Reply To: History Channel: The Men who built America


Well the “Long Depression” Is an artifact of modern econometric statistics.

Now, there was a real downturn in 1873 and there appears to have likewise been a downturn in the early 1890s. But that entire two-decade period was not a depression; if anything these men could be blamed for making it prosperous.

Because during those two decades industrial & agricultural production increased significantly, and standards of living went up. The thing that makes it seem like a long period of depression economics in modern statistics is that there was a significant general deflation as price levels fell even more rapidly than in the rest of the 19th century. But they fell due to rapidly rising industrial and agricultural production. That is the opposite of a depression.

Note: this brings up one of the areas where “The Men who built America” is tendentious; the series speaks often of wages being cut and efforts to cut wages “to maintain profits.” But it never once mentions that the reason for the nominal cuts in wages was generally falling prices of goods, which meant not only that this was done to keep the companies from running losses, but the new wage levels still reflected increasing purchasing power (real wages went up during this period, not down).

The faculty could probably cite the statistics better than I could.