The Great Depression

Lionel Robbins

In 1934, when Lionel Robbins wrote The Great Depression, he was a committed advocate of the Austrian School of economics. This would later change, but in this book he brilliantly applies the Austrian theory of the business cycle to explain the depression — which, he notes, was of unprecedented severity.

An expansion of bank credit creates a boom that cannot be sustained, and the inevitable collapse of the boom is the depression. Robbins traces this boom/bust cycle, detailing the central bank policies of the 1920s to provide the Austrian explanation for the resulting depression.

Robbins argues forcefully that the way to end economic depressions does not lie in restrictionist measures and central planning. Instead, the free market needs to be restored and international trade encouraged. Central planning, far from helping to restore prosperity, increases economic nationalism and restricts economic growth.

If the policy gurus at the Fed had read and understood this book, they could have spared us the economic havoc of recent years. Unleash markets and stand aside.

The Great Depression Lionel Robbins
Meet the Author
Lionel Robbins
Lionel Robbins

Lionel Charles Robbins (1898-1984) was one of the leading English economists of the twentieth century. His An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (1932) is as an outstanding statement of the Misesian view of economic method; that is, namely, that economics is a social science and must advance its propositions by means of deductive reasoning and not through the methods used in the natural sciences. Robbins’ The Great Depression (1934) brilliantly applies the Austrian theory of the business cycle to explain the depression—which, he notes, was of unprecedented severity.

Lionel Robbins
Robbins’ analysis here presented has still a place in the rational discussion of the possible causes of war. It fits very well the period of history in regard to which the Marxian theories here discussed were originally elaborated.
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 Freeport, RI: Books for Libraries Press, 1971, pp. 30-54.