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Developments and Changes in the American Economy

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It’s in 1920 that the number of people living in the cities surpassed those that lived on the farms. This ushered the era of social ferment, great changes in art and ideas, the economy, technology and science. It’s this period that embodied the birth of the modern America.

Before the roaring twenties, Americans had survived the First World War (1914-1918), also the flu epidemic of 1918 and everyone felt that it was an era of change. By the close of the World War 1, the United States went back to its nativism and isolationism principles in an attempt to return to normalcy. The senates refused to ratify the versatile peace treaty that ended the World War I and also the United States failed to join the League of Nations. It also raised the tariffs on the imported goods in order to promote its industries growth and contained the free immigration. At the beginning of the roaring twenties, when the United States was converting from the wartime to a peacetime economy, there was a brief stall in the economy. It was still at this time that the culture of consumers was introduced after America became the richest nation in the world. People spent their money on improving roads, tourism and creation of the holiday resorts. The real estate’s business boomed and sent the prices of land soaring.

In addition, the automobile industry success was significantly amplified by the improving road networks. The invention of the radio coupled with the opening of the new public radio station (KDKA) ensured that radio found its way into most of the American homes. With the 1922 release of the first film made with sound, the movie industry consequently became the leading industry. With the mass production of cars and other automobiles, other industries also moved to the methods of mass production and as a result, canned foods, readymade clothing and household appliances were produced in abundance. The field of science and medicine was also not left behind.  Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics, diphtheria became controllable and immunization was introduced in 1923. This Characterized the roaring twenties when life was cheap and people lived in abundance. The Dow Johns Industrial Stock Index was ever increasing. There was even more stock speculation with the bull market of 1928- 1929 that marked the culmination of the rolling twenties and ushered in the great depression.

Great depression referred to the period of global economic depression that lasted from 1929 to 1939. By 1932, the Dow Jones Averages had lost approximately 89 % of its market value. The overall unemployment rate rose to the highest levels, and the banks were failing in unprecedented ways. The main causes of the great depression were due to the combination of factors that varied from domestic to worldwide conditions. The top five of these causes as indicated by historians and economists were stock market crash of 1929, bank failures, and reduction in purchasing across the board, American economic policy with Europe and drought conditions.

This whole era of World War I, roaring twenties and the decline also ushered some players like Andrew Undershaft and George Babbitt. By April, 1920 George F. Babbitt was forty-six years old and had nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry (Sinclair, 2003). At that time, he was selling houses at prices that were exceptionally high for people to afford. To Babbitt and also the citizens of zenith his motor car was poetry and tragedy, love and heroism. In addition, his office was his pirates ship and the car his perilous excursion ashore (Sinclair, 2003). Babbitt sold his houses through extensive advertising. During his advertisements that emphasized that the purchaser would get both quality and standardization. He also ensured that the houses he was selling were at par with the developments at that time thereby keeping more and more customers coming despite their costs. On the other hand, Andrew undershaft was a stout, easygoing elderly man with gentle patient manners with an inherent simplicity of character. In addition, he has a watchful, deliberate, waiting, listening face and formidable reserves of energy both mentally and bodily in his capacious chest and long head (Shaw, 2007).

For Andrew undershaft, an arms dealer and manufacturer, the events of World War I, glorious twenties and the great depression culminated into a series of events. It’s believed that the American neutrality was compromised by the weapons manufacturers who strictly adhered to the commercial principles; they peddled their wares while not considering the political or ethical implications of their business (Coyne & Mathers, 2011). According to them, it was just a business, and their arms trade was proliferating due to war just like any other business would do, given the necessary conditions. By the Second World War, the government had established controls over the private arms sales and thus the arms merchant’s means of profit became the government instrument of foreign policy. This led to the signing of the lend-lease act of 1941 with an aim that the American direct involvement in the war would be avoided and that the country may remain a great arsenal for democracy (Coyne & Mathers, 2011). During the cold war that  followed the world war II, the sale of arms  were controlled by the superpowers who provided and or refused weapons to whom they pleased, and often with little regard for whether the clients were offering an honest price for them.

Isolationism gained momentum during the years between World War I and World War II (1919-1940). In isolationism, America’s perspective was that it could advance the cause of freedom by the use of democracy other than the involvement in the war. 1940 marked the final turning point of isolationism due to German military successes in Europe and the battle of Britain. According to them, if Germany and Italy established hegemony in Africa and Europe, while japan got hold of the east Asia then many Americans believed that the western hemisphere would be the next  in the invasions. In addition, the neutrality acts passed by the Americas between 1935 and 1937 even reversed its tradition role and position on the neutral rights of freedom of trade by forbidding arms sale to any belligerents. By 1941, after the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor, the Americans who supported were seen as unpatriotic.

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