An economic horror story: The complete meltdown of a major modern country's financial system, and its disastrous effects on every aspect of society.
A hundred years ago, many theorists believed - just as they did at the beginning of our 21st century - that the world had reached a state of economic perfection, a never-before-seen human interdependence that would lead to universal growth and prosperity. Then, as now, the German mark was one of the most trusted currencies in the world. Yet the early years of the Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed the most calamitous meltdown of a developed economy in modern times. The Downfall of Money will tell anew the dramatic story of the hyperinflation that saw the mark - worth 4.2 to the dollar in 1914 - plunge until it traded at over 4 trillion to 1 by the autumn of 1923.
The story of the Weimar Republic's financial crisis clearly resonates today, when the world is again anxious about what money is, what it means, and how we can judge if its value is true. It is a trajectory of events uncomfortably relevant for our own uncertain world. Frederick Taylor - one of the leading historians of Germany writing today - explores the causes of the crisis and what the collapse meant to ordinary people and traces its connection to the dark decades that followed. Drawing on a wide range of sources and accessibly presenting vast amounts of research, The Downfall of Money is a timely and chilling exploration of a haunting episode in history.
©2013 Frederick Taylor (P)2013 Audible Inc.
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"Highly recommended story of German hyperinflation"
I have also read and recommended "When Money Dies" by Alex Fergusson, but this one provides more context about the political and social happenings at the time of the hyperinflation. When Money Dies really brings home the bewilderment of an average German, while this book takes a broader view. I recommend both of them, although I would say they each have their pros and cons with readers looking for an account of an average German better off with “When Money Dies” and those looking for a broader political and sociological accounting better off with this book.
Be aware that both books have a lot of information much of it somewhat repetitive without delving into the realm of economics to put much needed context to the story. I don't know why the authors didn't delve into economic theory/analysis, but would guess the data is not available and/or hard to estimate. Another valid reason for not delving into the economics is focus. Personally if I had to change the scope of this book I would have liked to hear more linkages between the hyperinflation and rise of the Hitler. The author touches on these broader issues towards the end of the book, but it is a bit of a stretch to say the topic was “covered” to any extent. After that I would say I would want more economic context.
But don’t be scared off. The book is very interesting and I learned much that I did not understand after reading “When Money Dies”. I would say this is foundational reading to anyone looking to understand, analyze, and begin to understand what lessons the German hyperinflation may hold for our times (if any). If you’re into German history, hyperinflation, socialism/capitalism/democracy issues, and/or post world war structural analyses, I’d say this is required reading for building an actionable base of knowledge. Hope you enjoy it as I did.
Lessons drawn from history are problematic. It is difficult to convince anyone that circumstances of the past are enough like the present to predict the future. First, there is the difficulty of an author’s selection and interpretation of facts. Second, there is the complexity of historical events. Third, and maybe most problematic, a reader/listener will have their own interpretation of an author’s meaning.
"The Downfall of Money" reflects on Germany’s rise, fall, and rise again, before, during, and after WWI and WWII. Frederick Taylor, the author, offers a British historian’s eye-view of the role money plays in Germany’s 20th century life. Taylor ascends to the clouds and then drops to the ground to view German’ military and economic events; i.e. from the clouds Taylor views Germany’s WWI and WWII leadership; from the ground, he views the stressed lives of German’ citizens.
Germany’s recovery from WWII is credible evidence of the importance of how monetary policy effects economic recovery. Rather than a Treaty of Versailles at the end of WWI, the allied powers (particularly the United States) adopt monetary policies after WWII that focus on rebuilding national economies rather than punishing losers of a war. Today’s leaders will draw their own conclusions about monetary policy for today’s world from Taylor’s history of "The Downfall of Money".
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