17 March 2018

Once in Golconda

Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938
John Brooks
Allworth Press, 1969

p150: "Its [Wall Street] fixed star-money-had left its regular place in the heavens and begun to wander and dance and lurch. For generations the dollar had been held firmly fixed by a force that was accepted in banking circles as being equivalent to a natural law of astronomy, the gold standard-specifically, by the Treasury's pledge to redeem dollars with gold in any quantity for all comers at $20.67 per fine ounce. Now, with that pledge temporarily abrogated in the emergency, the dollar was free to fluctuate in the world markets at the whim of speculators, just like come humbler currency, or indeed, like some untrustworthy common stock. The [first] hundred days [of Roosevelt's presidency] marked the beginning of a unique, and for many people hair-raising, period of almost a year during which the secure wealth for Americans consistend not of gold, which they were now forbidden to possess except for industrial use or in the form of jewelry, and not in money, every possessor of which found himself involved intentionally or not in a game of chance, but in land or goods."

p155: "Next day [April 19, 1933] came the public announcement that the country was off the gold standard, and, from Wall Street, some astonishing reactions. ... What was most astonishing of all, though, was the swift and decisive approval of Roosevelt's move by the greatest banker of them all. From 23 Wall came a public message signed by J.P. Morgan-apparently the only formal statement of his career, apart from one that had followed British devaluation in 1931: 'I welcome the reported action of the President ... It seems to me clear that the way out of the depression is to combat and overcome the deflationary forces.'"

p162: "But no nation had ever mounted a systematic and concerted attack on its currency, in a time when its gold stocks were ample, for the sole purpose of creating domestic inflation and thus helping debtors. They had not done so because the idea was so outlandish it had never occurred to them. If it had, it would have appeared to their economic ministers as about as sensible as repeatedly hitting oneself on the head with a hammer so it would feel good when one stopped."