Today’s Keynesian economists have convinced boobus Americanus that the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve being too tight with monetary policy and the Hoover administration not providing enough fiscal stimulus. Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama used this line of reasoning to ram through an $850 billion pork-laden stimulus package, as well as the purchase of $1.2 trillion of toxic mortgages by the Federal Reserve.
The only trouble is that this storyline is a complete sham.
The fact that colossal stimulus spending, zero interest rates, the purchase of over a trillion in toxic assets by the Fed, and the loosest monetary policy in history have done absolutely nothing to revitalize the economy, has proven that Keynesian policies have been a wretched failure. This is not a surprise to Austrian school economists.
Keynesian policies failed during the Great Depression, and they are failing today. An economic catastrophe caused by loose monetary policies, crushing levels of debt, and appalling lending practices cannot be solved by looser monetary policies, issuance of twice as much debt, and government commanding banks (or, in the case of Fannie and Freddie, “commandeering”) to make more bad loans.
Ludwig von Mises described what happened in the 1920s and 1930s. His explanation accurately illustrates the situation in America today.
“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought on by credit and fiat monetary expansion. The only question is whether the crisis should come sooner in the form of a recession or later as a final and total catastrophe of depression as the currency systems crumble.”
The Roaring Twenties
They don’t call the 1920s roaring because money wasn’t flowing freely and consumers were practicing frugality. The newly created Federal Reserve expanded credit by setting below-market interest rates and low reserve requirements that favored the big Wall Street banks. The Federal Reserve increased the money supply by 60% during the period following the recession of 1921. By the latter part of the decade, “buying on margin” entered the American vocabulary as more and more Americans overextended themselves to speculate on the soaring stock market.
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