The Great Depression: Lessons for Society, Economy, and Government
The Roaring 20s’ Economic Mirage
The Roaring 20s was one of the most prosperous times in American History. The Stock Market skyrocketed to the point where even the housemaid held an owner of one of the leading companies. Everybody had a roof, a car, and a radio of the new economic policies like installment plans and buying on margin. Capitalism was at its peak. However, like any roller-coaster, it had to come tumbling down. This downward spiral, also called The Great Depression, is generally coined along with high unemployment rates and people living in destitute conditions. Contrary to seeing the Great Depression in a bad light, it was vital for the improvement of the country socially, economically, and politically. The Great Depression is important as it improved our understanding of the economy, strengthened the federal government, and led to the making of important policies introduced in the New Deal, which are still prevalent today.
If a person does not hold knowledge of the consequences of one’s actions, one is walking with a blind eye. This was the situation in the early 1920s; everybody was following the norm of that time. This norm included buying the latest gadgets to the roof above their heads on credit. According to studies, consumers bought 60 to 75 percent of cars, 80 to 90 percent of furniture, and 80 percent of radios bought on credit. The amount spent on consumer goods had reached up to $ 7 billion dollars. They were indulging in the things they hadn’t worked for.
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Even President Herbert Hoover said during his campaigns in 1928, “We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. We shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.” (Herbert Hoover’s 1928 speech accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency). This was referred to as the prosperous times of the 1920s, as the number of millionaires during the peak of the stock market reached from 25,000 to 35,000. It was thought that the fortunate times of the ‘Roaring 20s’ was everlasting, and no sight of poverty would be seen on the face of the Earth.
Echoes of the Great Depression in Modern Crises and Societal Change”
Ignorance was definitely bliss in the 1920s. However, the unfortunate times which followed were not just a lesson for the consumers at that time but also set a precedent for future generations. It threw in some light what would happen if capitalism grasped the country. The Great Depression was more appreciated after The Great Recession of 2008, seeing how similar this slump was to the 1930s one. Parallelism can be drawn as both time periods had a large number of consumers buying on credit, i.e., the present credit card.
Also, the increased mortgage debt led to high consumer debt during both declining economies. The fact that the Great Recession did not proceed to another Depression is because of the economic policies passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his New Deal. Economic Policies like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Housing Administration helped overcome the decline. Also, it limited the Great Recession to 18 months as opposed to 10 years of the Great Depression.
Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, the people of America were subjected to Herbert Hoover’s conservative thoughts, where every citizen was independent.. ‘every man for himself,’ and the government had limited involvement. This further separated the people at that time because the situation was already worse, as men were ashamed of not fulfilling their role in a family, causing many of them to leave their families; women and ethnic groups like African Americans were subjected to discrimination and were regarded as the minority.
Coupled with young teenagers running away to distant places. The people had lost hope and were searching for certain guidance to overcome the Depression seeing that unemployment had reached 25%. When Franklin D. Roosevelt came with his more liberal mindset of helping the people out and increased government regulations brought the people together.
Transformative Impact of Crisis and Recovery
His ‘New Deal’ gave the people new hope and something to look forward to in the future. The policies expanded the federal government and strengthened it due to the increased number of federal agencies. The President’s fireside chats, which were radio broadcasts explaining the upcoming policies, gave a direct line between the people and the President himself! During his fireside chats, he addressed the people as ‘My Friends’ and ‘You’ and called himself ‘I,’ signifying that he cared at a personal level and used the simplest language to include every man, woman, and child. The fireside chat gave people an insight into the role Federal Government could have.
The radio broadcast was heard from the richest to the poorest families; this gave a sense of equality and unity across the country. People also wrote letters to the people to the President appreciating his policies; this also was a way of citizens exercising their civil rights. The trust of the people in the government increased, and the power was given to the government to save them.
The reason The Great Depression was important was due to the New Deal which followed. The Great Depression was merely the cause of the New Deal, which in turn made important policies that are still heavily incorporated in our present lives. The New Deal was a set of programs appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, which were made to overcome the Depression. Agencies like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security, and various other was established during the New Deal.
As mentioned before, these programs safeguarded the economy and increased the people’s faith in the government. Coupled with this, these new deal policies help people in different fields during a crisis. It sets up a system so that a country does not go into chaos during a time of emergency. For example, if your house gets blown away by a tornado, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will support you during this time. The policies provide a safety net for a person to support during bad times.
The Great Depression scarred men and women alike. However, it had its pros, as it safeguarded the economy afterward by preventing it from going too low. It also changed the public view of the government as their support. It also expanded and strengthened the Federal government and brought the people of the nation together. Finally, it made the government more systematic and gave life support to the citizens during a time of crisis. Overall, the Great Depression taught the people a lesson and helped to prevent it from happening again.
1.Herbert Hoover’s 1928 speech accepting the Republican nomination for the presidency.
2.Robert F. Himmelberg, published in 2001, which provides historical context and analysis of the Great Depression and its impact on the New Deal policies.
3.From Economic Crisis to Political Malaise” by Robert M. Collins, published in 2012, which discusses the similarities and differences between the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
4.Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats, which were a series of radio broadcasts where he explained and discussed his policies directly with the public.
5.Michael Hiltzik, published in 2011, which offers an in-depth exploration of the New Deal programs and their lasting impact on American society.
6.Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policies and guidelines, which provide information on disaster response and support programs for citizens.