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America's Great Depression

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  645 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Applied Austrian economics doesn't get better than this. Murray N. Rothbard's America's Great Depression is a staple of modern economic literature and crucial for understanding a pivotal event in American and world history.

The Mises Institute edition features a new introduction by historian Paul Johnson.

Since it first appeared in 1963, it has been the definitive treatment
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 15th 2000 by Ludwig Von Mises Institute (first published 1963)
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This is a torrid love letter to laissez faire economics sure to raise a fiscal chubby on fans of the Austrian School of Economics (ASE). Of course, if limited government (i.e., NONE), free markets (i.e., unrestrained capitalism) and non-intervention with the money supply (i.e., the Federal Reserve must go) are not under-pinnings of your own economic beliefs, or (i.e., the ASE is just not your bag), this book may cause hives and periodic bouts of severe chafing. I kept a jumbo jar of Aloe next to ...more
Oct 20, 2008 Glen rated it it was amazing
Rothbard's great analysis of the causes of the Great Depression is one of the classics of Austrian economics and a must-read for serious libertarians. Rothbard presents conclusive evidence explaining the crucial mistakes made by Herbert Hoover and later exacerbated by FDR, that deepened and prolonged what should have been a short and sharp depression. The Federal Reserve is also fingered as the culprit that expanded credit and the money supply and created the stock market bubble in the first pla ...more
Aug 28, 2013 Gabriel rated it liked it
I am deeply skeptical of the "Austrian School" of economics so I felt it important to start reading a bit more about it, if for no other reason to help sharpen my arguments against it. In that role, this book largely succeeds. It is dated, and a serious adherent to the philosophy might point me elsewhere to catch up (and I'll be poking around), but it is still clear and relevant.

The book, fairly succinctly, makes the case that it is government intervention in the markets, and only government in
Ken Doggett
Mar 22, 2014 Ken Doggett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is practically a technical handbook on how to screw up the economy so bad that it can take years to recover--if recovery is even possible.

The author names the people involved, the tangle of agencies and bureaucracies they created, the wild-eyed philosophies they espoused, and the step-by-step tinkering by the Feds that, step-by-step, made things worse. Reading this book, I now know where Ayn Rand got the idea for her book, Atlas Shrugged. You can also see where some of the empty political r
Steve Hadfield
Sep 09, 2015 Steve Hadfield rated it it was amazing
Very eye opening. I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that FDR didn't get the U.S. out of the Great Depression, that is a myth that everyone believes because we've been told over and over until we just believe it. What was eye opening was that the architect of the Great Depression was Hoover, who implemented most of the progressive ideas being championed by the democrats, and that directly led to and worsened the depression. If Hoover had not been so married to the ideas that failed for ...more
Oct 30, 2015 ziombel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: economist
Shelves: ase
In this work, Rothbard describes the sources of the crisis and same course of the crisis until Roosevelt took power. So book describes the events in the United States from the years 1921-1933. At the beginning the author explains the basics of the Austrian theory of the business cycle, and criticizes alternative explanations. Then writes the events first before the crisis, and then in its initial phase, during the reign of Hoover.

According to me, the author effectively debunks the myth of laiss
Mark Geise
Feb 10, 2015 Mark Geise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“America’s Great Depression” is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Arguably Murray Rothbard’s most well-known work, he presents an exhaustively sourced and detailed account of the lead-up to the 1929 stock market crash and the aftermath of this crash from 1929 to 1933. Hoover was president of the U.S. up until early 1933, so a majority of this book is about Hoover, not FDR. The first third or so of the book deals with the lead-up to the crash, which concentrates on the Coolidge presidency. Ho ...more
Andrew Skretvedt
Feb 02, 2009 Andrew Skretvedt rated it really liked it
I read a then current 5th edition copy in PDF form from the website.

A fabulous and eerily familiar read resonating strongly with the current 2008-2009 state of affairs, as it has also with previous major recessions.

Each significant crises validates and reinforces the precepts of this book. A priori proof of the validity of classical economics and the perspective of the Austrian school. It's straightforward and really, uncomplicated.

Keynesianism was borne out of the actions taken by our
Oct 12, 2011 Clinton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the Austrian School of Economics literature, America’s Great Depression by Murray Rothbard ranks among the top five most significant intellectual books. Not only is the book extraordinarily enlightening, but Rothbard mystically crafts conventional wisdom and transforms it into sensible and logical content.
The book is separated into three parts. Part one details how the depression occurred through the eyes of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory. The business cycle is a byproduct of the man
Michael Huang
This book has a high average rating. So I was fully expected to enjoy it. It turns out, I did not. I would guess many reviewers are proponents of the Austrian school of economics.

