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Australian History Essay

1622 words - 6 pages

Nature: Also called the depression or slump of 1929, the economic slump in North America, Europe and other industrialised areas of the world began in 1929 and lasted until around 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experiences by the industrialised Western World. The depression affected all areas of life, socially, economically and politically and had far reaching consequences and effects that were felt well into the future of the world's rehabilitation.Origin The Great Depression, as such began with the catastrophic collapse of stock market prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929. During the next 3 years stock prices continued to fall drastically in an action know as the "˜downward spiral' in economic activity, and by late 1932 stock prices had fallen by over 20% of their 1929 values. There were several "˜causes' of the great depression: 1. Unequal Distribution of Wealth and Income Despite rising wages overall, income distribution was extremely unequal. Gaps in income had actually increased since the 1890s. The 1% of the population at the very top of the pyramid had incomes 650% greater than those 11% of Americans at the bottom of the pyramid. The tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of the few meant that the American economy was dependent on high investment or luxury spending of the rich. However, both high spending and high investment are very susceptible to fluctuations in the economy; they are much less stable than people's expenses on daily necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Therefore, when the market crashed and the economy tumbled, both big spending and big investment collapsed.2. Unequal Distribution of Corporate Power From the late 1870s on, there had been an ongoing movement of consolidations and mergers. During World War I, many would-be competitors were merged into huge corporations like General Electric, making competition nearly nonexistent. In 1929 two hundred of the biggest corporations controlled 50% of the corporate wealth in America. This concentration of wealth meant that if just a few companies went under after the Crash, the whole economy would suffer.3. Bad Banking Structure In the 1920s, banks were opening at the rate of 4-5 per day, but with few federal restrictions to determine how much start-up capital a bank needed or how much of its reserves it could lend. As a result, most of these banks were highly insolvent; between 1923 and 1929, banks closed at the rate of two a day. Until the stock market crash in 1929, prosperity covered up the flaws in the banking system.4. Foreign Balance of Payments World War I had turned the U.S. from a debtor nation into a creditor nation. In the aftermath of the war, the U.S. was owed more money -- from both the victorious Allies and the defeated Central Powers -- than it owed to foreign nations. The Republican administrations of the 1920s insisted on payments in gold bullion, but the world's gold supply was limited and...

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