The Great Depression

15 February 2009 Sören Zschoche 39 Comments Economy

In the book “The Snowball” – a wonderful biography of Warren Buffett’s life and absolutely worth reading in my opinion – Warren Buffett summed up the actual situation of the world’s economy in the last chapter “Coupons” using the words: “It’s a hard time. This is now another world, and nobody knows what will happen to the world.”
But let’s take a look on what happened in the last months. After the fall of Lehman a big shock wave spread over the financial markets inexorably. In the course of that shock wave, the Dow Jones fell from its all-time high of 14,000 Points to 8,000 Points and bank titles such as Bank of America or Citygroup have lost 85% of their former market capitalisation. The former chairman of the NASDAQ Bernard Madoff was able to dupe his investors to the tune of $50,000,000,000. Several personalities of the financial world have committed suicide, including the German investor and multibillionaire Adolf Merckle.

The Great Depression Source: www.tariqnelson.comWhat will happen now? Will we really face a crisis just like the crisis in 1929? First of all, I want to say that nobody can predict the future but the similarities to the year 1929 are really frightening. The crash of 1929 for example had it’s roots in much too high stock values caused by the wide range of credit offers banks offered the people in order to achieve larger profits. Four years after the crash the U.S. government passed a sequence of central economic planning programmes called “New Deal” in order to stabilize the economy and above all regulate the completely runaway stock market. The deal worked and as banks weren’t allowed to spread credits to everyone in order to fund huge financial bubbles, governments did’t have to deal with the consequences of such enormous financial bubbles for more than 75 years – until now. But in the year 2000 bankers had a new exciting idea on how to offer credits to the masses. Instead of giving direct credits to the people like in 1929 they now gave mortgages to nearly everybody. This had the effect of raising housing prices and when the price of your home is very high you are also more creditworthy. But of course this bubble also had to burst and now we are facing a huge credit-funded pile of fragments again. The story of Bernard Madoff has also already existed, albeit in a slightly weakened form: Richard Whitney, who was the chairman of the N.Y. stock exchange in 1929 was sentenced to 5 years prison in 1938 for embezzling millions of dollars from his clients between 1929-1930.

Modern bread line Source: But let’s sum up the facts: The advantage this time around is that our governments know how to deal with recession much better than they did in 1929. Sir John Maynard Keynes developed his theories on fiscal policy and instead of making things more worse our governments know that they have to invest in order to get the economy going again. The disadvantage of this policy is that national debts have to be paid back one day, or governments have to abandon their currency. But the economical supremacy of the U.S.A. can’t be defeated when the government will start to pay back their 14 trillion dollar debt. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that this crisis is a different type of crisis: This crisis has hit the economy at its weakest spot: its banks. The cash flow between banks and companies has been nearly zero for a long time. Many banks have securities which nobody knows how much they are worth – or better said if they are worth anything. Now the U.S. government finally created a “Badbank” worth $2,000,000,000,000 which should release the credit markets from their state of shock. Nevertheless it has to be said that the consequences of this “Badbank” on the international bank sector can’t be predicted yet. Another problem is that people often forget the past in times of crises. The “Buy American clause” for example would in my opinion be the first step into a catastrophe. Because when the first country starts to protect their markets, others will follow and that would have unpredictable consequences in our fully globalized world.

In conclusion it can be said that we are definitely facing a deep deep recession which will either hit quick and painful or slow and painful. Unemployment rates will be very high for a long time and the average rate of return for securities won’t be over 4% for many years. But if the crisis really turns into a depression like in the years 1929-1935 can’t be said, yet. In my opinion that depends on our governments now.

A picture a my lovely sister Maren who just painted it without realizing how well this picture fits in the current time.


  • currency x com said:

    The sum Bernard Madoff duped while also using his employees is $64.8 billions. That is a little bit over the $50 billions said earlier.

  • Jacek said:

    Isnt Ludwig von Mises school better than Keynes? How many new $ can you pump to the system? China knocking at your gate. Wake up.

