After the stock market crashed in 1929, Benjamin Roth was a young lawyer in Youngstown, Ohio. When he realized that these weren't ordinary times and that a terrible depression was underway, he decided he decided to write down his impressions in his diary. Luckily for us, Ben Roth was very much interested in the stock market, investment, real estate etc. — although probably that was due to the roaring twenties bubble economy.
This book is one of the most fascinating one about the Great Depression because it was written on a daily basis by someone who was living it. What's the most shocking is just how much all the events and actions of those days look like what was happening in our world while I was reading it.
You will discover many things that people have forgotten when history books got rewritten. Here are a few examples:
- You thought HELOCs, second mortgages, etc. were the invention of the 21st century? Think again, the real estate bubble of the 1920s was fueled by second, and even third, mortgages!
- Hoover didn't intervene in the early days of the depression. That you knew, right? But didn't you know that most Americans sided with his idea? It's only later on that he became a big interventionist, but that maybe you didn't know.
- Live what happens in Europe from a real world perspective: bankruptcy of Germany, hyperinflation, the rising tension between the countries, the beginning of the war, from an american perspective.
- Live again the Gold standard being dropped by one country after another, in an attempt to debase and inflate their way out of the global depression. Of course, this stupid and destructive Keynesian theory failed and made matters far worse.
- Take part in the debates between advocates of the gold standard — who Benjamin was — and the money printers, before Roosevelt decided to devalue and then stop convertibility of the dollar in gold. And even bi-metalism. Even tariffs and "sound currencies" were discussed, and it seems to me that the average person in those days was far more knowledgeable about the economy and the meaning of money than the average person today.
- Relieve also all the bank runs, bankruptcies, failures of major corporations
- Rediscover the communist threat inside the US — and probably one of the reasons why Hoover and Roosevelt were so much interventionist: it was the Zeitgeist...
- Massive monetary inflation, devaluations, stimulus which all failed miserably, as expected.
The only annoying bit in the book is that for some reason, James Ledbetter, a web columnist who's a big fan of Keynesian policies and big government managed to edit the book with Daniel Roth, the son of the author, and hence he's adding at every occasion some annoying comments showing how much he doesn't understand Benjamin Roth's libertarian points of view, and also how much he didn't learn from history nor the book he's actually editing...
Without spoiling anything, I was so much into the book that the editors note page 158 broke my heart and it took me a good 5 min to recover from the shocking news I had just read.
IF there was one book to read for this year, it would be The Great Depression: A Diary. I urge you to read it.