As for the book itself, in terms of effort, there is no denying there is a lot going into the book. For example, the book painstakingly documented things Hoover did to intervene in the economy. And a central theme is that, contrary to popular belief, Hoover's policies are not laissez-faire ones, but heavily interventio
Bob Aarhus
Jun 03, 2008 Bob Aarhus rated it it was amazing
Deconstructing step-by-step the Keynesian economics that put us there, Rothbard (an unabashed student of the Austrian school) shows in meticulous detail that Government intervention lengthened, not shortened, America's period of greatest economic hardship. Faced with two equal and opposite choices -- allow the banks to fail, or allow the currency to fail -- the nascent Fed chose the former; further political strategems clouded much of the macroeconomic picture to the point where the situation ap ...more
Oct 12, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, economics
Very good book about the depression using Austrian Economic principles to diagnose what happened. Also a good book to bust the myth that Hoover was hands-off during this period. What is forgotten is that in the 1910's, 1920's, and 1930's is that a progressive form of government was prevalent in both parties. The lessons we have for now, is that too many people in both parties likewise believe in these progressive ideas. Look for a repeat of what happenned back in the 30's for what will hit us no ...more
John Boettcher
Jul 27, 2013 John Boettcher rated it it was amazing
This is the most complete, accurate account of what really took place before, during, and after the Great Depression. This will put to rest all of the fallacies and mis-information that we all learned in school, such as WW2 got us out of the great depression and that the Federal Reserve had to exist to keep the country in tact, when in fact the exact opposite is true.

The book is not the easiest read in the world, but it has to go through a plethora of information to accurately portray the actua
Oct 17, 2008 Jeff rated it it was amazing
This is the book at converted me to the Austrian School of Economics several years ago. For anyone who thought that the Great Depression was a failure of laissez-faire capitalism, AGD is a must-read. Besides explaining the causes of the GD, Rothbard destroys the myth that Hoover and Roosevelt were polar opposites. In fact, since The New Deal was merely a continuation of Hoover's policies, Rothbard's historical focus covers the period from 1921-1933. Much of the focus is on the Fed-created boom o ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Rich rated it it was amazing
This book relates the history of the Great Depression that you weren't taught in public school. I am amazed how politicians are trusted like angels to do the right thing. This book is so revealing about both republican and democrat presidents and how both parties protect their own self interests rather than the public's. I will never see President Hoover in the same light again. He may have been a smart man and a great engineer but it's hard to engineer an entire national economy. There is no su ...more
May 19, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
This is one of the first books on economics I ever read, when I was a junior in high school. It really helped me to understand the parts that didn't make sense about what they were teaching in school on the Great Depression. I would really like to go back and read it again now, and see if I'd still have as high an opinion of it. But from what I remember, the scholarship was quite good, and the arguments well reasoned. I'm not sure if I made it all the way through back then, but I remember it bei ...more
Dec 04, 2014 Eric rated it it was amazing
Murray Rothbard applies the Austrian economic theory to the Great Depression, and analyzes the lead up to the depression and the myth that Hoover was "Laizzes Faire". Everybody knows Roosevelt extended the depression through his "New Deal", but somehow the myth perpetuates that Hoover wasn't an interventionist. Rothbard expertly shreds that myth.

The depression would have been over in about a year to a year and a half (like all other panics and depressions that preceded it) had Hoover simply kept
Jan 11, 2013 Jay rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, history
Thoroughly debunks that myth that Hoover was a laissez-faire president and that too much capitalism brought on the Great Depression. Reads like a technical banking manual at times, and Rothbard's disdain for intervention in the markets comes through at odd intervals. One criticism I have is Rothbard's constant use of AMOUNTS instead of PERCENTAGES. To explain inflation he'll say the money supply increased by X amount of dollars, rather than by X percentage, making context very difficult.
Apr 21, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
A book for our times. I was reading this when the bottom was falling out of the economy and it read like todays headlines. Nothing changed from 1929 to 2009 - the causes were the same and the situation identical. The outcome is predictable. A must read for anyone looking for answers - or better a road map of the economic future of the US.
Matthew Hockley
Oct 13, 2015 Matthew Hockley rated it it was amazing
This book is the quintessential free market critique of the events and government actions that created the most severe depression the US has yet faced. A must-read for anyone interested in what caused the Great Depression, or any depression for that matter. The parallels with the current "great recession" are scary.
Ryan Torres
Apr 07, 2016 Ryan Torres rated it liked it
This book was amusing and interesting in an educational way. It was a good book for doing a research paper and help me understand more about the great depression. It compared the economic strategy with the Austrian theory. It provided great information about what the government and Hoover was doing before and during the great depression about what they were doing about the economy.
Leslie Rupley
I used this for research.
Mar 08, 2016 Justin rated it really liked it
Excellent book. It paints a clear depiction of the economics that not only led to the Great Depression but also the policies that made it truly "Great."
Apr 10, 2016 IMPERIVM rated it really liked it
Detailed account of credit dynamics in the lead-up to the '29 crash.
Jason Keisling
Jan 08, 2013 Jason Keisling rated it it was amazing
This book provides a fantastic explanation of Austrian Business Cycle Theory and provides great historical analysis of the great depression.
Roman Skaskiw
Apr 23, 2009 Roman Skaskiw rated it really liked it
Difficult for me to decide on the number of stars.

