• When Money Dies

  • The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar, Germany
  • By: Adam Fergusson
  • Narrated by: Antony Ferguson
  • Length: 9 hrs
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-12-10
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.0 (23 ratings)


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.
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Critic reviews

“Engrossing and sobering.” (Daily Express, London)
“One of the most blood chilling economics books I’ve ever read.” (Allen Mattich, The Wall Street Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Dave on 13-06-11

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.

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2 out of 5 stars
By Judy Corstjens on 22-03-11

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!)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Parola138 on 27-02-11


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.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By John on 23-06-11


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.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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