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Long Reads


How Will the Great Cessation End?

The United States' rapid economic rebound after World War II resulted initially from deregulation, corporate-tax cuts, and a more flexible business environment. Similar measures now will help the US economy to emerge more smoothly and strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAN DIEGO – Finance ministers, like restaurateurs, find the same worrisome question slapping them across their face masks: What if we open the economy and no one shows up?

Like all pandemics, COVID-19 is a grave shock not only to the body, but also to the body politic – and the economy that sustains it. The US economy is shrinking at a Great Depression-like pace, and there’s no guarantee of a snapback, even if the next Jonas Salk walks out of a laboratory tomorrow with a vaccine in hand. Because the United States is engaged in a worldwide war against a virus, it should heed the economic lessons from the end of the last world war America fought, in 1945, as it determines how best to regain economic health.

What Not to Do

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s myriad policy experiments and innovations brought no rapid recovery from the Great Depression. In 1940, more than a decade after the 1929 stock-market crash, 14% of Americans still could not find work. Roosevelt’s fireside chats might have made listeners feel cozier, but they didn’t make them feel any busier or economically secure.

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