Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (George Will Edition)
New York Times/Fox Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Judith Miller Edition)

The Great Depression Was Not a Liquidity Squeeze

Hoisted from Comments: Kaleburg:

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: The Semi-Daily Journal Economist Brad DeLong: Re: "There is a serious misconception among many macroeconomists that this is a replay of the events that triggered the Great Depression. We don't have a liquidity crisis, we have a trust crisis brought on by an overabundance of inscrutable financial instruments."

If you actually look at the Great Depression, it started with a liquidity crisis [in the fall of 1929], but [that soon came to an end, and] through the 1930s there was more than twice as much money sitting around in T-bills getting 0.8% as there was money running up real estate and stock prices in the 1920s. While the main fear in the 1930s was that the weak recovery would collapse, there was a real fear that this money might fund a new bubble from which recovery might be unimaginable. We are still in late 1929. Secretary Mellon, in his annual fiscal statement, was quite optimistic despite the 15% drop in housing starts. He didn't have the advantage of hindsight either.

I'm with the dead parrot theory. Preserving zombie banks is a waste of money. If the problem is credit, the government should provide credit, not prop up obsolete credit organizations. Current banking and financial practice is based on expensive computation, dissemination and aggregation. These are no longer expensive. I can use the same databases Citibank uses to check out credit rankings, and I have a spreadsheet to use for amortization tables. The Gameen Bank, the Google IPO and the Obama campaign, with its $150M take with an average donation of $86, might be better models for the future.

Re: the dead parrot theory. Am I the only one imagining a cart wandering lower Manhattan with the carter wailing, "Bring out your dead"? Secretary Mellon was the other guy with the club.