14
Money Talks:
The Publicity of
Private Enterprise

IN The Age of Extremes, his sweeping chronicle of the years between 1914 and 1991, Eric Hobsbawm argued that the Great Depression--like no episode before or since--posed an emergency for world capitalism that appeared to imperil its survival as an economic system. There had been grave economic disruptions before then, to be sure, but "[i]n the past, waves and cycles, long, medium and short, had been accepted by businessmen and economists rather as farmers accept the weather, which also has its ups and downs."

There was nothing to be done about them: they created opportunities or problems, they could lead to bonanzas or bankruptcy for individuals or industries, but only socialists . . . believed that [these] cycles were part of a process by which capitalism generated what would in the end prove insuperable internal contradictions.

In spite of acute periodic ruptures, the presumption that the market economy would only continue to progress was, at least among business leaders, sacrosanct.

The depression that started in the late twenties, however, was different. "[P]robably for the first, and so far the only, time in the history of capitalism," Hobsbawm observed, "its fluctuations seemed to

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