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America's Great Depression, by Murray N. Rothbard

the story of an unnecessary tragedy told by an economist and historian of the Austrian School

This fascinating and important book is available as a pdf file from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The fifth edition is introducted by the historian, Paul Johnson. Here are the last two paragraphs of his Introduction — as fine a recommendation of a book as can be imagined:

We now see, thanks to Rothbard's insights, that the Hoover-Roosevelt period was really a continuum, that most of the 'innovations' of the New Deal were in fact expansions or intensifications of Hoover solutions, or pseudo-solutions, and that Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration differed from Herbert Hoover's in only two important respects—it was infinitely more successful in managing its public relations, and it spent rather more taxpayers' money. And, in Rothbard's argument, the net effect of the Hoover-Roosevelt continuum of policy was to make the slump more severe and to prolong it virtually to the end of the 1930s. The Great Depression was a failure not of capitalism but of the hyperactive state.

I will not spoil the reader's pleasure by entering more deeply into Rothbard's arguments. His book is an intellectual tour de force, in that it consists, from start to finish, of a sustained thesis, presented with relentless logic, abundant illustration, and great eloquence. I know of few books which bring the world of economic history so vividly to life, and which contain so many cogent lessons, still valid in our own day. It is also a rich mine of interesting and arcane knowledge, and I urge readers to explore its footnotes, which contain many delicious quotations from the great and the foolish of those days, three-quarters of a century ago. It is not surprising that the book is going into yet another edition. It has stood the test of time with success, even with panache, and I feel honored to be invited to introduce it to a new generation of readers.

Paul Johnson —1999

Download the book from the Mises Institute here:

The Ludwig von Mises Institute
About Murray N. Rothbard
February 19, 2010

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