The New Deal/Howard Zinn

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November 5, 2009

New Deal Thesis/Howard Zinn

Zinn established the causes of the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression are capitalism. Capitalism is fundamentally unsound and is vulnerable to devastating ups and downs that cause havoc in society. As a result of unchecked industrial expansion through the second half of the 19th century, America’s wealth coalesced in the hands of the very few elite and left the balance of the country essentially poor. Mass production in factories quickly outstripped our capacity to consume. Though Zinn is correct that unsound banking practices, disparity in wealth and stock speculation contributes to the depression, he blindly attributes all the problems of the era on an economic model.

Johnson believes that government regulation and interference were the cause of the Crash of 1929. He sees the free market as a naturally occurring phenomenon that should be allowed to work through its growing pains with no government interference – that a balance would emerge, setting the economy on its new foundation, organically. Banking regulations, the creation of the Federal Reserve and other “manipulations” by well-meaning, but ignorant politicians, only prolonged the recovery. America was poised to prosper at the end of the 19th century. Had political leaders not been swayed by pockets of disgruntled, ungrateful people, the country would have sailed through the minor ups and downs of the first decade, with aplomb.

The consensus theory suggests that there were a multitude of factors that lead to the fall of the economy by the third decade of the new century. Industrialization was a new market condition, one that had enormous implications. The country had no previous experience with its impact on society or the economy. The world had never experienced a World War before and no one had prior knowledge of how a conflict of that scale would affect us. Institutions are notorious for snail-paced change. Our government, social...
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