Are we facing another Great Depression?
Only last week the International Monetary Fund predicted the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s due to the coronavirus pandemic. The worldwide economic depression led to mass unemployment and promoted the rise of fascism. Commentators are divided about whether we are menaced by a similar scenario.
Far more protection than in 1929
In March France's Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire drew a parallel between the corona crisis to the Great Depression of 1929. Economist Marie-Françoise Calmette urges caution with such comparisons in L'Opinion:
“Milton Friedman stressed the role played by fear in the self-fulfilling prophecies of 1929. … Today, responses to the consequences of coronavirus are already in place and there are numerous safety nets. The top priority now is to avoid going from what is certainly a severe recession to a Great Depression by preventing the collapse of production. At the national level there is a considerable level of social protection, incommensurably more than what existed in 1929, and unfortunately, what still exists today in the United States.”
Things are worse than back then
Commenting in Corriere della Sera, columnist Antonio Polito doubts that the world has learned its lesson since 1929:
“Since the Depression ended in fascism in Europe and war across the world, it's more than legitimate to wonder whether humanity has become wiser and learned to cherish freedom more in the meantime. Unfortunately the looming combination of debt and mass unemployment leads us to the pessimism of reason. ... Almost all populations, and ours for sure, have shown in the past that they are willing to give up freedom for the sake of prosperity, especially when they're desperate. But there are three more elements that taken together make everything even worse. The first is nationalism. ... The second is statism. ... The third is anti-parliamentarism.”