The Great Depression was the worst economic slump ever in U.S.
history, and one which spread to virtually all of the industrialized
world. The depression began in late 1929 and lasted for about a
decade. Many factors played a role in bringing about the depression;
however, the main cause for the Great Depression was the combination
of the greatly unequal distribution of wealth throughout the 1920's,
and the extensive stock market speculation that took place during the
latter part that same decade. The maldistribution of wealth in the
1920's existed on many levels. Money was distributed disparately
between the rich and the middle-class, between industry and
agriculture within the United States, and between the U.S. and Europe.
This imbalance of wealth created an unstable economy. The excessive
speculation in the late 1920's kept the stock market artificially
high, but eventually lead to large market crashes. These market
crashes, combined with the maldistribution of wealth, caused the
American economy to capsize.
The "roaring twenties" was an era when our country prospered
tremendously. The nation's total realized income rose from $74.3
billion in 1923 to $89 billion in 1929(end note 1). However, the
rewards of the "Coolidge Prosperity" of the 1920's were not shared
evenly among all Americans. According to a study done by the Brookings
Institute, in 1929 the top 0.1% of Americans had a combined income
equal to the bottom 42%(end note 2). That same top 0.1% of Americans
in 1929 controlled 34% of all savings, while 80% of Americans had no
savings at all(end note 3). Automotive industry mogul Henry Ford
provides a striking example of the unequal distribution of wealth
between the rich and the middle-class. Henry Ford reported a personal
income of $14 million(end note 4) in the same year that the average
personal income was $750(end...