The Great Depression Essay – The Worst of Times
Simply put, it was a time in our history when we experienced the worst economic circumstances in all of our history – bank failures, terribly high unemployment, wages that could not support families, and high rate of home foreclosures. Does this sound familiar? It should.
A Look at the Causes of the Great Depression
The 1920’s came in like a tornado. World War I was over, and people were happy about that. Prohibition was also in effect, and people were not very happy about that. Jazz and the Charleston dance were the rage. Women cut their hair and raised their skirt lengths; men drove flashy convertibles. Life was good.
But the warning signs were there. Banks were lending money wildly – to startup businesses, to real estate developers, and to individuals who wanted to buy homes and cars; stock brokerage firms were loaning money to people so they could invest in the Stock Market, and companies that were selling that stock were selling more than their companies were worth. Lots of risks were being taken with no government regulations to curtail them. It was a time of “do whatever you want.” Unfortunately, that behavior cannot last forever and the cracks began to appear in the summer of 1929. They soon became trenches and, in October of that year, the Stock Market crashed. That was followed by “runs” on the banks, as people tried to get their money out. The banks did not have the money – they had lent it all out. Banks failed. Companies went bankrupt, and people lost their jobs. So, if you need to write an essay on any of these causes, you can easily compare them to the “crash” of 2008 and then explain why were able to avert a depression this time around.
The Effects of the Great Depression
Many of the effects were outlined for you above – high unemployment, loss of life savings, home foreclosures, and so on.
Enter Franklin Roosevelt
The short-term effects of the Great Depression were devastating, and in 1932 the country changed course and elected a Democrat to the White House, giving control of Congress to the Democrats as well. Thus began a series of programs, new laws and regulations, and controls on lending institutions that were designed to prevent this from every happening again. And most of those regulations and laws are still in effect today. But monied people and financial institutions have a way of finding methods to “skirt” the regs, and that is why it all came crashing down again.
There are so many possibilities. You can look at a single cause, a single effect; you can look at how society coped; you can look at the fights in Congress as each new relief bill or program was introduced. And, even more interesting, you can compare the causes and effects of the Great Depression with the financial crisis of 2008. The Great Depression was a “dark” but fascinating piece of American history. We need to study it a bit more as we still seek solutions.