Remembering the Great Depression on account of economic crisis in Wall Street

Posted on October 6, 2008. Filed under: Business, History |

Jeremy Conroy, 13, sells apples in front of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008 in New York. Conroy is reenacting a scene of boys selling apples during the Great Depression. He is donating any profits to the Obama campaign.

The worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s was a watershed for both economic thought and economic policymaking. It led to the belief that market economies are inherently unstable and to the revolutionary work of John Maynard Keynes. It’s impact on popular economic wisdom is still apparent today. Now in the face of recent crisis in US and western markets i thought of remembering the Great Depression of 1930’s arguably the largest depression in modern history, so that you might get an insight into what actually a depression is? and what would be it’s effect’s ?. After reading this article you may predict partially where we are going to land up due to this recent crisis in Worldwide markets.

INTRODUCTION

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn starting in most places in 1929 and ending at different times in the 1930s or early 1940s for different countries. It was the largest and most important economic depression in modern history, and is used in the 21st century as a benchmark on how far the world’s economy can fall. The Great Depression originated in the United States; historians most often use as a starting date the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. The end of the depression in the U.S. is associated with the onset of the war economy of World War II, beginning around 1939.,

The depression had devastating effects both in the developed and developing, largely still-colonized world. International trade was deeply affected, as were personal incomes, tax revenues, prices, and profits. Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on heavy industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by 40 to 60 percent. Facing plummeting demand with few alternate sources of jobs, areas dependent on primary sector industries such as farming, mining and logging suffered the most. Even shortly after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, optimism persisted. John D. Rockefeller said that “These are days when many are discouraged. In the 93 years of my life, depressions have come and gone. Prosperity has always returned and will again.”

The Great Depression ended at different times in different countries; for subsequent history see Home front during World War II. The majority of countries set up relief programs, and most underwent some sort of political upheaval, pushing them to the left or right. In some states, the desperate citizens turned toward nationalist demagogues – the most infamous being Adolf Hitler – setting the stage for World War II in 1939.

CAUSES

The causes of the Great Depression are still a matter of active debate among economists. The specific economic events that took place during the Great Depression have been studied thoroughly: a deflation in asset and commodity prices, dramatic drops in demand and credit, and disruption of trade, ultimately resulting in widespread poverty and unemployment. However, historians lack consensus in describing the causal relationship between various events and the role of government economic policy in causing or ameliorating the Depression. One popular theory is that the Depression was caused by the vast economic boom in the 1920s, and that by the time the boom reached its peak in 1929, investors became fearful of their stock shares as markets expanded some focus to Europe, which still had nations that were economically damaged from World War I.

Current theories may be broadly classified into three main points of view.

  • First, there is orthodox classical economics: monetarist, Austrian Economics and neoclassical economic theory, all of which focus on the macroeconomic effects of money supply and the supply of gold which backed many currencies before the Great Depression, including production and consumption.
  • Second, there are structural theories, most importantly Keynesian, but also including those of institutional economics, that point to underconsumption and overinvestment (economic bubble), malfeasance by bankers and industrialists, or incompetence by government officials. The only consensus viewpoint is that there was a large-scale lack of confidence. Unfortunately, once panic and deflation set in, many people believed they could make more money by keeping clear of the markets as prices got lower and lower and a given amount of money bought ever more goods.
  • Third, there is the Marxist critique of political economy. This emphasizes contradictions within capital itself (which is viewed as a social relation involving the appropriation of surplus value) as giving rise to an inherently unbalanced dynamic of accumulation resulting in an overaccumulation of capital, culminating in periodic crises of devaluation of capital. The origin of crisis is thus located firmly in the sphere of production, though economic crisis can be aggravated by problems of disproportionality between spheres of production and the underconsumption of the masses.

There were multiple causes for the first downturn in 1929, including the structural weaknesses and specific events that turned it into a major depression and the way in which the downturn spread from country to country. In relation to the 1929 downturn, historians emphasize structural factors like massive bank failures and the stock market crash, while economists (such as Peter Temin and Barry Eichengreen) point to Britain’s decision to return to the Gold Standard (CLICK HERE TO KNOW MORE) at pre-World War I parities (US$4.86:£1).

For more detailed information see : The Main Causes of Great Depression

Effects


Australia


This image is a photograph of over 1000 unemployed men marching from the Esplanade to the Treasury Buildings in Perth, Western Australia, to see Premier Sir James Mitchell.

