To the economist, embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny, it has a time parameter. Weeks, months, or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. This is a period incidentally when the embezzler has his gain, and the man who has been embezzled oddly feels no loss.
There is a net increase in psychic welfare.
At any given time, there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in, or more precisely not in, the country's businesses and banks. This inventory—perhaps it should be called the bezzle—varies in size with the business cycle. In good times, people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. And even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances, the rate of embezzlement grows. The rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases sharply.
In Depression all this is reversed. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks."