Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941

By Broadus Mitchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Descent and Deficit

DEPRESSIONS have characteristically taken the country by surprise; else speculation, the confident counting on continued expansion, would not have marked the preceding phase. The downturn of 1929 was conspicuous in this respect, as the elation which came before was extraordinarily uncalculating. Striking evidence of complacency shortly before the collapse is furnished by the report on Recent Economic Changes, 1 made by a committee of the President's Conference on Unemployment.The survey of the years 1922-1929, on which the committee's findings were based, was under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research "with the assistance of an unprecedented number of governmental and private agencies." The underlying investigations were carried out between January, 1928, and February, 1929, and the conclusions of the committee were drawn in the spring of 1929, about six months before the stock market crash and eight or nine months after indexes had shown declines in construction and important heavy industries. The chairman of the committee was Herbert Hoover; other members were leaders in finance, transportation, labor, science, and education.

Though "directed to make a critical appraisal of the factors of stability and instability" 2 and to suggest recommendations, the com-

____________________
1
Conference on Unemployment, Recent Economic Changes in the United States ( New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 2 vols., 1929), 950 pp.
2
Ibid., p. v.

-25-

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