When Money Dies

When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany

Adam Fergusson’s 1975 book is back in print and is selling briskly.  It tells the story of the death of the German mark in 1923.

In 1914 it took 20 German marks to buy a British pound only to find in 1923 it dropped to 310 billion for the same rate of exchange. It describes — an uncomfortable parallel —  the decision to fund the war effort in 1918 largely through debt. The stock markets were closed for the duration of the war and Foreign-exchange rates were not published. Loan banks were created that operated solely through the creation of the printing press as well as the central bank. As if that were not enough Germany endured civil unrest, territorial loss and the imposition of punitive reparations.

When the music stopped rent was payable in butter and a ticket to the movies was bought with a lump of coal. It’s a story told about the seduction of inflation and the bitter aftermath.