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When Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar, Germany | [Adam Fergusson]

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

When Money Dies is the classic history of what happens when a nations currency depreciates beyond recovery. In 1923, with its currency effectively worthless (the exchange rate in December of that year was one dollar to 4,200,000,000,000 marks), the German republic was all but reduced to a barter economy. Expensive cigars, artworks, and jewels were routinely exchanged for staples such as bread; a cinema ticket could be bought for a lump of coal; and a bottle of paraffin for a silk shirt....
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Publisher's Summary

When Money Dies is the classic history of what happens when a nation's currency depreciates beyond recovery. In 1923, with its currency effectively worthless (the exchange rate in December of that year was one dollar to 4,200,000,000,000 marks), the German republic was all but reduced to a barter economy.

Expensive cigars, artworks, and jewels were routinely exchanged for staples such as bread; a cinema ticket could be bought for a lump of coal; and a bottle of paraffin for a silk shirt. People watched helplessly as their life savings disappeared and their loved ones starved. Germany's finances descended into chaos, with severe social unrest in its wake.

Money may no longer be physically printed and distributed in the voluminous quantities of 1923. However, quantitative easing, that modern euphemism for surreptitious deficit financing in an electronic era, can no less become an assault on monetary discipline. Whatever the reason for a country's deficit - necessity or profligacy, unwillingness to tax, or blindness to expenditure - it is beguiling to suppose that if the day of reckoning is postponed economic recovery will come in time to prevent higher unemployment or deeper recession. What if it does not? Germany in 1923 provides a vivid, compelling, sobering moral tale.

©2010 Adam Fergusson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Engrossing and sobering.” (Daily Express, London)

“One of the most blood chilling economics books I’ve ever read.” (Allen Mattich, The Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (98 )
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  •  
    John New Orleans, LA, United States 06-23-11
    John New Orleans, LA, United States 06-23-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Disappointed"

    This book did have its interesting tidbits and the narrator is fine, so I didn't feel I wasted a credit or anything. But due to this being such a fascinating subject, I was rather disappointed. the writer wrote it like a boring history text and left me with more question then he answered. I hope I can find other books on this subject.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Parola138 United States 02-27-11
    Parola138 United States 02-27-11 Member Since 2005

    We bite

    HELPFUL VOTES
    216
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    102
    80
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    25
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    Overall
    "informative"

    This book enlightened me on many shades of the hyperinflation in Germany, both before WWI, after, and leading up to WWII. The narrator, though not so spirited, does a decent job. I think if you're not already interested in the subject, this would bore you though. It's packed with information.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mitch Buena Park, CA, United States 07-04-12
    Mitch Buena Park, CA, United States 07-04-12

    I am a documentary film producer from Los Angeles.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Useless details, missing the big points"

    The subject matter is fascinating and very little covered by history books. It is obviously very touchy for an English author since it might point to the unfairness of the Versailles treaty.
    So this author is endlessly beating around the bush by telling you the price of eggs, train tickets and other data that makes your head spin but he's not developing enough the big picture.

    So yes, there was inflation in the 1920s but how did they get there? Why did the Kaiser abdicate? Who took power? What was the mechanisms of tax collection and why did they collapse?
    The treaty of Versailles and the subsequent adjustments to the war reparation are mentioned in very few sentences, but very under developed...

    So if you want to know how much was an egg in Berlin during 1920, 1921, 1922... etc go ahead and get this book.
    The author is incredibly proud of this data and he assumes you know all the other details of the Weimar Germany.
    Well, I didn't so I expected a lot more...

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 07-07-12
    Neil San Francisco, CA, United States 07-07-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Store up on seeds and Weapons"

    Very informative, but could have been more informative. Yet for an 8 hour read or short book it tells a lot about post WW I central Europe. It must have been an extremely difficult time for Germans, Austrians and Hungarians. If this situation occurrs again in Europe or the US, which as we know history repeats then the duration and outcome will be much more dramatic. The daily massive inflation, hunger and unemployment these people endured, I feel a similar situation in the US would incurr civil unrest the world has never seen. Revolutionary like.....Russia? or Fascism?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lance Maryland, United States 03-27-12
    Lance Maryland, United States 03-27-12 Member Since 2002
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    "May be a very underrated book"

