Chapter Themes

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The Politics of Boom and Bust,

Chapter Themes

Theme: The Republican administrations of the prosperous 1920s pursued conservative, probusiness policies at home and economic unilateralism abroad.
Theme: The great crash of 1929 led to a severe, prolonged depression that devastated the American economy and spirit. Herbert Hoover’s unprecedented efforts to correct it through federal action failed to yield results.


The Republican governments of the 1920s carried out active, probusiness policies while undermining much of the progressive legacy by neglect. The Washington Naval Conference indicated America’s desire to withdraw from international involvements. Sky-high tariffs protected America’s booming industry but caused severe economic troubles elsewhere in the world.

As the Harding scandals broke, Harding died and the puritanical Calvin Coolidge took office, thus avoiding political repercussions for the Republicans. Bitterly feuding Democrats and La Follette progressives fell easy victims to Republican-managed prosperity.

American demands for strict repayment of war debts created international economic difficulties. The Dawes plan provided temporary relief, but the Hawley-Smoot Tariff proved devastating to international trade. Herbert Hoover, a renowned businessman and humanitarian, won a landslide victory over Catholic Al Smith.

The stock-market crash of 1929 brought a sudden end to prosperity and plunged America into a horrible depression. Herbert Hoover’s reputation collapsed as he failed to relieve national suffering, although he did make unprecedented but limited efforts to revive the economy through federal assistance.

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