“Nothin’s wrong with this country that ain’t only just temporary.” Diamond Jim Brady was speaking for many Americans when he made that statement of faith in America’s capitalist system. The year was 1895, and the nation was two years into a deep economic depression. The country had been through other depressions before, the most recent starting in 1873, and had always recovered quickly. Soon Brady’s prediction would come true; within a couple years the country would start another period of strong economic growth.
Before the 1930’s the United States had suffered, and quickly recovered from, many economic depressions. Until Herbert Hoover became president in 1929 the federal government made little pretense of being able to legislate prosperity. The usual government response to recessions and depressions was to trim spending a little, in response to the reduction in tax revenues, and just wait for movers and shakers like Diamond Jim Brady to re-build the nation’s economy.
The depression of the 30’s was the first one to which the government responded with massive increases in spending; and it would turn out to be the one that hurt the nation the most, and lasted the longest. But don’t expect to hear that in a typical college history class; today’s mostly left-leaning college faculties are teaching their young charges that the Great Depression of the 1930’s was an unprecedented event that could only be overcome through massive government spending and a restructuring of the economy under strict government control.