Markets, Madness, and the New Deal

I can calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men.

—Isaac Newton [on the South Sea Bubble]

In the 1920s, Wall Street was a world that was really dominated by professional speculators and stock pools. These people had a monopoly over information.

—Ron Chernow

The post-Civil War period through the 1920s probably was the greatest growth and innovative period in American history and certainly the most corrupt. Risk-taking moguls could be inventors, entrepreneurs, speculators, crooks, or any combination.1 The economy remained volatile, with a major depression every 20 or so years and more modest downturns between. Somehow the flexible framework of governance, entrepreneurial talent, ...

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