When Money Dies, authored by Adam Fergusson and published in 2010, is a harrowing account of the devastating hyperinflation that occurred in the Weimar Republic during the 1920s. This well-researched book provides both a historical account and a cautionary tale for those who underestimate the destructive power of runaway inflation. Fergusson’s narrative focuses on the social, political, and economic consequences of this disastrous period in Germany’s history, offering readers a chance to fully grasp the magnitude of the crisis.
Fergusson begins by providing the context for the Weimar Republic’s economic collapse. The punitive reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, coupled with the fledgling republic’s lack of a robust economic foundation, set the stage for the disaster that would unfold. As the government attempted to service its massive war debts, it resorted to printing money without the backing of a stable currency or adequate economic resources, causing the value of the German mark to plummet.
The strength of When Money Dies lies in Fergusson’s ability to humanize the hyperinflation crisis. He does this by sharing the stories of ordinary citizens who were caught in the midst of the economic chaos. Through their accounts, we see the rapid decline of the mark’s value, which resulted in people’s life savings becoming worthless almost overnight. As the cost of basic goods skyrocketed, many were unable to afford food, shelter, or clothing. The social fabric of the nation was torn apart as people resorted to desperate measures to survive.
Fergusson also discusses the political consequences of the hyperinflation. The Weimar Republic’s failure to manage the crisis eroded public trust in the government and contributed to the rise of extremist political movements, most notably the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party). The author makes it clear that the hyperinflation crisis played a significant role in laying the groundwork for the rise of Adolf Hitler and the horrors that would follow.
The book is not without its criticisms. Some readers may find the author’s focus on anecdotal stories and personal accounts to be at the expense of a more comprehensive analysis of the economic forces at play. Additionally, the book would benefit from a more detailed examination of the policy decisions that led to the crisis and the lessons that can be drawn from them.
However, When Money Dies remains an essential read for those interested in understanding the potential consequences of unchecked inflation. Fergusson’s vivid portrayal of the Weimar hyperinflation serves as a stark reminder of the need for responsible fiscal policy and monetary discipline.
In summary, When Money Dies is a captivating and sobering account of the nightmare of hyperinflation that befell the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Fergusson’s book effectively conveys the human cost of such an economic disaster and serves as a warning of the dangers of uncontrolled inflation. While the book could benefit from a deeper analysis of the underlying economic causes, it remains a valuable resource for understanding the perils of economic mismanagement.
Reading List: Ten Books on Hyperinflation
- The Downfall of Money: Germany’s Hyperinflation and the Destruction of the Middle Class by Frederick Taylor
- The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence by Robert J. Samuelson
- The Hyperinflation Survival Guide: Strategies for American Businesses by Gerald Swanson
- Zimbabwe: Years of Hope and Despair by Philip Barclay
- The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy by Mervyn King
- Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed
- The Inflation Crisis, and How to Resolve It by Henry Hazlitt
- Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History by Milton Friedman
- The Great Disorder: Politics, Economics, and the Rise of the European Central Bank by Harold James
- The Economics of Inflation: A Study of Currency Depreciation in Post-War Germany by Costantino Bresciani-Turroni
These books provide a comprehensive understanding of hyperinflation from various perspectives. They explore historical examples, policy decisions, and the social and political consequences of runaway inflation. By examining these works, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the importance of responsible fiscal and monetary policy in maintaining a stable and prosperous economy.