Exploring Causes of The Great Depression

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Exploring Causes of The Great Depression

Introduction

The Wall Street crash of 29 Oct 1929 and the Great Depression that
followed were such a shock to most Americans that some early attempts
to explain their causes blamed sunspot activity or medieval prophecy.
A few held it to be divine retribution on a people who had indulged
themselves in a decade of hedonism after World War I and were due for
a sobering experience. Others recognized that the 1920s had brought
hints of an agricultural recession, amid uninhibited business
speculation.

No philosophical consensus

The efforts of economic historians to understand and explain the
causes of the Great Depression of the 1930s have been characterized by
a degree of `theological´ controversy. This divides adherents of the
various economic philosophies, communist and capitalist, monetarist
from Keynesian and others. Their lack of consensus in explaining the
Great Depression stems from these distinctive philosophical starting
points.

The price of `get rich quick´

In summary, the Wall Street crash was caused by excessive speculation
in the stock market during the late 1920s. This was a symptom of the
feverish `get rich quick´ mentality that had accompanied almost a
decade of growth following post-war reconversion. Then the over-valued
commodity markets suddenly lost confidence, and prices tumbled.

This set in motion a sequence of disasters that became an economic
catastrophe for the richest nation in the world. Banks collapsed,
businesses went bankrupt, unemployment soared, welfare organizations
could not cope with the rising tide of destitution and politicians
seemed powerless to break the vicious downward spiral of American
industrial capitalism.

The president's view

The president at the time of the crash, Herbert Hoover, blamed the
calamity in part on international factors. He argued that world trade
had deteriorated in the late 1920s because European states had not
...

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