The General Theory of Employment, Interest & Money

The General Theory of Employment, Interest & Money

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Capitalism is not for the faint of heart. It is a system of supply and demand that reduces real workingmen and workingwomen into graphs and equations subject to “aggregate” observations devoid of any real human factors. If left to regulate itself, the economy should remain in check and avoid dangerously radical changes in productivity, orthodox economists maintain. How then do we explain terrible recessions such as the Great Depression, where unemployment figures were seen as high as 25% with still more underemployed and working far below their experience and capability? Shouldn’t the system have corrected itself before such dire circumstances were created? Economists reply simply: workers are unwilling to accept lower wages during times of decline, and would rather quit thus jeopardizing the beautifully constructed, but apparently fragile, classical theory of economics. And if these arguments were not effective, there was always the fallback plan of declaring “Social Darwinism,” with the Great Depression serving as a perfect opportunity to weed out the worst employees and only the best would emerge victorious at some unforeseeable future date.
In the first few months following an explosion of depressed economic data in 1929, perhaps the population would nervously accept these postulates. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon even insisted that “values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wreck from less-competent people.” But as the Depression deepened by 1932, and food lines grew, such disregard for the well being of average working Americans would no longer be tolerated. Other economic systems such as socialism and Marxism became attractive. Politicians like Hughie P. Long rose to power with popular slogans that advocated “Share our Wealth” and “Every Man a King.”
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