Echoes Dispatches From Economic History
In the spring of 1933, global trade was being undermined by nationalistic economic responses to the Great Depression, including currency devaluations, rising tariffs and declining prices.
After a year’s planning, 66 nations gathered in London in June for the World Economic Conference to try to foster greater international cooperation.READ MORE
President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the standard for the first 100 days in office with an unprecedented whirlwind of legislative activity that sought to make good on his pledge for “action and action now” to combat the Great Depression.
June 16 marks the 80th anniversary of that era, which came to a close when Roosevelt signed the Banking Act of 1933. That groundbreaking financial reform is more commonly known for its Democratic co-sponsors, Senator Carter Glass of Virginia and Representative Henry Steagall of Alabama. These days, it is mostly remembered for just one of its provisions, the separation of commercial and investment banking, designed to wall off customer deposits from the risk-taking inherent in securities underwriting.READ MORE
Profane language can be a useful tool for ambitious executives, enabling them to express the power of their convictions and the seriousness of their cause.
It can also backfire, as the chief executive officer of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., Jim Hagedorn, found out last week. Hagedorn was reprimanded for his use of inappropriate language; three other board members of the lawn-care company resigned because of the controversy. While it is unclear what remarks led to the reprimand and resignations, Hagedorn had a habit of employing colorful language when speaking with reporters, shareholders and the public.READ MORE
Stephen B. Adams
The revelations that U.S. technology giants may be assisting the National Security Agency seem to contradict Silicon Valley’s image as a bastion of libertarian thinking.
But such cooperation would be nothing new: A century ago, the federal government signed a lucrative defense contract with Silicon Valley’s original technology company.READ MORE
As he rose to power,German Chancellor Adolf Hitler abolished leftist, labor-supporting political parties. In 1933, he defiantly chose May Day to outline his economic-recovery policies.
"What we want is to re-educate the German people by making it everyone’s duty to work," he said. "Every German -- rich or poor, son of the scholar or of the factory worker -- shall at least once in his life be inducted into manual labor so he may learn to command better, because he has learned to obey."READ MORE
David K. Thomson
On Saturday, many Americans will tune in for the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, the final and most grueling leg of the Triple Crown. Few of us, however, know that the namesake of the race, August Belmont, was a dominant financial figure of the 19th century.
Belmont began his career as an agent for the Rothschild banking house. He was first assigned the Cuban portfolio. As he left Europe off for his posting in 1837, he stopped in the U.S., which was in the midst of a major financial panic and where the Rothschilds’ operations were in disarray. He quickly declared the U.S. his new base of operations.READ MORE
Gabriella M. Petrick
When U.S. stock trading begins tomorrow, H.J. Heinz Co. will no longer be listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Another iconic U.S. company, General Motors Co., will take its place.
Although Heinz has been a corporation since 1905, it was largely controlled by the founding family until 1987, when Tony O’Reilly became the first outsider to be named chairman. In February, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Jorge Paulo Lemann’s 3G Capital Inc. said they would buy the company for $23 billion. Back in private hands, the company should carry forward the founder’s vision of both profit and service to society.READ MORE
“The Great Gatsby” is back, along with the glittering splendor, opulent parties, nightclubs and slinky fashions of the Roaring Twenties. Tiffany & Co. is celebrating with Jazz Age jewels; Brooks Brothers Inc. has rolled out a Gatsby line of menswear. Vogue featured the movie’s star, the U.K. actress Carey Mulligan, on its cover.
In Baz Luhrmann’s rendering of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, Mulligan is Daisy, the slender and rich young woman with whom Jay Gatsby -- in this case, a suave Leonardo DiCaprio -- is obsessively in love. She is perfect for the part of the fashionable “new woman,” slim-hipped and small-breasted, who can pull off wispy, knee-length evening dresses and lean, no-waist chemises.READ MORE
During the spring of 1989, Chinese activists gathered in the heart of Beijing to fight for democracy. The tragic conclusion of the events around Tiananmen Square, 24 years ago today, is well known.
What isn’t widely recognized, however, is that many of the protesters were reactionaries who opposed the Western-style economic reforms introduced a decade earlier.READ MORE
In May 1933, Chicago hosted the World's Fair, providing a country mired in the Great Depression with some much-needed entertainment.
Planning for the fair had begun in 1928, but the stock-market crash the following year convinced many that the "Century of Progress" exhibition would be a fiasco. By 1933, New Deal reforms were taking effect, and conditions were starting to improve.READ MORE
Weddings are a $165 billion industry in the U.S., according to the Association of Bridal Consultants. The introduction in 1934 of Bride’s magazine, the first publication devoted to this market, played a central role in its growth.
From the beginning, Bride’s linked weddings to consumption, promoting the lucrative formal white wedding ideal. Behind the scenes, the magazine worked with retailers to expand the market and introduce new “traditions.”READ MORE
Kim Dotcom, the accused online pirate who founded the cloud-storage service Megaupload.com, recently made a surprising statement to the Guardian newspaper: “I respect copyright. What I don’t respect is copyright extremism. And what I don’t respect is a business model that encourages piracy.”
Before dismissing his comments as disingenuous, consider that pirates have long been strong supporters of free markets, fighting monopolies and other restrictions on commerce.READ MORE
It could have been much worse. In 2008, the crash of another commuter train -- California’s Metrolink -- killed 25 and injured many more. Unlike the Metro-North accident, the California disaster probably was the result of human error, specifically an engineer who was distracted as he sent text messages on his phone.READ MORE
In the spring of 1933, many Americans blamed Wall Street for the financial havoc caused by the Great Depression. Millions had lost investments through industrial bankruptcies, foreclosures, bank failures, bond defaults and collapsing stock prices.
That sentiment intensified in May as the Senate probed the crash and its aftermath. Emerging documentation of insider favoritism and fraud "created a cyclone of outrage" and generated broad public support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's financial agenda.READ MORE
“Owning a VW is Like Being in Love,” Popular Mechanics announced after polling its readers in 1956. “These owners have actually fallen in love with a car.”
Popular Mechanics wasn’t alone in marveling at the U.S. reception of the small “made in Germany” car. The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Business Week, Road and Track and the Nation added to a buzz that was vastly disproportionate to the vehicle’s market share at the time. Of the 7.9 million new automobiles sold in the U.S. in 1955, Volkswagen AG (VOW) had accounted for just 28,907.READ MORE
Most developed nations try to limit the inflow of people from less developed ones. Yet, until the early 1800s, migration policy worked in the opposite direction, and was aimed at preventing skilled people in relatively advanced economies from seeking opportunity elsewhere.
For centuries, Europe’s rulers believed that when it came to trade, one nation’s gain was another’s loss, and that the strength of a state depended on an ample treasury of precious metals to finance war. Along with import prohibitions, export bounties and high tariffs, bans on emigration were seen as legitimate means to encourage the sale of goods that would bring in gold from abroad.READ MORE