The idea of the present essay originated in a course on the economy of Germany from 1870 to the present, which I taught at Columbia University in the spring of 1958. In reviewing the economic reconstruction of the country after the two world wars, my students and I encountered a number of similarities and differences, and it occurred to me that a systematic comparison of the two experiences might be a useful thing to try.
The product is now offered here with an expression of hope and an apology. I hope that the reader will bear with the recurrent and at times perhaps somewhat tiresome juxtaposition of the events and problems of the two periods. He may find it an interesting way to bring history to bear on the present and at the same time to re-evaluate the events of the past. Or else he may feel that a straightforward account of either period would have served him better, something this study does not provide.
The apology is due on account of the attempt made here to deal with the subject in a very limited space while recognizing that the economic processes of each period were related to and shaped by many features and complexities of contemporary history. It is of course impossible to draw a broad picture of history in this essay. And yet it seemed desirable to keep the view of things broad and to refer from time to time to the political and psychological settings. As one tries to do that the story becomes more lifelike, but many of the relevant currents and countercurrents of the two times had to be left unexplored, in particular the debates on economic policy.
This essay owes much to the generosity of my employer, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who made it possible for