank of United States, 101
Bank Loans and Discounts, 176
Brokers5 Loans, 81, 118, 181
Brougham, H. B., 225
Bureau of the Mint, 221
Business Cycle, 51

c
Capitalism, 156
Cassel, Gustav, 186
Changes-in-Income Theory, 63
Clark, J. M., quoted, 65
Commercial Bank Loans, 81, 93
Commercial and Financial Chronicle, 174
Commodity Market, 91, 92
Commodity Price Level, 74, 193
"Compensated Dollar" Plan, 138, 144
Controlled Inflation, 151
Corporate Debts, 174
Credit Anstalt, 101
Credit Control, 121, 136, 142
Crisis of 1837, 47
253



INDEX

254
Crisis of 1857, 47, 49
Currency, 96
Customs Union, 101

D
Dawes Reparation Plan, 146
Debt Liquidation, 39
Debts of Misfortune, 48
Deflation, 39
Deposit Currency, 126
Depressions, 46
Depression of 1819, 46, 47
Depression of 1929, 32, 85
Dickinson, G. Lowes, 155
Distress Selling, 13
Dollar Growth, 39
E
Employment, 30, 32
Employment and Payroll Indexes, 207
F
Farmers Income, 199
Federal Reserve Act, 147
Federal Reserve Bank, 127, et seq., 198, 205
Federal Reserve Board, 128, 207, 223, 236
Federal Reserve System, 90, IOI, 103, 127, 130, 141, I49> 181,
205, 213, 215, 218, 219, 222

Florida land boom, 55
Fluctuations-in-Discount Theory, 62
Forced Cycles, 51
Free Cycles, 51

G
Glass-Owen Bill, 147
Glass-Steagall Bill, 186, 214



INDEX
Gold Control, 136, 142
Goldsborough Bill, 149, 150
Gold Standard, 150
Graham, M. K., 135

H
Hand-to-hand money, 126
Hansen, Alvin H., quoted, 51
Harvey, E. F., 225
Hatry, Clarence, 87
Hawley-Smoot Tariff, 100
Hickernell, Warren F., quoted, 10, 76
Home Mortgage Corporation, 104
Hoover, Herbert, 241

I
Index Number Institute, 232
Industrial Production Indexes, 205
Inequality-of-Foresight Theory, 62
Inflexible Bonds, 117
Ingalls, W. R., 199
Interest Rates, 211
International Debts, 119
International Labor Organization, 232
International Private Debts, 79, 168
Interstate Commerce Commission, 243

J
Jevons, H. S., quoted, 52
Jevons, W. Stanley, quoted, 52
K
Keynes, J. Maynard, 78, 144, 186
King, W. I., 200, 202
Kitchin, Joseph, 186



256

INDEX
L

Lausanne Accord, 120
Lebfeldt Plan, 138
Lewis, David J., 116
M
Macmillan Committee, 146, 186
Marshall, Alfred, 144
Mills, John, quoted, 51
Mitchell, Wesley Clair, quoted, 52
Monetary Inflation, 48
Money Rates, 38
Moore, H. L., quoted, 52
N
National Credit Corporation, 104
Net Worth, 29, 106
Net Worth Reduction, 39
Newcomb, Simon, 144
New Era, 71, 72, 75
O
Open Market Operations, 129
Open Market Policy, 144
Over-Capacity Theory, 65
Over-Confidence Theory, 63
Over-Investment Theory, 63
Over-Production Theory, 65
Over-Saving Theory, 64
Over-Spending Theory, 64
P
Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy, quoted, 51
Panic of 1873, 47, 49




INDEX
Panic of 1893, 47, 49
Parker, S. Gilbert, 76
Powell, G. H., quoted, 46
Price-Dislocation Theory, 61
Private Debts in America, 80
Production, 30, 32
Productive Debts, 45
Profits, 29
Profit Reduction, 39
Public Debts, 79, 168
R
Rand, James H., Jr., 1 3 5 ^ 3 5
Rate of Interest, 38, 108
Real Rates, 38
Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 241, 242
Reflation, 225
Reichsbank, i o i , 102
Reparations, yy
Retarded Circulation, 39
Robertson, Andrew W., 225
Rogers, James Harvey, 37, 124, 187
Rorty, Malcolm C , 225
S
Salter, Arthur, 125
Scaling, 118
Scheibler, Herman, 230
Smith, Edgar Lawrence, 73
Snyder, Carl, 123
Socialism, 156
Stable Money Association, 145
Stabilization, 225
Stabilization Commission, 135
Stabilization Program, 212
Stamp, Josiah, 126, 144, 146, 157




258

INDEX

Stamped Dollar Plan, 142
Strong, Benjamin, 148
Surplus Reservoir Plan, 137
Swope, Gerard, 115

T
The Debt Cycle, 11,41
The Debt Disease, 27
The Debt Factor, 13
The Dollar Disease, 27
The Equation of Exchange, 122
The Gold Truce Plan, 230
The Great Falls, Montana, Plan, 226
The Index Number, 22
The Money Illusion, 18, 19, 157
The Price Level, 17, 106, 122, 125
The Quantity Theory, 123
The Real Dollar, 107
"The Theory of Interest," 38, 44
The Trough of Depression, 41
The Velocity of Circulation, 34
Trade, 30, 32
U
Under-Consumption Theory, 65
United States Treasury, 215, et seq.

V
Velocity Control, 140, 142
Volume of Currency, 14
W
Wara money, 226, 230
Wicksell, Knut, 144
Wiggin Committee, 102
World War, 71




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