"The action of commerce, like the motion of the sea or the atmosphere, follows an undulatory line. First comes an ascending wave of activity and rising prices; next, when prices have risen to a point that checks demand, comes a period of hesitation and caution; then, care among lenders and discounters [or not -ed.]; then comes the descending movement, in which holders simultaneously endeavor to realize, thereby accelerating a general fall in prices. Credit then becomes more sensitive and is contracted; transactions are diminished; losses are incurred through the depreciation of property, and finally the ordeal becomes so severe to the debtor class that forcible liquidation has to be adopted , and insolvent firms and institutions must be wound up. This process is a periodical experience in every country; and the extent of the destructiveness of the crisis that attends it depends chiefly on the steadiness and conservatism of the business methods in each particular community affected. In addition to this ordinary and, I would even say, natural liability to commercial crises with a greater or lesser degree of panic, we, in the United States, have to stand the far more violent oscillations so inseparable from our great mass of new and immature undertakings.
In times of crisis, the obligations issued against such enterprises suffer instantly from the uncertainty about their intrinsic value. Holders are anxious to get rid of them; banks which have advanced money on them, call in their advances; and they became virtually unavailable assets...
In view of the facts, what is the use of discussing the possibility of averting our periodic panics? Risks and panics are inseparable from out vast pioneering enterprise; and all we can hope is, that they may diminish in severity in proportion as our older and more consolidated interests afford an increasing power of resistance to their operation. I am disposed to think that, in the future, the counteraction from this source will be much more effective than it has been in the past...
But, whilst maintaining that panics cannot be avoided in a country situated as ours is in its present incomplete development, I cannot avoid expressing the opinion that conditions are permitted to exist which needlessly aggravate the perils of these upheavals when they do occur. In every panic much depends upon the prudence and self-control of the money lenders. If they lose their heads and indiscriminately refuse to lend, or lend to only the few unquestionably strong borrowers, the worst forms of panic ensue; if they accommodate to their fullest ability the larger and reasonably safe class of borrowers, the latter may be relied on to protect that whom the banks reject, and thus the mischief may be kept with in legitimate bounds. Everything depends upon rashness being held in check by an assurance that deserving debtors will be protected. This is tantamount to saying that all depends on the calmness and wisdom of the banks...
These periods of the breaking-down of unsound enterprises and of the weeding out of insolvent debtors and of liquidation of bad debts can never be wholly averted; nor is it desirable that they should, for they are essential to the maintenance of a sound and wholesome condition of business; but it is a grave reproach to our legislators if, when the day of purgation comes, the law treats the deserving and the undeserving with equal severity."
-"Fifty Years in Wall Street," Chapter 10 PANICS-THEIR CAUSES-HOW FAR PREVENTABLE, Henry Clews, 1908
Extra Credit / Required Reading:
- Dollar Strength on Recognition of Worldwide Crappiness
- Robinson Crusoe and the Subjectivity of Desire
- Reflections on Today, from Henry Clews, 1908.
- Art Market Rules
- The Long View... 1885-2009
- Forecast: The Battle Between Paper and Tangible Assets, A Personal View
- Tobin's Q
- Luxury Goods
- After the Gold Rush...
- The Gaussian Fallacy and other Bullshit Baby Boomer Epistomologi
- Douchebag of the Noughties
- Synopsis of the Panic of '08
- You Know its a Bubble When...
- Quantitative Easing
- Vallejo, CA