Friday, October 10, 2008

The Panic of 2008: History Repeats

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-George Santayana, 1924

This famous quote was also paraphrased by Winston Churchill:

"Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it"

With stocks continuing downward precipitously today, the following cartoon and commentary which appeared today on Planète Béranger is particularly apropos:

From the Library of Congress description: «This poster for the stage production of The War of Wealth depicts what might have been any number of nineteenth century-financial crises. During that time, the U.S. experienced panics in the years 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. The major financial catalyst for the panic of 1857 was the August 24, 1857, failure of the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company. It was soon reported that the entire capital of the Trust's home office had been embezzled. What followed was one of the most severe economic crises in U.S. history. Almost immediately, New York bankers put severe restrictions on even the most routine transactions. In turn, many people interpreted these restrictions as a sign of impending financial collapse and panicked. Individual holders of stock and of commercial paper rushed to their brokers and eagerly made deals that "a week before they would have shunned as a ruinous sacrifice." As the September 12, 1857, Harper's Weekly described the scene on the New York Stock Exchange, "…prominent stocks fell eight or ten per cent in a day, and fortunes were made and lost between ten o'clock in the morning and four of the afternoon."»

Sound familiar?

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