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Because the Great Depression years were such a watershed in American history, they have been the subject of intense scrutiny in a vast amount of scholarship. The personalities of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, their policies and programs, the ideologies from which these programs arose, the changing political alignments, and the rise of the New Deal coalition are fully represented in Depression and New Deal scholarship. Yet, at the core of these developments remains an economic calamity of overwhelming proportions. The Depression is the subject of such intense scrutiny precisely because the American economy collapsed, ushering in an era of change. The collapse of the economy brought immense suffering and hardship to millions of Americans; the severity of this crisis necessitated the dramatic institutional reforms which have endured to this day.

Three conclusions about the Great Depression warrant examination and defense:

1. The Great Depression was the result of an unstable economic structure which was toppled by the Crash of 1929.

2. The dominance of traditional classical economic theories prevented Hoover and Roosevelt from enacting the measures needed to lift the nation out of the Depression.

3. The New Deal was an economic failure, but was an era of real and true reform in America.

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This issue is also considered v.4 of the initial publication series of Major Themes in Economics.


© 1988 by the Board of Student Publications, University of Northern Iowa



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