Data from “What Was the U.S. GDP Then?,” Measuring Worth, accessed August 22, 2011, http://www.measuringworth.org/datasets/usgdp/result.php. The United States was not the only country to experience such hard economic times in this period. Many other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy also saw their economic progress reversed for a period of years. The Great Depression, as this economic cataclysm came to be called, was a shock to the economists of the day. Prior to that time, most economists thought that, though economies might grow fast in some years and decline slightly in others, prolonged unemployment and underutilization of resources was impossible. The Great Depression proved this view to be erroneous and eventually led to a fundamental change in the way in which economists thought about the aggregate economy. The idea that the economy was naturally stable was replaced with a view that severe economic downturns could recur at any time. Along with this change in thinking about the economy came a change in attitudes toward macroeconomic policy: economists began to believe that the government could play an active role to help stabilize the economy, perhaps by increasing government spending in bad times. Prior to the Great Depression, nobody even thought that the government should try to keep the economy stable. Both Democrats and Republicans in the 1932 election advocated less government spending because government revenues had fallen. Yet, by the end of the 1930s, the United States and other countries had adopted the view that active policy measures were useful or even essential for the proper functioning of economies. Three-fourths of a century later, these events are part of economic history. Few people still alive experienced those terrible years directly, yet the time remains part of our collective memory. Above all, we need to know what went wrong if we hope to ensure that such punishing times do not come again. Indeed, the world economy recently suffered the most severe recession since the 1930s, and it is unclear at the time of this writing how long or how bad the current crisis will be. The insights of the economists who explained the Great Depression are still at the heart of today’s discussions of economic policy. Understanding what happened to the economy in the 1930s is more than an exercise in economic history; it is essential for understanding modern macroeconomics.