Monday, June 03, 2002

the great depression GC passed on Res's assertion that "the Great Depression is a perfect example of what happens without some sort of governmental regulation." Now let me start out by saying that I'm no economic historian. But Res's idea that the Great Depression resulted from the "excesses" of Laissez-Faire capitalism is not as generally agreed-upon as you'd think from his statement. Milton Friedman, for instance, asserts
What happened was that from 1929 to 1933 you had a major contraction which, in my opinion, was caused primarily by the failure of the Federal Reserve System, to follow the course of action for which it was set up. It was set up to prevent exactly what happened from 1929 to 1933. But instead of preventing it, they facilitated it. The Depression, I may say, which started in 1929 was rather mild from 1929 to 1930. And, indeed, in my opinion would have been over in 1931 at the latest had it not been that the Federal Reserve followed a policy which led to bank failures, widespread bank failures, and led to a reduction in the quantity of money.
Similarly, the Austrians (one of whom I am not) argue that
The reasons for the Great Depression's severity were not, however, to be found in any inherent failure of the market economy, but rather in the political ideologies and government policies of the 1930s.
You should read and decide for yourself, of course. But I take the ideas of Friedman and Mises far more seriously than those of the discredited Keynes.

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