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  • Greg said:

    Some sobering thoughts indeed, but for adversity and difficulty grows opportunity! Personally, I feel the virtually instant global news and financial reporting via the web has spawned great opportunities in currency trading. If you have the time to do your homework, some great Forex trades can be made these days!

  • Teledyery said:

    I watch this guy for year, yea he do a lot of crazy stuff, but I know he is a really good and nice person. My boyfriend got his all best fights and we probably going to pray today and watch his in ring – so sad love you Mike.

  • Angelo Daldegan Oliveira said:

    The Economy go up and go down in its way always. Recession and good times, this is the life´s game.

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  • Personal finance blog said:

    The situation is quite different from 1929′s.There are many ways to stop the depression.

  • R Keane said:

    Decimal Place Trading caused the recession of 2008
    This recession was caused by the manipulation of stock prices on Wall Street through naked short-selling, flash trading, high-frequency trading, secret software, super-fast computers and what I feel was the main cause of this corruption: “Decimal Place Trading.” As I write this article today, much of this corruption is now slowly coming out through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, along with bloggers on the internet, Yahoo bulletin boards, and the movie Stock Shock. The news media is also to blame for what has taken place in this country — including the near-collapse of Wall Street and the banking industry.
    There are many things to point fingers at or place the blame on, and I can think of a few off-hand that I would like to cover — the first being Wall Street’s regulation changes. I am no expert — I am not even a writer — but decided to tell this story since the business news media was not telling it. These Wall Street regulation changes contributed to the aforementioned problems in many ways, with the first being the removal of fractions in stock pricing. On January 29, 2001, the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, went to four-decimal-place trading. On March 12, 2001, the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation, or NASDAQ, followed suit. This new rule had the best of intentions as we headed toward the computer and digital world, but over time it was manipulated and companies like Goldman Sachs figured out how to take advantage of the new system. I am not sure how it happened, whether it was lobbied for years or what — but along came the biggest mistake of all with the elimination of the uptick rule in July of 2007. This rule had been implemented after the great depression, and had been in place since 1938. How could the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, abolish a rule that had been in place for close to 70 years, and had worked? Put these two changes together, and you get a simple equation: greed plus corruption equals recession.
    Reports have been released on the web that Goldman Sachs made over 100 million dollars per day in 46 out of 64 trading days in Fiscal Year 2009, second quarter (April, May and June). Let me say that again. They made over 100 million dollars per day, and are still doing it as I write this letter today. But the question remains, how did they do it? There has been no report of this by any of the news media. How can this be? This corruption is 100 times the gravity of the Bernie Madoff story, and yet there has been no coverage by CNBC or Bloomberg News. Why? Goldman Sachs, upon Wall Street transitioning to fractions and the abolishment of the uptick rule, designed secret software and used this software to gain an advantage on every potential investor. Basically, Goldman Sachs became a Las Vegas poker dealer in New York City on Wall Street, turning profits on investors every trade with their super-fast computers and software.
    Richard Keane August 26th, 2009 Revised version

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  • Calm Panic Attack said:

    the great depression can help explain our current economic problems, and the headaches associated with it.

  • Jorge k. de cambio de cheques said:

    Posiblemente terminemos recordando el 2008 como el año en que los Mercados de Capitales recortaron su valor a la mitad. Fue mucho más que eso. Fue un año en el que los precios de las acciones- cotizadas en Bolsa o no-, los precios inmobiliarios – solares, pisos y locales- y los precios de las materias primas- petróleo, cobre, acero- sufrieron recortes porcentuales de doble dígito. Se han destruido más de treinta billones (españoles y con b de burro) de euros. Culpar a la desgraciada y famosa palabra “subprime” de todo ello, me parece insuficiente. Sería como despreciar toda una era de excesivo apalancamiento financiero (préstamos), retorcido además, por estructuras de derivados de todas las formas y colores, que la verdad, prefiero explicar otro día.

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