Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Never Been This Bad Before (Reprinted)

I've been on vacation the last 10 days. This is a reprint from January 16, 2008 that is worth a second look.

Here is a little bit of history. It gives you an insight into real estate during the Great Depression from people who lived through it. Quoted from: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/ALLEN/ch11.html

By 1927, according to Homer B. Vanderblue, most of the elaborate real-estate offices on Flagler Street in Miami were either closed or practically empty; the Davis Islands project, "bankrupt and unfinished," had been taken over by a syndicate organized by Stone & Webster; and many Florida cities, including Miami, were having difficulty collecting their taxes. By 1928 Henry S. Villard, writing in The Nation, thus described the approach to Miami by road: "Dead subdivisions line the highway, their pompous names half-obliterated on crumbling stucco gates. Lonely white-way lights stand guard over miles of cement side- walks, where grass and palmetto take the place of homes that were to be .... Whole sections of outlying subdivisions are composed of unoccupied houses, past which one speeds on broad thoroughfares as if traversing a city in the grip of death." In 1928 there were thirty-one bank failures in Florida; in 1929 there were fifty-seven; in both of these years the liabilities of the failed banks reached greater totals than were recorded for any other state in the Union. The Mediterranean fruit-fly added to the gravity of the local economic situation in 1929 by ravaging the citrus crop. Bank clearings for Miami, which had climbed sensation- ally to over a billion dollars in 1925, marched sadly downhill again:


And those were the very years when elsewhere in the country prosperity was triumphant! By the middle of 1930, after the general business depression had set in, no less than twenty-six Florida cities had gone into default of principal or interest on their bonds, the heaviest defaults being those of West Palm Beach, Miami, Sanford, and Lake Worth; and even Miami, which had a minor issue of bonds maturing in August, 1930, confessed its inability to redeem them and asked the bondholders for an extension.
This next bit discusses the dire straights of many states in 1933: Pg 285 America’s Great Depression by Murray Rothbard. Quoted from Agricultural Discontent in the Middle West, 1900-1939,Wisconsin Press 1951 p.448

As in most depressions, the property rights of the creditors in debts and claims were subjected to frequent attack, in favor of debtors who wished to refuse payment of their obligations with impunity. We have noted the Federal drive to weaken the bankruptcy laws. States also joined in the attack on creditors. Many states adopted compulsory debt moratoria in early 1933, and sales at auction for debt judgments were halted by Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Governor Clyde Herring of Iowa asked insurance and mortgage companies to stop foreclosing mortgages. Life insurance companies protested that they were being very lenient, yet in many areas the courts would not enforce foreclosures for insurance companies, enabling many borrowers arrogantly to refuse to pay. Minnesota forbade foreclosures on farms or homes for several years.
So we can say without a doubt that we have never seen anything like this, but it did happen here about 78 years ago. We could be on our way to an experience of a life time. Are you ready?


Penny Auction Online said...

OMG!!! I can't believe what I've just read. Totally surprising and off course shocking too.

Griffin T. said...

Wow, I'm surprised I haven't heard about this sooner. Its amazing how history tends to repeat itself.

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Griffin

This sort of information doesn't increase newspaper circulation. People want good news, and I don't blame them.

Looking at it historically, we get a feel for what we could have done. The problem is, in today's world, the government is changing the rules to stave off disaster. Right now we are faced with a mountain of uncertainty when it comes to investments. Uncertainty rules!