Great Depression (1929-1939)

During the Great Depression, a bunch of people got really depressed and bummed around because they were bummed out. Then the people who still had houses to live in got bummed out because the bumming bums started bumming on their doorsteps, and things went from bad to worse until everyone was depressed and bummed out.

The source of their depression? Money.

What else? Not only is the love of money the root of all kinds of evil, it's also a sure barometer of health and happiness. Where money abounds, so does joy and laughter; where money is absent, sadness and its darker corollaries are certainly not. So it was in the Great Depression—the money was flowing, everyone was happy, then suddenly the waterfall of Benjamins was cut short and everyone found themselves down in the dumps (sometimes literally, looking for food).

The origins of the Great Depression (which was a worldwide event, not just a U. S. phenomenon) are not entirely clear. It lasted from 1929 through most of the '30s, and as much as it pains Austrian school economists, it was probably ended when the world powers got together for a big fight known as World War II. It may have begun with the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929, but it was certainly augmented by the Dust Bowl across the American South and Southwest.

Some thought the Depression was punishment for the moral anarchy of the 1920s. While there was plenty of dissipation in the Roaring '20s, there's no evidence that the moral squalor led directly or indirectly to the economic collapse of nations across the globe. And anyway, the following decades weren't much better on that score, so the theory's pretty shallow.

In all seriousness, the Great Depression was a period of great deprivation and sorrow. Unemployment soared, production plummeted, and there was starvation where recently there'd been plenty. The seemingly indestructible economies of the West were proved less than stable, and everyone got a little weak in the knees when they thought about the future.

It's never a good idea to use history purely for moralistic purposes, but this financial disaster does present an important lesson—peace and prosperity are never ensured, and there is no salvific power in money or wealth. In the Gilded Age, shortly before the Depression set in, people looked to material things for protection from all manner of evil. But looking to anything or anyone but God for protection is futile and destructive.

Are there things we can learn from this tragic period that relate to our own situation? Absolutely, though we'll leave others to figure out exactly what those are. We'd only encourage you to look at events like this from an eternal perspective rather than a man-centered one, because anthropocentric attitudes are precisely the kind that give way to this kind of social dissolution.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.


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Depression Years
by Arthur Rothstein
from Dover Publications
for 7th-Adult
in Clearance: History & Geography (Location: ZCLE-HIS)
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Labor's Untold Story
by Herbert M. Morais, Richard O. Boyer
3rd edition from United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of Amer
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in Industrialization & Organized Labor (Location: HISA-19IND)
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