Thomas Sowell reviews the book "Out of Work" by Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallawa, which, among other things, counters the idea that it was the depression that cause the subsequent unemployment problem.  But as Sowell notes, the historical stats say something completely different.

Those who think that the stock market crash in October 1929 is what caused the huge unemployment rates of the 1930s will have a hard time reconciling that belief with the data in that table.

Although the big stock market crash occurred in October 1929, unemployment never reached double digits in any of the next 12 months after that crash. Unemployment peaked at 9 percent, two months after the stock market crashed– and then began drifting generally downward over the next six months, falling to 6.3 percent by June 1930.

This was what happened in the market, before the federal government decided to "do something."

That "something" was government intervention.

What the government decided to do in June 1930– against the advice of literally a thousand economists, who took out newspaper ads warning against it– was impose higher tariffs, in order to save American jobs by reducing imported goods.

This was the first massive federal intervention to rescue the economy, under President Herbert Hoover, who took pride in being the first President of the United States to intervene to try to get the economy out of an economic downturn.

Within six months after this government intervention, unemployment shot up into double digits– and stayed in double digits in every month throughout the entire remainder of the decade of the 1930s, as the Roosevelt administration expanded federal intervention far beyond what Hoover had started.

Oh, and there was another stock market crash, more recently, that did not result in huge unemployment.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

The very fact that we still remember the stock market crash of 1929 is remarkable, since there was a similar stock market crash in 1987 that most people have long since forgotten.

What was the difference between these two stock market crashes? The 1929 stock market crash was followed by the most catastrophic depression in American history, with as many as one-fourth of all American workers being unemployed. The 1987 stock market crash was followed by two decades of economic growth with low unemployment.

But that was only one difference. The other big difference was that the Reagan administration did not intervene in the economy after the 1987 stock market crash– despite many outcries in the media that the government should "do something."

Hat tip to Don Sensing, who has some charts and graphs to help point this out.

Filed under: DougEconomics & Taxes

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