Been there, done that

From The Telegraph:

Wall Andrew Mellon, the American billionaire and Treasury Secretary, was not unduly disturbed by the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. “It will purge the rottenness out of the system,” he explained to President Hoover a few weeks later. “High costs of living will come down. People will work harder, live a moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.” Among those less competent people, it transpired, was Mellon. In February 1932, by which time the financial turmoil had evolved into the worst global depression of the century, he was relieved of his duties, and the new Roosevelt administration began an intensive investigation into his income tax returns. When he died in 1937 the investigation was still going on; so too, unfortunately, was the Depression.

At a time when commentators are divided between gloom at the meltdown of the markets and glee at the promise of a return to austerity, the story of Andrew Mellon seems disturbingly familiar. The Wall Street Crash has become the paradigmatic case of boom turning into bust, and few people have not heard the stories of ticker-machines running out of control, brokers hurling themselves from high windows, savings disappearing up in smoke, and the cocktail parties of the Roaring Twenties suddenly turning into the dole queues of the Hungry Thirties. Given the events of the past few weeks, Selwyn Parker’s sprightly new history could hardly be better timed.

If nothing else, Parker’s account of the Crash of 1929 bears out Mark Twain’s famous remark that if history does not repeat itself, it certainly rhymes.

More here.