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Monday, August 23, 2010

FT interviews Adam Fergusson: When Money Dies

Financial Times sits down to lunch with Adam Fergusson, author of the newly revived classic, When Money Dies, a social history of the Weimar hyperinflation.

Fergusson's 1975 book has recently been republished to sate demand from a new generation of investors eager to learn the lessons of Germany's inflationary catastrophe. In fact, recent reports that the book had been recommended by none other than superinvestor Warren Buffett (a rumor later reported to be false) seemed to stoke readers' demand.

Author Fergusson notes that Mr. Buffett is now in possession of a copy, so it will be interesting to see if the lessons of Weimar Germany take hold and influence Buffett's thinking on our own inflationary path and the ability of central planners/bankers to manage our monetary affairs.

An excerpt from FT's interview with Adam Fergusson:

"Fergusson wrote
When Money Dies in the early 1970s when the British economy was buckling in the wake of the first oil shock – which killed growth and pushed prices up. “When I started researching it in 1973, inflation was about 10 per cent, and when the book came out in 1975 it was nearly 25 per cent,” he says. “Somebody said, ‘We must go back and look at what happened in the 1920s when prices got out of ­control’.”

It started life as a series of articles in The Times that drew on the Weimar story in order to warn Britain off the inflationary track. But, I interject, weren’t the parallels rather thin? Even at its peak in 1975, British inflation hit an annual rate of only just over 24 per cent. At the climax of the Weimar disaster, prices were doubling every two days.

The quantum was different, Fergusson agrees. But, he says, all periods of high inflation – however harsh – involve the same moral slide. “The corrupting thing about inflation is the way the feelings and jealousies are exactly the same,” he says. “You worry that some people are doing better than you are – people who know what to do about rising prices while you don’t.”

In the Weimar time, this was particularly extreme. High inflation wiped out debts, atomising the savings of the prudent and redistributing wealth to the fortunate or simply unscrupulous..."

Read on at the link above for the full piece, and see our related post links for more on When Money Dies and an audio interview with author Fergusson.

Related articles and posts:

1. When Money Dies: read it online - Prudent Investor.

2. Interview with author Adam Fergusson - BBC.

3. Dying of Money - Finance Trends.