I very much like this.
Written in 1897 about the depression of 1873 to 1875.
“Panics and Booms”
Ever since the establishment of the human race on this planet there has been a gradual increase of population and a more rapid consumption of wealth.
Wealth is the result of labor, and without labor there can be no wealth.
Men live and pass away, but as they cannot take their wealth with them a large percentage accumulates for the benefit of their successors. Hence the wealth of the world today, per capita, is much greater than ever before, and it is continually on the increase.
The transfer of wealth, or property, from one person to another creates business. Under favorable conditions, transfers are numerous and business is brisk. Under unfavorable conditions transfers are few and business is dull.
During periods of business activity there is work for all, and this of itself makes greater business activity. During periods of business depression there is not work for all, and this of itself makes business dull and unprofitable.
The existence of either one of these conditions leads necessarily to the other. It is an impossibility for either prosperous times or depressed times to continue permanently.
During prosperous times, there being work for all, all are supplied with the means of accumulating wealth, and thus all are enabled to provide themselves, and families with all the necessaries, and many of the luxuries, of life; and hence, during the prosperous times the demand for goods and property increases and soon the demand exceeds supply, and then prices advance.
This rule, which is applied to the laborer, is also applied to the business man. Prosperous times induce business men to branch out in their several lines of trade….The volume of trade being large, each gets a corresponding proportion of it. Many business men find that they can do more business than is allowed by their limited capital. They then buy on credit.
Prices are continually advancing, therefore they are able to make margins of profit not only on the capital furnished by themselves, but on the capital furnished through their credit.
This rule also applies to people dealing in real estate. The country is growing; money is easy; the times are good; business is prosperous and therefore speculation is favored. A man worth $5000 can buy four times that amount of property using his credit, and sometimes he buys ten times that amount or more. While prices are advancing he not only gets the benefits of the advance in the price of the property represented by the capital furnished by himself, but also on the capital furnished by his credit.
When prices of property and goods during a period of business depression are falling, the loss does not come on the entire property, but only on that portion of it represented by the cash capital the man has invested in it. The debt never shrinks until the real investment is all gone.
All people in a given section of country use their credit at the same time because they are all governed by the same local conditions. Hence, there is a fictitious stimulation of prices which must come to an end. This end brings a financial depression which must necessarily follow a period of business activity.
When the people arrive at a point where their credit limit is reached there is necessarily a decrease in the demand for goods and property, and soon the supply becomes greater than the demand and prices begin to decline. This stops speculation. Thousands of people engaged in manufacturing or producing articles of general use are thus thrown out of employment, and this causes a still further decrease in the demand for goods and hence a further decline in prices. Those who have purchased on credit find themselves subjected to heavy losses because they are compelled to sustain the depreciation on goods they do not own-that is, goods bought on credit. Because of this decrease in valuations all are compelled to economize in order to adjust their expenses to the new order of things, they being compelled to pay off the accumulated indebtedness with the decreased income. This economy of the masses still further decreases the demand for goods and property and this still further increases the supply over the demand, and decreases the prices, throwing more people out of employment and increasing the depressed condition of business. …