THE THIRTIES VIEWED AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF EARLIER CYCLES
THE Great Depression, beginning in 1929, which had only partially been overcome, at any rate in the United States, by the end of the thirties, has been characterized as something quite unique in the long history of business cycles. To be sure, in a sense every cycle is unique and has special characteristics of its own. When, however, it is said that the Great Depression was a unique phenomenon, something else is meant than the ordinary degree of variation in duration and depth which we find from cycle to cycle.
There is not, however, unanimity of opinion among business cycle students with respect to the uniqueness of the Great Depression. There are those who hold that the severity of this depression and the difficulty of overcoming it fit quite well into the general scheme of cycle development over the last one hundred and fifty years.
Whether the Great Depression was indeed unique or not, it is at any rate true that it will be much better understood if it is set off against the background of the history of business cycle movements. To do so, it is necessary to differentiate various cycles or wavelike movements in the process of modern economic development.
Whether these movements may strictly be characterized as cyclical is at least debatable. Some would defend the use of the term "fluctuations" as more accurate, since the movements of output, employment, and prices vary so greatly from time