‘Something Should Be Done?’ by JK Galbraith

I have read The Great Crash, 1929 at least six times – my copy of it is falling to pieces from the strain. It tells of how the 1929 Wall Street Crash unfolded, ushering in the Great Depression. But in order to tell that story, it has to explain how a great many very learned, important and rich men came to believe fairytales and fantasies that collapse was impossible. As such, it’s an absolutely riveting tale of human folly, with endless parallels and lessons. Chapter 3, “Something Should Be Done?” presents an unnerving moral conundrum. Even as doubts began to form in the minds of those with the power to do something to alter the course of the market, they did nothing, and we find out the various reasons why. Galbraith writes:

The real choice was between an immediate and deliberately engineered collapse and a more serious disaster later on. Someone would certainly be blamed for the ultimate collapse when it came. There was no question whatever as to who would be blamed should the boom be deliberately deflated.

Who would volunteer for that duty? No one wanted to cause the crash, so everyone let it happen.

In The Great Crash, 1929