The author of The Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, Liaquat Ahamed, was at the Academy as a David Rubenstein Distinguished Visitor on October 13 for a lecture on "Lessons from the Great Depression."
Ahamed, an investment manager and author, spoke to insights the Great Depression can lend in light of the recent economic turndown, the forces that cause global financial crises generally, and the necessary changes in the domestic regulatory structure (and the global financial system) that must be implemented to avoid a repeat of the cataclysm.
In The Lords of Finance Ahamed stresses that blanket blame for the Great Depression is not, like now, so easy to assign; even the most highly trained economists could not predict the disaster. The echoes are eerily familiar.
Liaquat Ahamed is an investment manager and author of the best seller Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, about the lead-up to the Great Depression. The book won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for History, the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Gold Medal for 2010, the 2009 Financial Times-Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of the Year, and was selected by The New York Times and TIME magazine as one of their top ten books of 2009.
Ahamed has been a professional investment manager for 25 years; he has worked at the World Bank and the New York-based partnership of Fischer Francis Trees and Watts, where he served as chief executive. He is currently an adviser to several hedge fund groups including the Rock Creek Group and the Rohatyn Group; he is a director of Aspen Insurance Co., and serves on the boards of trustees of the Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation.
Longest and most severe economic depression ever experienced by the Western world. It began in the U.S. soon after the New York Stock Market Crash of 1929 and lasted until about 1939. By late 1932 stock values had dropped to about 20% of their previous value, and by 1933 11,000 of the U.S.'s 25,000 banks had failed. These and other conditions, worsened by monetary policy mistakes and adherence to the gold standard, led to much-reduced levels of demand and hence of production, resulting in high unemployment (by 1932, 2530%). Since the U.S. was the major creditor and financier of postwar Europe, the U.S. financial breakdown precipitated economic failures around the world, especially in Germany and Britain. Isolationism spread as nations sought to protect domestic production by imposing tariffs and quotas, ultimately reducing the value of international trade by more than half by 1932. The Great Depression contributed to political upheaval. It led to the election of U.S. Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, who introduced major changes in the structure of the U.S. economy through his New Deal. The Depression also advanced Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933 and fomented political extremism in other countries. Before the Great Depression, governments relied on impersonal market forces to achieve economic correction; afterward, government action came to assume a principal role in ensuring economic stability.