Australia’s extreme dependence on agricultural and industrial exports meant it was one of the hardest-hit countries in the Western world, amongst the likes of Canada and Germany. Falling export demand and commodity prices placed massive downward pressures on wages. Further, unemployment reached a record high of almost 32% in 1932, with incidents of civil unrest becoming common. After 1932, an increase in wool and meat prices led to a gradual recovery [more…]


Canada

Harshly impacted by both the global economic downturn and the Dust Bowl, Canadian industrial production had fallen to only 58% of the 1929 level by 1932, the second lowest level in the world after the United States, and well behind nations such as Britain, which saw it fall only to 83% of the 1929 level. Total national income fell to 55% of the 1929 level, again worse than any nation apart from the United States. [more…]

Unemployed men hop train. Canada.


East Asia

The Great Depression in East Asia was of minor impact. The Japanese economy shrank by 8% 1929–31. However, with the invasion and subjugation of Manchuria into a Japanese puppet-state in September 1931, thus providing Japan with raw materials and energy, the Japanese economy was able to recover by 1932 and continued to grow.


France

The Depression began to affect France from about 1931. France’s relatively high degree of self-sufficiency meant the damage was considerably less than in nations like Germany. However, hardship and unemployment were high enough to lead to rioting and the rise of the socialist Popular Front. [more…]


Germany

Germany’s Weimar Republic was hit hard by the depression, as American loans to help rebuild the German economy now stopped. Unemployment soared, especially in larger cities, and the political system veered toward extremism. Repayment of the war reparations due by Germany were suspended in 1932 following the Lausanne Conference of 1932. By that time Germany had repaid 1/8th of the reparations. Hitler’s Nazi Party came to power in January 1933. In 1934 the economy was still not balanced enough for Germany to work on its own. [more…]


Latin America

Because of high levels of United States investment in Latin American economies, they were severely damaged by the Depression. Within the region, Chile, Bolivia and Peru were particularly badly affected. One result of the Depression in this area was the rise of fascist movements. [more…]


Netherlands


From roughly 1931 until 1937, the Netherlands suffered a deep and exceptionally long depression. This depression was partly caused by the after-effects of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 in the United States, and partly by internal factors in the Netherlands. Government policy, especially the very late dropping of the Gold Standard, played a role in prolonging the depression. The Great Depression in the Netherlands led to some political instability and riots, and can be linked to the rise of the Dutch national-socialist party NSB. The depression in the Netherlands eased off somewhat at the end of 1936, when the government finally dropped the Gold Standard, but real economic stability did not return until after World War II. [more…]


South Africa

As world trade slumped, demand for South African agricultural and mineral exports fell drastically. It is believed that the social discomfort caused by the depression was a contributing factor in the 1933 split between the “gesuiwerde” (purified) and “smelter” (fusionist) factions within the National Party and the National Party’s subsequent fusion with the South African Party. [more…]


Soviet Union

Having removed itself from the capitalist world system both by choice and as a result of efforts of the capitalist powers to isolate it, the Great Depression had little effect on the Soviet Union. This was a period of industrial expansion for the USSR as it recovered from revolution and civil war, and its apparent immunity to the Great Depression seemed to validate the theory of Marxism and contributed to Socialist and Communist agitation in affected nations. This in turn increased fears of Communist revolution in the West, strengthening support for anti-Communists, both moderate and extreme. [more…]

In United Kingdom

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In United States

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In Literature

The U.S. Depression has been the subject of much writing, as the country has sought to re-evaluate an era that caused emotional as well as financial trauma to its people. Perhaps the most noteworthy and famous novel written on the subject is The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded both the Nobel Prize for literature and the Pulitzer Prize for the work. The novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers who are forced from their home as drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agricultural industry occur during the Great Depression. Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is another important novel about a journey during the Great Depression. The Great Depression is a novella written by Alon Bersharder about a sad, disgruntled temporary worker, making the title both a homage to the historical event and a pun. Additionally, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was set during the Great Depression.

Now after reading about this Great Depression somewhere in 1930’s try to compare this with the present situtaion in Wall Street – The Economic Tsunami on Wall Street, and predict the consequences.


What is your say???

Your comments and suggestions are greatly entertained.


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