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I'm dreaming of…"Debts"

Irving Berlin, most commonly remembered around this time of year as the songwriter of "White Christmas," also wrote a song called "Debts" (alternate title: "We'll All Be in Heaven When the Dollar Goes to Hell"). He apparently wrote it in 1933. I was not aware of it until earlier this month. Sample lyrics:

Here's some news that you ought to know
Off the gold standard we must go
Like England and Italy and Germany and France
We are going to inflate
And we're very glad to state:

Let the pound go up, the franc go up, the mark go up as well
Uncle Sam will be in Heaven when the dollar goes to Hell

Bonus points to anyone who posts a link to a performance in the comments. All I found were the lyrics.

And if you get tired of listening to "White Christmas" and other cheery songs of the season, sober right up with Intervention and Misery: 1929-2008, whose message is right on the front cover: "How governments and central banks ruined the world and why the worst is still to come." My own view is more optimistic. There's a lot of ruin in a nation, and still more in a world. Still, an occasional dose of pessimism is invigorating. Perpetual optimism is as dull as perpetual "Blue Skies."


  • MichaelM

    Going back that far, for a relatively obscure song…it's perfectly possible it's never been recorded or, if it was, it was never released on a major enough label to find its way on to the internet. I'm by no means the expert I once was, but I can't find head nor tail of it from any of the usual sources, so I'd say that, if it exists, it exists only some dark, hidden corner of the deep.

    I'm curious, though: Why would such a book as Intervention and Misery start in 1929?

  • Mathieu Bédard

    George Kaufman in « The Truth about Bank Runs, » pp. 9-40 in C. England and T. Huertas (ed.) The Financial Services Revolution (1987). Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, offers a song on bank runs contra-Diamond-Dybvig, to be sang to the tune of "Let it snow!";


    Oh, the depositors outside are threatening
    But our vault is so protecting
    And if you pardon the pun
    Let them run, let them run, let them run.

    Well, they don’t show signs of stopping
    So we’re selling assets nonstopping
    And until our work is done
    Let them run, let them run, let them run.

    Now the run is slowly dying
    Our cash has stopped the crying
    The work has become more fun
    Let them run, let them run, let them run.

    So, the moral is clearly revealing
    If a bank is not concealing
    And its capital is like a ton
    Let them run, let them run, let them run.

  • Paul Marks

    It starts in 1929 because of Herbert "The Forgotten Progressive" Hoover's reaction to the crash of 1929 (the bust made inevitable by Benjamin Strong's credit bubble boom of the late 1920s).

    Contrary to the myth that he was a conservative, Hoover was actually an interventionist – in the grip of the "effective demand" fallacy. In 1921 the First World War credit money bubble burst – there was a sharp slump (very sharp), but the government did not prevent wages and prices adjusting to the slump (instead President Warren Harding concentrated on CUTTING, really cutting, taxes and govenrment spending) and the economy was on the road to recovery after six months.

    Herbert Hoover HATED all of this – he wanted govenrment intervention, but he was only Commerce Sec (so there was not much he could do).

    But in 1929 Herbert Hoover was President – and he reacted to the 1929 bust with an orgy of interventionism, trying to prop wages (i.e. prevent the market clearing) and so on.

    Indeed in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt denounced Hoover as a socialist. But, alas, when elected President "FDR" continued (indeed extended) the policies of Herbert Hoover. Real wages were not allowed to adjust in the 1930s (so mass unemployment continued – never before in American history had mass unemployment continued for year after year) till World War II – and then the rigging of wages was still not replaced with a free market (it was replaced by the blunt instrument of war time inflation – which reduced real wages, especially if one judges by REAL, i.e. "black market", prices), a stupid way of getting the market to clear, but (yes) a way of doing so.

    It was not till after World War II (under the "do nothing" Congress elected in 1946) that something like a free market returned to the United Stats – at least for a time. An end to the polices of Franklin Roosevelt AND the policies of Herbert "The Forgotten Progressive" Hoover.

  • StevenH

    The song possibly came from the 1933 musical "As Thousands Cheer" See: Though that might not be a definitive site for accuracy it is the best the internet can do at present. It fits in with a Moss Hart satirical revue though…The show ran from Sept. 1933 to Sept 1934 with 400 performances. The song "Debts" doesn't appear in the original playbill nor did I want to pay for the NYT's archive review of the film…Cheers!