The Great Depression

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In 1929, A Yale University Economist Irving Fisher stated. " The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of prosperity".(5) 5 days later the stock market crashed and the worst economic downturn in American history called the "Great Depression" began. The Depression started in 1929 and would last for a decade until we entered War World II. The Great Depression affected every part of economy and no job was safe. In 1929 unemployment was at 1.5 million and by 1933 unemployment reached over 13 million which meant 1 out of 4 were out of work (3). Some who were successful businessmen before the stock market crash and now selling pencils or apples on the street corners after the crash .Many business closed their doors, factories shut down and banks failed causing homelessness, poverty and general despair on many Americans. Huge numbers of Americans had their lives upset by the Depression. Tens of thousands of migrant farm workers traveled the nation looking for employment. Farming income fell some 50 percent and people went hungry because so much food was produced that production became unprofitable. Many Americans watched their homes and life savings be lost because of the stock market. Confidence in the market was lost and without that confidence investors pulled out and the market collapsed.(4)

America's unevenly distributed wealth played a role in the stock market crash and slowed the recovery. During the "Roaring Twenties" our country prospered tremendously, but our middle and lower class prospered little compared to the upper class. The upper class profits sky rocked and the distance between the classes grew out of control. In 1929 the top .1% had a combined income equal to the bottom 42 percent (2). Much of the money was in the hands of a few families who saved or invested rather than spent their money on American goods causing a greater supply than demand. Three quarters of the population maded just enough to purchase consumer goods. They relied heavy on credit to make purchases and had no savings to protect them (5). By 1929, some 200 corporations controlled over half of all American wealth (2). Most of the industries that were prospering and using their profits to improve manufacturing to the point by the market crash they were supplying more than the demand. Before the depression successful companies were ...

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...sez-faire" and relied heavy on market forces to achieve necessary economic corrections. But market forces alone are not always able to achieve the desired recovery in the economy. Whether in the form of taxation, industrial regulation, public works, social insurance, social welfare services, or deficit spending the government must assume a principal role in ensuring economic stability. New theories and ideas came out of the depression like Keynesian theory. Which states that recessions and depressions happen because people hoard their money and to fix this the government should do the opposite and spend money(5).

1. Baughman, Judith S. American Decades 1920-1929, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1996.

2.Gusmorino, Paul. "Main Causes of the Great Depression" (May 13 1996) Gusmorino World 30 July 2005

3.McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression. New York Times Books, 1984.

4. Samuelson, Robert. "The Great Depression" (2002) The Concise Encyclopedia Of Economics. 30 July 2005

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5. Schultz, Stanley "Crashing Hopes, the great Depression" (1999) American History 102 July 30 2005
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