Almost everywhere, the depression hit the poor harder than the rich. Peasants, unemployed workers, small traders—they all suffered from severe deprivation. Debtors were faced with debt service at constant rates whereas their incomes had declined considerably. The only beneficiaries were those who received fixed salaries as they could enjoy cheap food and a drop in the prices of most consumer goods. Those who were confronted with the depression, including politicians and economists, had no idea why all this had happened, and looked for scapegoats. Speculators, bankers and monopoly capitalists were blamed for the depression. Since scapegoats have to be named there were even more concrete allegations: the people in Wall Street, the Jews, etc. were at fault. Some people went a step further and constructed conspiracy theories. There must have been a deep laid plan behind all this to fool the people and to destroy their livelihood. In many countries this led to the rise of populism. Politicians tried to portray themselves as protectors of the people against these sinister forces. They usually had no idea of economic affairs, but they made up for this by impressive rhetoric. Wherever the political system had been dominated by a small upper class in previous years, such populist leaders managed to seize power and to cling to it by making arrangements with the upper classes without depending on them too much.
Populist politicians usually enlarged the apparatus of the state and introduced all kinds of controls and public works pro-