chapter  11
19 Pages

Depression and New Deal

I T is impossible to obtain a correct understanding of the experience of the American economy in the 1930's if that experience is regarded in isolation from what went before —and especially if it is regarded in isolation from the hectic life of the '20's. For America approached the 1930V in buoyant mood. Between 1919 and 1929 both total production and production per hour of work in manufacturing industry rose more rapidly than in any preceding decade of American history. The national real income per head did not, it is true, rise so rapidly-it did not rival the rate of increase of the '90's, for example, nor even that of the '8o's; but this was because leisure grew, because tech nological unemployment was unusually heavy, and because the increase in prosperity was 'spotty', failing to embrace some important industries such as coal mining, cotton, railroad transportation, and, on the whole, agriculture. The failure of these industries was, however, only a relative one; and the overall impression received by visitors was of 'an ebullient prosperity and a confidence in the future', an impression noted with satisfaction by a Government sponsored committee in 1929, which itself observed, 'We seem only to have touched the fringe of our potentialities'.1