Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The first Great Depression!

There have been earlier financial problems.  There was a crash in silver pricing that is tied to the Phoenicians and Assyrians (their sometime empirical overlords) in the BCEs (~1200 BC).

But this is a new one to me, and it was a long time ago.

Crisis Chronicles: 300 Years of Financial Crises (1620–1920)
James Narron and David Skeie, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 24 June 2013 (hat tip: Economist)
The Kipper und Wipperzeit (1619–23)The Kipper und Wipperzeit is the common name for the economic crisis caused by the rapid debasement of subsidiary, or small-denomination, coin by Holy Roman Empire states in their efforts to finance the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48). In a 1991 article, Charles Kindleberger—author of the earlier work Manias, Panics and Crashes and originally a Fed economist—offered a fascinating account of the causes and consequences of the 1619–23 crisis. 
Kipper refers to coin clipping and Wipperzeit refers to a see-saw (an allusion to the counterbalance scales used to weigh species coin). Despite the clever name, two forms of debasement actually fueled the crisis. One involved reducing the value of silver coins by clipping shavings from them; the other involved melting the coins, mixing them with inferior metals, re-minting them, and returning them to circulation. As the crisis evolved, an early example of Gresham’s Law took hold as bad money drove out good. As Vilar notes in A History of Gold and Money, once “agriculture laid down the plow” at the peak of the crisis and farmers turned to coin clipping as a livelihood, devaluation, hyperinflation, early forms of currency wars, and crude capital controls were either firmly in place or not far behind. 
The 1920 in the lead title is presumably a reference to the various gold crises that occurred after World War 1.  Of course the second date could just as well be 1971 with the U.S. ending the convertibility of the dollar to gold. But I guess the 351 year crises isn't as interesting of a title, even if it is almost a year worth of years.


PioneerPreppy said...

Not sure why they only went back that far. As you mentioned coin clipping and other fraud had been going on since man first struck coins.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: Yes, it is an odd handling of the situation. But the Thirty Years war does begin the shift in power to the North. It is hard to see it as a great event, because the latter merger of Austria with Spain under Hapsburg rule, gave Austria another opportunity to dominate the situation.

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