It is hard to imagine today: When the Great Inflation began in Germany after the First World War, many economists reacted completely blankly. Most of them trained in historical studies and hardly familiar with contemporary economic theory, they wandered through the early twenties without orientation. Eberhard Gothein, the respected author of an economic history of the Black Forest, did not understand at all that the inflation would drain the purchasing power of his pension entitlements. Concerned with a comprehensive explanation of capitalism, Werner Sombart outraged refused a request to give a lecture on inflation. This was an issue for a banking practitioner, found the mighty man. As an economist, he prefers to deal with important issues.In the Weimar Republic, established professors were replaced by Alfred Lansburgh (1872 to 1937) and L. Albert Hahn (1889 to 1968), two outsiders who owed their reputation to their clear vision for the devastation of a severe inflation.

Gerald Braunberger


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In a retrospective, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called Lansburgh “perhaps one of the smartest people who have ever lived and worked in Germany when it comes to money”.

Coming from a Jewish family, Lansburgh soon came to Berlin after his birth in London, where his parents died early.

The young Alfred attended the renowned French grammar school, but left it prematurely without a high school diploma.

He therefore did not acquire his economic knowledge at a university.

Shaped by liberal economists of the British and French Classics

"It can be assumed that he did this in connection with the bank officials' association in Berlin, founded in 1890, which has built up a well-stocked library and held many lectures, particularly on economic policy," writes Jan Greitens in a recent book. After a few years of professional experience in the banking industry, a trade union activity in the "Association of Bank Officials" and a lectureship at a technical school, Lansburgh left the money industry in 1903 to work as a journalist.

Lansburgh's thinking was shaped by liberal economists of the British and French Classics such as Adam Smith or Jean-Baptiste Say.

For him, the “cooperation and counteraction of millions of economically connected people created a great harmony”.

If this harmony is disturbed, "four correctives" are available with interest, price, wages and international movements of gold (which was the currency metal at that time), which adjust elastically in such a way that the economy finds a new equilibrium.

Active monetary or financial policy is not useful in a market-economy world, it is downright harmful.

Lansburgh set his own theory of money on this view, which was then unpopular in Germany, in which he combined elements of two competing doctrines.

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