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Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Amity Shlaes opened the floor for debate with her plenary lecture titled "Obama Plays Monopoly: The Great Depression Revisited."

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OHIO holds unprecedented debates at 'The Great Depression Revisited'

Washington Forum sparks key debates over lessons that can be taken from the Great Depression by current national leaders

Ohio University’s George Washington Forum held a series of debates and lectures called "The Great Depression Revisited," Oct. 13-15 at the Baker University Center.

Overall, the event probed the causes of the Great Depression and the effects of the New Deal. "The Great Depression Revisited" marks the first time an intellectual debate has been held at OHIO concerning economics and the comparison between the recent recession and the Great Depression.

Thursday, Oct. 13

In his opening remarks, History Professor Robert Ingram mentioned, "Out of lack of consensus in determining lessons learned from the Great Depression and federal discussions about it, emerged the idea for this conference." 

Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Amity Shlaes opened the floor for debate with her plenary lecture titled "Obama Plays Monopoly: The Great Depression Revisited."

Shlaes gave a historical background of the Great Depression and explained aspects of the Great Depression and the New Deal in terms of the board game "Monopoly." She argued that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal did not in fact help recovery from the Great Depression. 

Friday, Oct. 14

Professor Eric Rauchway of University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) and Professor Brian Domitrovic of Sam Houston State spoke as part of the second plenary lecture. Rauchway discussed the effectiveness of the New Deal, while Domitrovic focused more on the effects of the gold standard during the Great Depression.

Gauti Eggertsson of the Federal Reserve of New York and University of California-Los Angeles Economics Professor Lee Ohanian spoke as part of the third plenary lecture. Eggertsson discussed the economic downturn of 1937 and 1938. He described a cause of this downturn as the cut in discretionary government spending.

Ohanian took a more conservative stance in the debate, discussing the general issue of wage levels during the Great Depression. He explained that New Deal programs forced situations in which wages were higher than they normally would have been.

University of Cambridge History Professor Anthony Badger and University of Virginia History Professor Brian Balogh both spoke as part of the fourth plenary lecture. Badger compared and contrasted the Great Depression to the recent recession. Furthermore, he explored the question of whether President Barack Obama has learned anything from the Great Depression.

Balogh took a look at the nature of state building in the New Deal. He emphasized the importance of intermediary institutions and illustrated the top-down bureaucratic nature of the New Deal.

University of Alabama History Professor David Beito and UC-Davis History Professor Kathy Olmsted spoke as part of the fifth plenary lecture. Beito and Olmsted lectured and debated over the old political right and the new right. Olmsted specifically linked the origins of the modern new right to populist anti-communist techniques in California in 1934.

Saturday, Oct. 15

Saturday’s lectures and debates featured the works of younger scholars. OHIO graduate student James Epstein spoke about the origins of racketeering laws in the New Deal.

Union College History Professor Andrew Morris discussed charitable giving in the Great Depression and beyond. Moreover, his lecture covered the fate of charity after the Great Depression. Ashland University History Professor John Moser spoke after Morris and linked the Great Depression’s fate to World War II and discussed the gold standard.

OHIO History Professor Alonzo Hamby gave the event’s closing remarks, drawing connections between economic recovery and reform. Hamby explained that recovery efforts in the New Deal as well as Obama’s efforts have not been effective in terms of recovery from their respective economic crises.