    Got a little tired of the story after a while printing printing printing. But the author really gives you the sense of what it was like to be a German at that time. Totally bewildered in a country that didn't seem to have a sense of what was going wrong. Its hard to fathom, but clearly the German people were "softened up" by this spectacular event. Is the author correct in his assertions toward the end that reparations were not responsible? Dunno that I trust the author given there wasn't much theory in this book. However, the author sticks to his guns and that is clearly very interesting. Also interesting in that most history books blame reparations but few clearly spell out that reparations were due in gold notes. Most modern day economists would say printing is not a way to get out of gold payments. And that might be true, but the author seems pretty convincing that the Germans weren't attempting that folly.

    Had the author introduced a much higher degree of economic analysis, I feel that the emotional impact would have been far less. Its kind of like reading Dickens and then complaining you didn't get any Malthus in the text. This book if you really stay with it can really bring home the emotional impact of what it was like to be a German pre-Hitler. Had the author delved into how Hitler comes to power and/or the economic theories behind the printing of money and the gold based reparations payments, the emotional impact would have been lost.

    I give it five stars... to stay disciplined with such a subject... to write what had to be written knowing full well you would only be a part piece of the puzzle... thats a thing we don't get from authors very much these days. Thanks to the authors. If the author is correct about the last part (I just don't know that much about the history of those times)... wow... just wow... very illuminating. He doesn't really provide alot of justification for the claims at the end just sort of lays them out there. To understand all of that and not change the scope is a gift to the reader. So my long winded advice is to appreciate the narrow scope, appreciate the seemingly endless monetary printing, and let wash over you what it means to sing "Deutschland Uber-alles" pre-Hitler. Getting transported back in time is priceless.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. A. Wroe, Jr. Austin, tx United States 09-13-13
    W. A. Wroe, Jr. Austin, tx United States 09-13-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Great Technical Read"
    If you could sum up When Money Dies in three words, what would they be?

    Great Technical Read


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    How blind people in power were to the causes of inflation


    Any additional comments?

    Technical, tedious, time consuming, but scarry as heck and I'm so glad I listened to it. Definitely changed my investment strategy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Null Hypothesis Virginia 01-08-13
    Null Hypothesis Virginia 01-08-13 Member Since 2012

    Raised by humans. Living at the intersection of necessity and free will.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I had no idea..."
    What did you love best about When Money Dies?

    For anyone who wants the rest of the story about the interwar years between WWI and WWII. Compelling tale of how the world got here from there in the context of post-WWI Europe. A must-read for economists, historians, public officials, and military strategists. Nests well as a post-script to Barbara Tuchman's 'Guns of August.'


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Armidale, Australia 05-22-12
    Joel Armidale, Australia 05-22-12 Member Since 2003

    Hardcore scifi fan from a galaxy far far away.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It can't happen again! Can it?"

    Required reading for everyone in finance. This is history, and has happened repeatedly. It can't happen again! Can it?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-8 of 8 results
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  • Dave
    stevenage, United Kingdom
    6/13/11
    Overall
    "Entertaining and sometimes scarey real-life story"

    Lets face it - we all rely on money these days, and what might happen if it becomes worthless is a nightmare few would be prepared to contemplate. This book gives what I think is a very good narrative of the years after WWI when Germany, Austria and Hungary suffered that very fate - to one degree or another - and why things were allowed to go so wrong. Of course it is easy to reel off loads of enormous numbers to show just how unreal economics had got, but there are also plenty of spotlights on how this all affected ordinary people, and I found people's optimism that things couldn't get any worse particularly striking, since things certainly did get worse. There are lessons to be learned, but of course every moment in history is unique and the economic mistakes of today are very different to those of 1919 etc, so simply expect a well presented story of the collapse of an economic system and its human consequences. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in economic or social history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • judith
    canary wharf, United Kingdom
    3/22/11
    Overall
    "Not as relevant as hoped"

    I thought that a book about inflation would raise interesting pointers for today's economic situation, but I couldn't find the hoped for relevance. Hungary and Germany after the first world war were very specific cases. I think the book is showing its age too - we expect more commentary and polemic, perhaps, so spice up a modern read. Still, an informative historical read (I mean listen!)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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