The Great Depression was an undeniably awful period of time in our nation’s history. The word ‘great’ is really just used here to signify the large extent to which the dire economic situation affected the American population in the 1920s. However, when we examine it more closely, perhaps the Great Depression actually was ‘great’ in a way. Sort of one of those we’ll-laugh-about-all-this-later situations.
We certainly don’t wish to trivialize or disrespect the misery and anguish that beset everyone who was victimized by such a terrible and sudden collapse of the economy. Times were indescribably hard, and we’re sure that anyone who went through it would love to turn back the clock and make it un-happen. But if there is any reason at all that this country sticks you kids into an AP US History class, it is so that we can learn from past mistakes so that they will not be repeated.
Granted, we as a nation have gone through periods of economic depression since, but nothing nearly as overwhelmingly devastating as the big one. Much of the reason that we have been (more or less) able to keep it together is that we learned quite a bit from the Great Depression, and have applied it to our current government structure and economic policies so that we never have to suffer a repeat of such widespread destitution and hardship.
The most obvious change to occur as a result of the depression was the creation and implementation of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. He constructed new agencies, which naturally led to a wealth of new job opportunities, created a liberal shift in our country’s politics that lasted for nearly half a century, promoted labor unions, instituted bank reforms, formed new and varied programs to benefit workers, and forever changed the American people’s relationship to their government. Yes, it’s true - we have a relationship with our government. If you go to their Facebook profile, you’ll even see that they have ‘In a relationship with the American people’ listed as their relationship status. They recently changed it from ‘It’s complicated.’
As you can tell from our current economic state, we still have much to learn. We are still human, we still make mistakes, and very few of us are scoring perfect on our SAT. But little by little, we are finding our way. Not everything about the New Deal worked, and many of its lingering effects are still being hotly debated. But it did change things up, and turned around a nation that seemed headed for extinction.
So with both many positives and many negatives, perhaps the Great Depression wasn’t exactly ‘great.’ But it’s oh so much catchier than calling it the So-So Depression.