The Perils of Financial Historicism

Currently, many people are seeking parallels for today's credit crunch in the crises 1907 and 1931. But adopting the responses to those crises now would only make matters worse.

Every financial crisis is inherently unknowable – before it occurs, and as it occurs. By contrast, we understand past crises very well. Accountants go over the books, the participants tell their tales to the newspapers (or sometimes before a judge), politicians explain why they are sorting out a mess, and in the end historians put together a story.

Because the past is knowable, the best way of understanding a current crisis is to search for a model in past experiences, even those that are long past. But which is the right template?

Often the choice depends less on a rational assessment of similarities and differences than on gut feelings, proclivities to optimism or pessimism, or political orientation. Currently, two dates are circulating widely, 1907 and 1931.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/SLHKyEU;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.