Sunday, December 6, 2015

Events During the 1930's That Changed the World Forever

The 1930’s was one of the most historically tumultuous and eventful periods of time during the 20th century. Indeed, a lot of the modern world, as we know it, was shaped by many of the events that occurred during this fascinating decade. 

The stark contrast of some of the period’s events are extreme. While artists and entertainers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were creating some of their best work on the silver screen, in Europe the most influential dictator in the history of the world was rising to prominence. 

This kind of dialectic was common in this time, during which certain things happened that forever altered the fabric of our society. Here’s a list of some events in the 1930’s that changed the world forever...

The Great Depression

The 1930’s was a decade marked by a long period of economic downturn that spread over the entire world. This event was called the Great Depression. And it set the stage for much of what would happen later on in this time. 

Towards the end of 1929, the stock market had crashed, which is when historians officially mark the start of the Great Depression. However, the stock market crash isn’t necessarily the cause of the Depression, but more of a symptom of it. Explanations for the economic decline are varied, and depend largely on one’s viewpoint. 

During this time, unemployment and poverty began to soar, causing great discontent amongst the populace as the standard of living began to drop. 

While this Depression affected the entire world, no country was hit as hard as the United States, which was never able to fully recover until it entered World War II.

This Depression created a great air of economic uncertainty that still persists in the world today. It showed that the United States, and other industrialized countries, that its economy was never really safe from decline, no matter how booming it might be right before it happens. 

This sort of uncertainty has bred government distrust that looms many political debates today. All of this eventually led to the creation of the New Deal, a group of stimulus programs meant to inspire the economy and put the country back to work. 

This fundamentally changed the purported relationship between government and the economy.

Rise of Nazism

Adolf Hitler, a man who needs no introduction, rose to power during the 1930s. In 1933, Hitler and his National Socialist party were elected all across the German government. Hitler himself was elected as the Chancellor of Germany. 

The Nazi Party established a government that was committed to reversing the Treaty of Versailles, creating a pure German society by removing minority elements (such as Jews, homosexuals, and disabled people), fighting communism, and expanding German territory. 

Unfortunately for most, the Nazis were incredibly efficient in carrying out this agenda. Germany quickly expanded territory by invading Sudetenland and Austria, without any opposition from the rest of Europe.

In 1938, after the assassination of a German diplomat named Ernst Vom Rath by a German-Polish Jew, the Nazi government carried out a large scale assault on the Jewish population, as a means of retaliation. 

At the hands of the SS, the Gestapo, and even Hitler’s Youth, around 90 Jews were killed, and 30,000 more arrested. This was a precursor for later events. In 1934, Paul von Hindenburg, the President of Germany, died. 

Hitler and his cabinet passed a law that moved all powers of President and Chancellor to Hitler, thus assuring a totalitarian government.

Keynes vs. Hayek

The 1930’s set the stage for the most influential debate that the world has ever had. This particular debate would come to greatly influence our modern world, and change the economic structure in which we all exist. 

This battle of ideology was between theories of economic interventionist policy and classical economic theory. In particular, this was a debate between the British economist, John Maynard Keynes, and an Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek

During the Great Depression, there was a good deal of arguing on how best to handle the economy and its recovery. Keynes believed that the free market couldn’t revitalize itself on its own, and the inevitable contraction would cause any stabilization to be too weak to support the population, thus the only way to fix the economy was to use public spending to reinvigorate private investment.

Hayek believed the opposite of this. He believed that any increased spending would only serve to keep afloat the very financial groups that wrecked the economy. 

His proposition was to let the economy fall to its natural conclusion so that it could begin to enjoy real, sustainable growth. Ultimately, however, the world today looks much more like how Keynes had imagined it. 

His interventionist policies were largely accepted by leaders like FDR, Neville Chamberlain, and Winston Churchill. For more information on Keynes and Hayek, check out this blog post here.

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