What Ended the Great Depression?
Alyssa Hertig is an HNN intern and an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.
Contrary to the popular view, the New Deal did not, at least depending on who you ask. Some conservative economists believe the New Deal possibly extended its length. What everybody agrees ended the Great Depression was World War II marked the end of the Great Depression. Liberal economists point to the vast increase in government spending during the war as a reason for the end of the Depression. (Of course, organized labor had its own plans for the recovery, and some economists still dispute the centrality of the war in ending the Depression.)
One may ask how on earth a war could bring economic prosperity to a nation. War is a machination for destruction, not production. Common results of war include the bombing of buildings and infrastructure, the loss of human lives and an emphasis on the production of war materiel rather than products that actually enhance a person’s status and happiness—like refrigerators, clothes, food, radios and medical advancements.
America was not bombed to pieces. Besides the atrocities of Pearl Harbor, American land was untouched by the destruction that Europe, Northern Africa and Japan faced.
Factories were geared up and ready from the rapid construction of war materiel. After the war these factories would transition to building more convenient appliances for Americans.
Many feared that after the war, the Great Depression would resume. Therefore, FDR had a long list of reforms he wished to implement. Harry Truman, who succeeded him just prior to the end of the war, advocated these reforms, but Congress wouldn't go along. The New Deal had had long ago run out of steam. As postwar economy boomed, the pressure for reform dissipated.
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