Some economic pundits are now predicting that there are eery similarities between the Great Depression of 1932 and the current economic meltdown that started in the Wall street with the burst of the US housing bubble and quickly spread across the Atlantic to Europe and around the world to Japan and Asia.
For the last three decades, the leading economic power and the only super power in the world, the United States of America has seen a strong dominance of political leadership by the Republican party starting with President Ronald Reagan in 1981, interrupted only by the two terms that Bill Clinton served as president. Successive administrations have championed the growth of commerce unfettered by government regulation. Even Clinton, a political centrist who abandoned many of the progressive legacies of Democratic presidents such as Roosevelt and Lyndon B Johnson, did little to control the excesses of Wall Street.
In the 1920s, as now, political leaders created the conditions that precipitated economic crisis. In both instances, a lack of effective regulatory oversight fostered a climate of reckless speculation on the stock market. And just like the federal government in 1929, the outgoing Bush administration failed to see the emergency coming.
In 1929, the US president Herbert Hoover, who presided over the worst depression in history that sent millions into unemployment believed that the economy will fix itself and no government intervention was necessary.
At his inaugral speech in 1929 Hoover is reported to have said, "I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope. We shall soon be in sight of the day when, God willing, poverty will be banished from this nation." Seven months later, the stock market crash precipitated an economic crisis unprecedented in US history.
In a speech in November 2008 , George Bush, also a Republican president echoed the same sentiments that were heard in 1929 that the fundamentals of the American economy were strong. To President Bush's credit, he subsequently moved his Treasury department to intervene agressively and rescue the ailing financial institutions.
Although America is used to have depressions, the magnitude of the current meltdown in a globalised world has revived the memory of the horrors of the Great Depression in 1929, causing some experts to worry whether the current economic crisis could lead to suffering on a similar scale.
With the world's money markets in turmoil, international banks failing and stock markets crashing, the anti-globalisation movement is stepping up their opposition to liberal principles that allows the unregulated use of capital to operate markets with minimum interference from national governments.
One book, "The Anti-Globalization Breakfast Club: Manifesto for a Peaceful Revolution" brings together the views of many of the world's leading thinkers in alternative policy studies. Their collective views represent a fascinating insight into a growing movement that is slowly but surely affecting the way the world does business.
Here is part of Amazon's editorial review of this book.
Alternative models for grass roots economic development such as micro-financing are now being widely adopted in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and elsewhere. New views on measuring development such as GDH (gross domestic happiness) have been adopted by Bhutan rather than GDP, and China's own hybrid approach combining market and planned policy to achieve economic transformation offer new choices for developing countries. All of these are representative of a new wave of thinking that rejects the increasingly discredited policies of the IMF and World Bank.