5 because the ideas in this book shake the very ground I walk on.

4 because it's very technical and assumes knowledge of some economic terms.
Alberto Lopez
Feb 22, 2017 Alberto Lopez rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-favorites
A very good Austrian Economics analysis of the Great Depression, the prior boom and the inadequate mass response. The book begins with a somewhat technically dry style but it soon clarifies the logic behind its thesis. It makes it clear that much of what we think to be innovative or unique is in fact not. It is therefore difficult to comprehend that one is reading something that happened almost 90 years ago and not last year.
Mar 10, 2017 Loni added it
Rothbard was an economist from the Austrian School as opposed to Keynesian. He seeks to prove the beginning of the depression was a normal response to a boom cycle and that huge government interference wasn’t needed. Indeed, government overstepping and intervention caused the depression to deepen and to last an unprecedented amount of time – a decade! “In short, and this is a highly important point to grasp, the depression is the “recovery” process, and the end of the depression heralds the retu ...more
Sep 22, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
In "America's Great Depression" Murray Rothbard explores this economic catastrophe from the perspective of the Austrian School of Economics and explains that the Great Depression was not caused by the "normal forces of the free market", but rather it was caused by the inflationary monetary policy of the US Government, and was greatly aggravated by the interventionist policies of the Hoover Administration.

There are three parts in "America's Great Depression". Part I: An explanation and defense of
Dec 16, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, history
Rothbard argues that the the root cause of the Great Depression was not laisse-faire capitalism, but rather the inflationist policies of the government and the subsequent misguided reactions of economists and industry. Hoover is revealed to have been a proto-Roosevelt, from whom Roosevelt borrowed most of his policies.

In Rothbard's own words:
The guilt for the Great Depression must, at long last, be lifted from the shoulders of the free market economy, and placed where it properly belongs: at the
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  • The Theory of Money and Credit
  • The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and Other Essays
  • The Failure of the New Economics
  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal
  • Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles
  • Principles of Economics
  • Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and the Government Bailout Will Make Things Worse
  • How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present
  • The Case for Gold: A Minority Report of the United States Gold Commission
  • Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government
  • The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America
  • Democracy - The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy and Natural Order
  • The New Dealers' War: F.D.R. and the War Within World War II
  • Defending the Undefendable
  • The Roosevelt Myth: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Bastiat Collection
Murray Newton Rothbard was an influential American historian, natural law theorist and economist of the Austrian School who helped define modern libertarianism. Rothbard took the Austrian School's emphasis on spontaneous order and condemnation of central planning to an individualist anarchist conclusion, which he termed "anarcho-capitalism".

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“In short, and this is a highly important point to grasp, the depression is the “recovery” process, and the end of the depression heralds the return to normal, and to optimum efficiency.” 3 likes
“Keynesian argument that wage earners consume a greater proportion of their income than landlords or entrepreneurs, and therefore that a decreased total wage bill is a calamity because consumption will decline and savings increase. In the first place, this is not always accurate. It assumes (1) that the laborers are the relatively “poor” and the nonlaborers the relative “rich,” and (2) that the poor consume a greater proportion of their income than the rich. The first assumption is not necessarily correct. The President of General Motors is, after all, a “laborer,” and so also is Mickey Mantle; on the other hand, there are a great many poor landlords, farmers, and retailers. Manipulating relations between wage earners and others is a very clumsy and ineffective way of manipulating relations between poor and rich (provided we desire any manipulation at all). The second assumption is often, but not necessarily, true, as we have seen above. As we have also seen, however, the empirical study of Lubell indicates that a redistribution of income between rich and poor may not appreciably affect the social consumption–saving proportions. But suppose that all these objections are waved aside for the moment, and we concede for the sake of argument that a fall in total payroll will shift the social proportion against consumption and in favor of saving. What then? But this is precisely an effect that we should highly prize. For, as we have seen, any shift in social time preferences in favor of saving and against consumption will speed the advent of recovery, and decrease the need for a lengthy period of depression readjustment. Any such shift from consumption to savings will foster recovery. To the extent that this dreaded fall in consumption does result from a cut in wage rates, then, the depression will be cured that much more rapidly.” 1 likes
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