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Published:June 30th, 2008 14:32 EST
Fighting Fear for Freedom

Fighting Fear for Freedom

By Ashley Palmer

Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said in his 1932 Inaugural Address to the American people, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! ?  After watching the 1929 stock market rates go down and the unemployment rates go up, it appears that Mr. Roosevelt knew fear well.  Although we live in a free, democratic society, there are times in everyone`s life where one lives in fear, where one is driven by fear, where one`s life and decisions are made out of fear.  If this fear is not caught in its early stages, its rule can grip an entire nation with its tyranny.  The 1930s happened to be the era where an entire nation, America, was driven by this fear and, in turn, the Great Depression came about.

?Black Thursday` October 24, 1929.  The stock market plunged and would continue to do so until it had lost over eighty percent of its 1929 value.  The result would be pandemonium and panic, fear and frustration.  Eleven Wall Street investors would commit suicide.  The business community would lapse into an, at that time, seemingly permanent state of fear.  Some suggest Newton`s Law, the inevitable `Whatever goes up must come down` was responsible for the event.  Politicians and economists during roaring 20s were to optimistic about future stock prices, and when those expectations were not met, the chaos started.  Supply-side theorists blame the crash on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (a sixty percent tax on over 3,200 products).  In addition, although the act was not signed by President Hoover until after the crash, it lengthened the time that the decline would last.  In reaction to the higher taxes, other countries also initiated higher taxes, making it even worse.  Others say it is a little of both.  Whatever the true cause may be, the thing most economists agree on is that the 1929 stock market crash was the first event in a domino effect of other events to come before the end of the Great Depression.  Though it was an important marker to the events that would follow, it was only one of many.

A typical Monday morning: July 1933.  Bread lines were a common sight in most cities by then.  Hundreds of thousands roamed the country in search of food, work, and shelter.  "Brother, can you spare a dime?", went the refrain of a popular song (What Caused the Great Depression of the 1930s). 

Unemployment was at a record high.  Find four people on the street, and most likely at least one is unemployed.  Not only was the business world living in fear, but the average household.  People were not just afraid of losing their homes and businesses, they were afraid of losing their lives.  Food was scarce and the Dust Bowls raging in the west were not helping things.  Crops were destroyed.  Livestock was starved or eaten.  Families were swallowed up by the Dust Bowl`s fury. 

The agricultural industry slowed and took all other industries that relied on it down with it.  Families split up; usually the children lived with their mother wherever she could find shelter, and the fathers went to look for work.  There was not much work and most businesses shut down so people just kept searching.  Roosevelt created government programs to give people work, but those were temporary and they soon found themselves looking for employment again.  With the rate of unemployment so high, output was low due to lack of labor.  With next to no output, the people were sick, hungry, and tired.  With no healthy workers, output just kept getting lower.  So the cycle went on, feeding on itself. After reading this entire post, one might ask why & how all this fear came about.  Maybe it was fear of the unknown, of change, of losing everything unexpectedly, losing control of a nation they had tried so hard to create, losing freedoms, losing family, or losing a way of life that people had become so used to.  Most likely, it is a little of all this and probably more.  One could try to point fingers at a specific group or person, but at some point, everyone made a choice to live in either fear or freedom.  It seems that at that time in history, the majority chose fear.  How can we prevent this from happening again?  Perhaps by remembering and learning from their mistakes.  By studying the peoples` lives, who it happened to and why they made the choices they did... instead of studying strictly the facts so we can pass an exam.

As bad as the Great Depression was, the good thing is we need not fear it now, right?  Although, should we?  We may very well be repeating the events that took place not too long ago.  We could think of today as the roaring 20s: investments look good, the stock market looks good, and the economy, over-all, looks good.  In short, the future looks promising. But there are those things that generally go unnoticed; things like nothing to back up our monetary system, the steady rate of inflation, and government services going bankrupt.  One could say we are soon doomed to repeat the past if we do not learn from it.

The Great Depression is a perfect economic forecast of what a nation can become if it give power to its fear, rather than to the people.  Once that happens, it is hard to escape.  Even after being overthrown, fear still lurks in many of today`s democracies.  We, as Americans, are still recovering from the impact, and will continue to, until fear has been run out and America is restored to its original state of freedom.