Rethinking the Great Depression: A New View of Its Causes and Consequences

Overview

The worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s was the most traumatic event of the twentieth century. It ushered in substantial expansions in the role of governments around the world, focused attention on social insurance, and for a time bolstered socialist economic ideas as a form of cure. Skepticism about the effectiveness of government withered as the free market failed, and it seems safe to say that Keynesian economics would not have flourished if the depression had not occurred. While this severe contraction ...

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Overview

The worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s was the most traumatic event of the twentieth century. It ushered in substantial expansions in the role of governments around the world, focused attention on social insurance, and for a time bolstered socialist economic ideas as a form of cure. Skepticism about the effectiveness of government withered as the free market failed, and it seems safe to say that Keynesian economics would not have flourished if the depression had not occurred. While this severe contraction has been extensively examined, we are just now—thanks to increasingly sophisticated analytical techniques—beginning to comprehend its causes and the reasons for the extremely slow recovery that occurred in the United States. Much of this analysis, though, remains in specialized studies that are visited mainly by economists and economic historians. In Rethinking the Great Depression, Gene Smiley draws upon this recent scholarship to present a clear and nontechnical analysis for the general reader. He explains the roots of the depression in the 1920s, the efforts of the New Deal to combat the economic crisis, and the legacy of these efforts in World War II and the postwar years. He offers new insights and some surprising conclusions: that the causes of the Great Depression lay in the dislocations caused by World War I and the attempt to reconstitute an international gold standard in the 1920s; that the New Deal, regardless of its good intentions, adopted misguided fiscal and monetary policies that prolonged the depression in the United States beyond what it should have been; that World War II, rather than stimulating an end to the depression, actually postponed a full recovery until 1946.

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Editorial Reviews

Business History Review
A slender but engaging volume, one approachable by the nonspecialist.
CHOICE
Economist Smiley . . . has produced . . . a slim and readable volume . . . in language that should be clear and understandable to students.
Claremont Review Of Books
An engaging, balanced, and perceptive short book. . . . Smiley brilliantly describes this tragedy and its long-term consequences.
Journal Of Economic Literature
Incorporates the findings of recent scholarship into an accessible survey of the economic events of the 1930s.
Liberty
Economic historian Gene Smiley has performed a valuable service for all readers, academic and general. . . . A concise description of the economic influences and course of the Great Depression.
Liberty Press
Economic historian Gene Smiley has performed a valuable service for all readers, academic and general. . . . A concise description of the economic influences and course of the Great Depression.
Public Choice
A book of equal value both to laypersons and to professional economists. . . . Well written.
— Jim F. Couch
The Historian
The author writes in a clear, engaging, and jargon-free style and does a good job of outlining the key events of the period for nonspecialists. Provides a handy introduction to the Great Depression.
The Journal Of Economic History
This is a careful, systematic review of literature on the Great Depression, not a once over treatment. . . . The book is well written, strives for comprehensiveness and balance.
Virginia Quarterly Review
A brief and provocative account. . . . Smiley knows the current literature well, and makes good use of it in his analysis.
Business History Review
...A slender but engaging volume, one approachable by the nonspecialist.
CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS
...An engaging, balanced, and perceptive short book.... Smiley brilliantly describes this tragedy and its long-term consequences
Journal of Southern History
...Cogent discussion of the knotty topics of monetary policy and international exchange.... Forceful presentation.
Public Choice
...A book of equal value both to laypersons and to professional economists.... Well written.
Booknews
Smiley (economics, Marquette U.) argues that the Great Depression was caused by too much government intervention in the economy, rather than too little regulation. He contends that tariffs and the reliance on the gold standard caused what should have been a minor recession into a depression and suggests that the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration caused the problem to linger for much longer than it should have. The New Deal legislation that has been left in place in the wake of the Great Depression continues to cause problems for the economy and should be scrapped, he concludes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566634724
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Gene Smiley is professor of economics at Marquette University and a specialist in economic theory and American economic history. He has also written The American Economy in the Twentieth Century. He lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Prosperity Gives Way to the Great Depression Chapter 2: What Caused the Great Depression?
Chapter 3: The First New Deal, 1933–1935
Chapter 4: The Recovery Aborted, 1935–1939
Chapter 5: The Legacy of the Great Depression

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