Our predicament parallels Long Depression of 1870s
Matthew Lynn’s London Eye, Dec. 14, 2011
LONDON (MarketWatch) — In retrospect, it wasn’t hard to see that the markets were becoming dangerously unstable. Germany had just adopted a new monetary system, and Europe was being flooded with cheap German money. Greece had signed up to a monetary union with Italy and France but was struggling to hold it together.
Financial markets had been deregulated. New technologies were transforming production and communications, allowing money to move across borders at lightening speed.
And a massive new industrial power was flooding the world with cheap manufactured goods, blowing apart old industries.
When it all fell apart in an almighty crash, it was only to be expected.
A prophesy for London, New York or Berlin in 2012? Not exactly. It is a description of Vienna in 1873. In that year, in one of the great crashes of all time, the Austrian markets triggered collapses across Europe, swiftly followed by an equally spectacular collapse in New York. It was the start of what economic historians call the Long Depression, a prolonged period of volatility, unemployment and slumps that lasted an epic 23 years, only coming to an end in 1896.
First, depressions can last a very long time, and when their origins are in a debt bubble they should be measured in decades not years.
Second, this depression is structural.
Three, it’s uneven.
Four, good things are still happening.
Five, it won’t be fixed easily.
….this won’t be over until all three structural problems get fixed. Debt needs to be paid down to manageable levels, a new reserve currency needs to be created, and the euro needs to be put out of its misery. None of these are simple tasks, and none will be done quickly.