GREAT DEPRESSION IN U.S.
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Analysis of the Great Depression of 1929-1939.... More...
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Analysis of the Great Depression of 1929-1939. Speculatin on causes as depicted in three books. Lack of government regulations on business, market speculators, Capitalist system. Government's role in overcoming the Depression. Social welfare initiatives. The New Deal programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Emergence of black voters & transfer of political loyalty from Republican to Democrat. Contends there is no satisfactory answer to why the Depression lasted as long as it did.
THREE VIEWS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION IN THE U.S. Paul Johnson, in his A History of the American People calls the Depression and its length as “mysterious”. He is not the only one to try to figure out what happened and why and how, but what he begins his Depression era chapter with is: “What is puzzling about the events of the decade of 1929-39 is the continuing severity of the market falls and the length and obstinacy of the Depression” (Johnson, 1997, p. 727). While he explains that America, in the Twenties tended to let business run their own arrangements without much, if any, government regulation or impediments. American business was pro5tected by high tariff, instituted by pro-business Republican Presidents. So, what happened? The villain, Johnson implies, is inflation that was allowed to run wild. And, a surprising fact, the 1920s “growing”
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1264).But, there seemed to be a de facto Black Cabinet of some thirty to forty advisers in government departments and agencies, people who were wrestling with racial issues and the plight of the African Americans. Itwould have been a pittance, compared to what it cost under the New Deal.There is no doubt, according to Johnson, that Hoover is the villain. In fact, Zinn hits that "greednot need" point home when he writes "There were millions of tons of foodaround, but it was not profitable to transport it, to sell it" (Zinn, 1995,p. It is difficult top decide whether this was asmug right-wing remark, or whether it was a sincere explanation of what theNew Deal was all about. 1264-5).As we know, today most blacks still are loyal to the Democrats (and thereare still many African Americans named "Roosevelt"). Zinn, H. 377). 739). Johnson, butcalling one of his chapters "The Failure of the Great Engineer makes Hooverthe scapegoat, and Franklin D. One wonders how long itwould have gone on, if it had not been for World War II boosting theeconomy and developing new jobs. Roosevelt the white knight. Heaccuses him of not working very hard as Secretary of Commerce, andinflating that department's bureaucracy, and then, seeming to be ignorantof economic conditions that already showed signs of the problems to come."When Hoover took over the Presidency in 1929, the mechanism of the WallStreet debacle was already whirring" (Johnson, 1997, p. What FDR and a supportive Congress did,at the very outset of his first term is to create "initiatives (that)provided the foundation for what came to be called welfare capitalism"(Tindall, 1999, p. 378). While he explainsthat America, in the Twenties tended to let business run their ownarrangements without much, if any, government regulation or impediments.American business was pro5tected by high tariff, instituted by pro-businessRepublican Presidents. During the 193 's the NAACP's legal campaign gathered momentum...Like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt did not give a high priority to racial issues. Of thethree books, this one gives far more coverage of the various governmentalactions taken to try to stem the downward spiral of the Depression. Tindall and Shi focus on the government's role in overcoming at leastthe human misery of the Depression. What none of the books explain adequately is why the Depression lastedso long- even with all the new Deal legislation. He is not the only one to try tofigure out what happened and why and how, but what he begins his Depressionera chapter with is: "What is puzzling about the events of the decade of1929-39 is the continuing severity of the market falls and the length andobstinacy of the Depression" (Johnson, 1997, p. 1239). This is soobvious when Johnson writes: "The most welcome thing about Franklin D.Roosevelt at the time was that he was not Hoover" (Johnson, 1997, p 747).Johnson does not really go into detail of how the Depression affected theordinary American citizen, which tends to make the book somewhat elitist. References Johnson, P.: (1997) A History of the American People New York:HarperCollins Books Tindall, G. (1995) A People's History of the United States New York:HarperPerennial But, since the booksare about American history in general, at best (except for more details inTindall) we get a fast overview of one of the worst decades since thefounding of America. Far more than Zinn and Johnson, one gets the feeling of anactivist President. What is interesting is to see where some ofthe "initials" that are still in the news- the SEC and the TVA, and theFDIC among others, were founded and what their original purpose was. The rest was speculation, and when the market began to drop,eventually ending in that Black Friday, "speculators were sold out as theyfailed to respond to margin calls...(and there came) the first selling ofsound stocks in order to provide desperately needed liquidity (Johnson,1997, p.735). Moreover by 1936, many black voters were fast transferring their political loyalty from Republicans to Democrats (Tindall, 1999, p. The book does spend many pages describing the woes and travails ofthose hardest hit- those who did not have stocks or bank accounts of anysize, but those whose companies went out of business, and whose governmentpensions stopped. Thefact that so many of the government's legislation is still around as a sortof safeguard and a buffer from any sort of major Depression ever affectingthe country again, tells us how effective the New Deal's foresight was. All three books cover parts of the Depression. It seems, therefore, on first reading of Johnson's coverageof the Great Depression that it was caused by those few -- several thousandno more -- speculators, who had driven up the market, pulled other novicesinto it, and then, when the bubble burst, the entire country was in aDepression. It is also interesting to note that Tindall is the only one that makesan issue of the emerging black voters and some of the legal setbacks, suchas the famous "Scottsboro Boys" case. The gist of Tindall's view of the early Rooseveltwas his own rhetoric: "Above all, try something" (Tindall, 1999, p. So, what happened? THREE VIEWS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION IN THE U.S. And, a surprising fact, the 192 s"growing" economy really was fueled by the automobile industry not by verymuch else. Chances are, such economic devastation cannot happenagain. Zinn puts the blame on the inability of thegovernment and the economy to support a strong capitalist system: "thecapitalist system was by its nature unsound: a system driven by the oneoverriding motive of corporate profit and therefore unstable,unpredictable, and blind to human needs" (Zinn, 1995, p.377-8). theRepublicans) should be grateful to the innovations of the New Deal. We are not bogged down in economic details or dollarsor percents in Tindall's work. One byone, from banking to agriculture, the "action" taken by the President and awilling Congress, point out exactly what happened and explained theresults. 1234).What was tried, as Tindall pointed out in a sort of chronology ofRoosevelt's first hundred days was that "Congress received and enactedfifteen major proposals from the president with a dizzying speed unlikeanything seen before in American history" (Tindall, 1999, p. Paul Johnson, in his A History of the American People calls theDepression and its length as "mysterious". As a consequence, many of his New Deal programs failed to help minorities (Tindall, 1999, p. The villain, Johnson implies, isinflation that was allowed to run wild. Onerealizes that this book covers the entire "American experience" andtherefore too many pages cannot be wasted on this decade of Depression, butit somehow seems unfair to claim that Capitalism is anything BUT corporateprofit-seeking. 727). Capitalism (and after all, didn't Marx start all this?) isnot founded on taking care of human need. Johnson also blames Hoover, "who refused to use public moneyand government power to refloat the economy" (Johnson, 1997, p.735). Norton & Co. For that, even those who believe in "less government" (i.e. B., and Shi, D E.: (1999): America: A Narrative HistoryNew York: W.W. Howard Zinn explains at least the beginning of the Depression -- thatis, the Wall Street crash as due to the fact that "it came directly fromwild speculation which collapsed and brought the whole economy down withit" (Zinn, 1995, p. 1232).
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