Charles P. Kindleberger

American economic historian (1910-2003)

Charles Poor "Charlie" Kindleberger (October 12, 1910July 7, 2003) was an American economic historian.

Quotes edit

The first work ever done that I know about in economics on computers used the Pentagon's computers at night for the Marshall Plan.
  • The explanation of this book is that the 1929 depression was so wide, so deep, and so long because the international economic system was rendered unstable by British inability and U.S. unwillingness to assume responsibility for stabilizing it by discharging five functions:

    (1) maintaining a relatively open market for distress goods;
    (2) providing countercyclical, or at least stable, long­ term lending;
    (3) policing a relatively stable system of exchange rates;
    (4) ensuring the coordination of macroeconomic policies;
    (5) acting as a lender of last resort by discounting or otherwise providing liquidity in financial crisis.

    • The World in Depression, 1929-1939 (2nd ed., 1986), Ch. 14 : An Explanation of the 1929 Depression
  • We were conscious of a great sense of excitement about the plan. Marshall himself was a great, great man — funny, odd but great — Olympian in his moral quality. We'd stay up all night, night after night. The first work ever done that I know about in economics on computers used the Pentagon's computers at night for the Marshall Plan. I had a tremendous sense of gratification from working so hard on it.
  • A follow-the-leader process develops as firms and households see that others are profiting from speculative purchases. ‘There is nothing as disturbing to one’s well-being and judgment as to see a friend get rich.’ Unless it is to see a nonfriend get rich.
    • Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Z. Aliber, Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (5th ed., 2005), Ch. 2 : Anatomy of a Typical Crisis
  • The monetary history of the last four hundred years has been replete with financial crises. The pattern was that investor optimism increased as economies expanded, the rate of growth of credit increased and economic growth accelerated, and an increasing number of individuals began to invest for short-term capital gains rather than for the returns associated with the productivity of the assets they were acquiring. The increase in the supply of credit and more buoyant economic outlook often led to economic booms as investment spending increased in response to the more optimistic outlook and the greater availability of credit, and as household spending increased as personal wealth surged.
    • Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (1978), Ch. 13 : The Lessons of History and the Most Tumultuous Decades Ever
  • Economic responsibility goes with military strength and an undue share in the costs of peacekeeping. Free riders are perhaps more noticeable in this area than in the economy, where a number of rules in trade, capital movements, payments and the like have been evolved and accepted as legitimate. Free ridership means that disproportionate costs must be borne by responsible nations, which must on occasion take care of the international or system interest at some expense in falling short of immediate goals. This is a departure from the hard­ nosed school of international relations in political science, represented especially perhaps by Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger, who believe that national interest and the balance of power constitute a stable system. Leadership, moreover, had overtones of the white man's burden, father knows best, the patronizing attitude of the lady of the manor with her Christmas baskets. The requirement, moreover, is for active, and not merely passive responsibility of the German—Japanese variety. With free riders, and the virtually certain emergency of thrusting newcomers, passivity is a recipe for disarray. The danger for world stability is the weakness of the dollar, the loss of dedication of the United States to the international system's interest, and the absence of candidates to fill the resultant vacua.
    • "Economic Responsibility", The Second Fred Hirsch Memorial Lecture, Warwick University, 6 March 1980, republished in Comparative Political Economy: A Retrospective (2003)
  • The dilemma posed by a choice between rules and men largely begs the question. There are, to be sure, times when rules, constraints, commitments, contract or treaty provisions stand in the way and should be transcended because of force majeure, acts of God, some deus ex machina that makes clear that all bets are off. ...
    If one relies on men of responsibility to make the right choice in crisis among conflicting rules, or to follow an altogether different course for which no precedent exists, there is a danger of creating new precedents and new rules, which may be applied mistakenly under different circumstances. …
    The alternative to rules—men, which of course includes women—begs another question. Men have different responsibilities, principles, understandings, interests.
    • "Rules vs Men: Lessons from a Century of Monetary Policy", Originally published in Christoph Buchheim, Michael Hutter, and Harold James, eds., Zerrissene Zwischenkriegszeit Beiträge (1994), republished in Comparative Political Economy: A Retrospective (2003)

Quotes about Kindleberger edit

  • Both the existence of these parallels and their tragic nature would not have escaped Charles Kindleberger, whose World in Depression, 1929-1939 was published exactly 40 years ago, in 1973. Where Kindleberger’s canvas was the world, his focus was Europe. While much of the earlier literature, often authored by Americans, focused on the Great Depression in the US, Kindleberger emphasised that the Depression had a prominent international and, in particular, European dimension. It was in Europe where many of the Depression’s worst effects, political as well as economic, played out. And it was in Europe where the absence of a public policy authority at the level of the continent and the inability of any individual national government or central bank to exercise adequate leadership had the most calamitous economic and financial effects.
  • My old teacher Charles Kindleberger used to say, “Anyone who spends too much time thinking about international money goes mad” — by which he meant that you start to believe subjects like the world’s choice of reserve currency aren’t just interesting and glamorous, but are what drives everything. They don’t.
  • Charlie Kindleberger was a delightful colleague: perceptive, responsive, curious about everything, full of character, and, above all, lively. Those same qualities are everywhere evident in Manias, Panics, and Crashes.
    • Robert Solow, Foreword, in Manias, Panics, and Crashes Fifth edition (2005)

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