The Keynesian explanation of the Great Depression

The Keynesian explanation of the Great Depression is that a decrease in autonomous spending caused the planned spending line to shift downward (a) leading to a decrease in the equilibrium level of real GDP (b). Let us first consider the possibility that a reduction in consumption triggered the Great Depression. Recall that, between September and November 1929, the stock market in the United States crashed. This collapse meant that many households were suddenly less wealthy than they had been previously. A natural response to a decrease in wealth is to decrease consumption; this is known as a wealth effect. Wealth is distinct from income. Income is a flow: a household’s income is the amount that it receives over a period of time, such as a year. Wealth is a stock: it is the cumulated amount of the household’s savings. Is it plausible that wealth effects could explain a collapse of the magnitude of the Great Depression? To answer this, we need to determine how much real GDP decreases for a given change in autonomous spending. The Multiplier Toolkit: Section 16.19 “The Aggregate Expenditure Model” The solution for output in the aggregate expenditure model can be written in terms of changes as follows: change in GDP = multiplier × change in autonomous spending, where the multiplier is given by Saylor URL: 251 multiplier = 1

1 – marginal propensity to spend .

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
The Keynesian explanation of the Great Depression
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

Suppose that the marginal propensity to spend is 0.8. Then

multiplier = 1

1 – marginal propensity to spend =

1 1 – 0.8

= 1

0.2 = 5.

A given change in autonomous spending will lead to a fivefold change in real GDP. Economists refer to this as a multiplier process. Because (1 − marginal propensity to spend) is less than one, the multiplier is a number greater than one. This means that any change in autonomous spending is multiplied up to result in a larger change in GDP. Even relatively small decreases in spending can end up being damaging to an economy. The economics behind the multiplier comes from the circular flow of income. Begin with a decrease in autonomous spending. The reduction in spending means less demand for firms’ goods and services. Firms respond by cutting output. (As a reminder, the signal to firms that they should cut their output comes from the fact that they see a buildup of their inventory.) When firms cut their output, they require less labor and pay out less in wages, so household income decreases. This causes households to again cut back on consumption, so spending decreases further. Thus we go round and round the circular flow diagram: decreased spending leads to decreased output, which leads to decreased income, which leads to decreased spending, which leads to decreased output, and so on and so on. The process continues until the reductions in income, output, and consumption in each round are tiny enough to be ignored. We use the multiplier to carry out comparative static exercises in the aggregate expenditure model. In this case, the endogenous variable is real GDP, and the exogenous variable is autonomous spending. Given a change in autonomous spending, we simply multiply by the multiplier to get the change in real GDP when the price level is fixed. Let us do some back-of- the-envelope comparative static calculations, based on the assumption that the marginal propensity to spend is 0.8, so the multiplier is 5. Table 7.1 “Major Macroeconomic Variables, 1920–39*” tells us that real GDP decreased by approximately $75 billion between 1929 and 1930. With a multiplier of 5, we would need a drop in autonomous spending of $75 billion divided by 5, or $15 billion, to get this large a decrease in GDP. The population of the United States in 1930 was approximately 123 million, so a $15 billion decrease in spending corresponds to about $122 per person. Remember that the figures in Table 7.1 “Major Macroeconomic Variables, 1920–39*” are in terms of year 2000 dollars. It certainly seems plausible that households, who had been made significantly poorer by the collapse in the stock market, would have responded by cutting back spending by the equivalent today of a few hundred dollars per year. Our goal, you will remember, is to explain the events of the Great Depression. How are we doing so far? The good news is that we do have a story that explains how output could decrease as precipitously as it did in the Great Depression years: there was a major stock market crash, which made people feel less wealthy, so they decided to consume less and save more. If we look more closely, though, this story still falls short. When we examined the data for the Great Depression, we saw that—while output and consumption both decreased—consumption decreased much less than did output. For example, from 1929 to 1933, real GDP decreased by 26.5 percent, while consumption decreased by 18.2 percent. By contrast, investment (that is, purchases of capital by firms, new home construction, and changes in business inventories) decreased much more than output. In 1932, purchases of new capital were $11 billion (year 2000 dollars), compared to a level of $91 billion in 1929. This is a reduction in real investment of about 82 percent. We must look more closely at investment to see if our theory can also explain the different behavior of consumption and investment. Can a Decrease in Investment Spending Explain the Great Depression? When GDP decreases, there can be an induced decrease in investment: declines in income lead firms to anticipate lower production in the future, meaning they see less of a need to build up their capital stock. But the changes in investment during the Great Depression were very large. Because it is implausible that such large variation was the result of changes in output alone, economists look for additional explanations of why investment decreased so much during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, the link between savings and investment was disrupted by bank failures. Between 1929 and 1933, a number of US banks went out of business, often taking the savings of households with them. People began to trust banks less, and many households stopped putting their savings into the financial sector. The financial sector is an intermediary between households and firms, matching up the supply of savings from households with the demand for savings by firms. Figure 7.11 “The Financial Sector in the Circular Flow of Income” shows the flows in and out of the financial sector.

Essay Writing Pros
Calculate your paper price
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Why Work with Us

Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers

Our writers have been trained on how to handle papers placed by our clients. The writer must read and understand before embarking on writing the papers. In case of any issue that needs clarification, writers are encouraged to ask the client or support.

Professional and Experienced Academic Writers

Our team comprises of the best writers and editors. We do thorough vetting during recruitment to make sure that our writers have the knowledge and experience we aspire in the team.

Free Unlimited Revisions

Our aim is to give the client the best outcome. If for some reason you are not satisfied with the wok done, you can ask the paper to be revised or rewritten. This will be done to your satisfaction with no extra charges.

Prompt Delivery and 100% Money-Back-Guarantee

We have writers who work round the clock. This helps in making sure that all our clients’ papers are delivered on time. If we have issues with the deadline, we will ask for extension. If its not possible, the money is fully refunded.

Original & Confidential

Our clients’ confidentiality is highly respected. We can never disclose our clients’ details to third parties. In the same regard, we strive to give our clients 100% original papers. We do not tolerate plagiarism from our writers.

24/7 Customer Support

Clients can reach us any time of the day, and any day of the week. There is a live chat, email or phone numbers to help in ease of communication.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

Total price:

How it works?

Follow these simple steps to get your paper done

Place your order

Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.

Proceed with the payment

Choose the payment system that suits you most.

Receive the final file

Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Services

You should never be worried about your papers even in the middle of the night. Our team will work round the clock to deliver.


Essay Writing Service

We have an able team that can deliver your work in the shortest time possible. The academic level or the type of work should never be a hindrance. Our highly competent support team is always around (24/7) to give you any assistance you may need.


Admission Essays & Business Writing Help

Do you need to be admitted in your dream institution but find it challenging to write an admission essay? Our team is in a position to write the best letter that will guarantee you an admission. We do as well write the best business proposals and reports.


Editing Support

Writing can be fun and enjoyable when everything has been done right. Writing is not just enough without proper editing and proofreading. We have a team of editors that ensure everything falls in place, whether its issues to do with grammar or referencing styles.


Revision Support

Once the paper has been done and submitted, that is not the end of it. You can always ask for amendment or improvement if you feel something has not been done right. Our team of writers and editors will gladly assist you to your satisfaction. Revision is free of charge.