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GreatDepression And Its Causes

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    The causes of the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s has been argued about for generations. Most people agree on several key topics and that it was the severity and length of time the Depression lasted that was actually the most remarkable. Hoover made many noteworthy attempts to try and solve this crisis, yet in the end it was President Roosevelt and his “New Deal”, that brought many Americans hope for the future. The first factor in the start of the Depression was the lack of diversity in the American Economy. It relied strongly on only a few basic industries, notably the construction and automobile industries. In the 1920’s those 2 industries began a rapid decline: construction became scarce and fell from 11 billion to under 9 billion between 1926 and 1929. The automotive industry fell more than one third in the first nine months of 1929. Second, there was a maldistribution of purchasing power, and as a result a weakness in consumer demand. As major industries increased, the percent of profits going to consumers was to small to create adequate market for the goods the economy was producing. A third major problem was the credit structure of the economy. Farmers were greatly in debt, and crop prices were extremely low. Small banks were in trouble, many customers defaulting on their loans. Big banks were in trouble as well, many investing recklessly in the stock market then losing it all when the stock market crashed in 1929. The fourth factor was Americas position in the international trade market. In the late 20’s, Europe’s demand for American goods began to decline, partly because their industry was becoming more productive and partially because their economy was destabilized from the international debt structure that emerged in the aftermath of WW1. The international debt structure was a fifth and final factor contributing to the Great Depression. At the end of the war in 1918, all the European nations that had been allied with the US owed large sums of money to American banks and could not repay them with their shattered economies. The reparation payments were needed greatly from Germany and Austria, yet they were no more able to pay than the Allies were. This caused American banks to begin making large loans to European governments which they used to pay off their earlier loans, really only piling up debts. The collapse of the international credit structure in 1931 was one of the reasons the Depression spread to Europe.

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