Few economic historians would contest N.J. Silberling’s assertion that bankruptcy statistics provide ‘a fairly satisfactory barometer of business prosperity and depression.’ 1 The presence of what might be termed a positive link between economic activity and bankruptcies has been suspected, at least, since the time of George Chalmers, who argued

that in exact proportion as our traffic increased, from its infancy to its manhood, the number of bankruptcies, at every period, bore a just proportion to the amount of our trade … We might learn, from experience, that prosperity, generally, leads on to adversity, as the highest health is often the forerunner of the worst diseases. 2