The Phlogiston Theory


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the phlogiston theory Great Depressoin

The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history.  It is routinely cited as proof that unregulated capitalism is bad, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other interventions, can save capitalism from itself.  Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression.
What caused the Great Depression?  To get a handle on that, it's necessary to look at previous depressions and compare.  The Great Depression was by no means the first depression this country ever had, but it was clearly the worst.  What made it different than the rest?  At the time of the Great Depression, government intervention in the economy was higher than it had ever been and a special government agency had been set up specifically to prevent depressions and their associated problems, such as bank panics.  This agency was the Federal Reserve Board and it was to have been the loaner of last resorts for banks in order to prevent collapses as had happened during earlier depressions.  But as we'll see, there is good reason to believe that the Fed's actions explain a lot of the problems that lead up to the Stock market crash and the subsequent depression.
Although there are many macroeconomics schools of thought, I'll be concentrating on two initially, Keynesian economics and Austrian School economics.  Keynesian economics got its start during the Great Depression with the publication in 1936 of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, by John Maynard Keynes.  Austrian School economics began much earlier, most notably with the publication in 1871 of Carl Menger's Principles of Economics.  While the Austrian theory has never been mainstream (economist Paul Krugman refers to it as the economic equivalent of the phlogiston theory), its adherents are some of the harshest critics of Keynesian interventions, so it will serve as a good counterbalance until I can bone up on other schools of thought.
Recessions, Depressions, and Business Cycles
The exact cause of business cycles is one of the biggest problems in economics.  There are several explanations.  The current Keynesian models rely on what is referred to as "sticky wages" (or "sticky prices") to explain why the cycles occur.  Under these models, wages or prices fail to reach their market clearing level. The Austrian School explanation is that all business cycles are due to government intervention in the economy.  In particular, government efforts to manipulate the interest rate causes a boom and bust cycle because people over-invest ("malinvestment") when interest rates are low and when interest rates are raised to stave off the inevitable inflation, a bust is caused due to the mismatching of consumer and business goods.
There are six depressions in American history that are thought to be the worst since detailed records of economic data started to be kept (around 1867), 1873-79, 1893-97 (actually two contractions separated by an incomplete expansion), 1907-08, 1920-21, 1929-33, and 1937-38.  Although depressions vary on length and severity, the similarities are so profound that Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas has stated, "business cycles are all alike."  Since it's been about 60 years since we've had a depression, one might think that the economy is being managed better than it used to be.  It's not clear why the economy is being managed better.  The Federal Reserve Board was created in 1913 and yet half of the worst depressions happened after its creation.  A better candidate might be the adoption of Keynesian management techniques, which were not fully implemented until after the last severe contraction in 1937.  But there are some indicators that that is not responsible either.  Detailed studies have been done to compare post-war business cycles with prior ones.  At least one indicates that there was no improvement.
A key insight into the difficulties of managing the economy was made by Robert Lucas.  Looking at post-World War II business cycles, he argued that if one could choose between smoothing out the cycles completely and increasing the annual economic growth by 0.1%, the latter would make people better off overall.  As we consider the different policy options, it is important to ... more

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Great Depression

The Great Depression

The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited as proof that unregulated capitalism is bad, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other interventions, can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression.
What caused the Great Depression? To get a handle on that, it's necessary to look at previous depressions and compare. The Great Depression was by no means the first depression this country ever had, but it was clearly the worst. What made it different than the rest? At the time of the Great Depression, government intervention in the economy was higher than it had ever been and a special government agency had been set up specifically to prevent depressions and their associated problems, such as bank panics. This agency was the Federal Reserve Board and it was to have been the loaner of last resorts for banks in order to prevent collapses as had happened during earlier depressions. But as we'll see, there is good reason to believe that the Fed's actions explain a lot of the problems that lead up to the Stock market crash and the subsequent depression.

Although there are many macroeconomics schools of thought, I'll be concentrating on two initially, Keynesian economics and Austrian School economics. Keynesian economics got its start during the Great Depression with the publication in 1936 of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, by John Maynard Keynes. Austrian School economics began much earlier, most notably with the publication in 1871 of Carl Menger's Principles of Economics. While the Austrian theory has never been mainstream (economist Paul Krugman refers to it as the economic equivalent of the phlogiston theory), its adherents are some of the harshest critics of Keynesian interventions, so it will serve as a good counterbalance until I can bone up on other schools of thought.

The exact cause of business cycles is one of the biggest problems in economics. There are several explanations. The current Keynesian models rely on what is referred to as "sticky wages" (or "sticky prices") to explain why the cycles occur. Under these models, wages or prices fail to reach their market clearing level. The Austrian School explanation is that all business cycles are due to government intervention in the economy. In particular, government efforts to manipulate the interest rate causes a boom and bust cycle because people over-invest ("malinvestment") when interest rates are low and when interest rates are raised to stave off the inevitable inflation, a bust is caused due to the mismatching of consumer and business goods.
There are six depressions in American history that are thought to be the worst since detailed records of economic data started to be kept (around 1867), 1873-79, 1893-97 (actually two contractions separated by an incomplete expansion), 1907-08, 1920-21, 1929-33, and 1937-38. Although depressions vary on length and severity, the similarities are so profound that Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas has stated, "business cycles are all alike." Since it's been about 60 years since we've had a depression, one might think that the economy is being managed better than it used to be. It's not clear why the economy is being managed better. The Federal Reserve Board was created in 1913 and yet half of the worst depressions happened after its creation. A better candidate might be the adoption of Keynesian management techniques, which were not fully implemented until after the last severe contraction in 1937. But there are some indicators that that is not responsible either. Detailed studies have been done to compare post-war business cycles with prior ones. At least one indicates that there was no improvement. ... more

the phlogiston theory

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  • H: Great Depressoin H: Great Depressoin Great Depressoin The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited as proof that unregulated capitalism is bad, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other interventions, can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression. What caused the Great Depression? To...
  • E: Great Depression E: Great Depression Great Depression The Great Depression The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited as proof that unregulated capitalism is bad, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other interventions, can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression. What caused the...
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  • P: Antoine Lavoisier P: Antoine Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (lah vwah ZYAY) was one of the best-known French scientists and was an important government official. His theories of combustion, his development of a way to classify the elements and the first modern textbook of chemistry led to his being known as the father of modern chemistry. He contributed to much of the research in the field of chemistry. He is quoted for saying, Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is tra...
  • H: The Great Depression is probably one of the most m H: The Great Depression is probably one of the most m The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited, as proof that unregulated capitalism is not the best in the world, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other Interventions can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression. What caused the Great Depressio...
  • L: History Of Chemistry L: History Of Chemistry History Of Chemistry History of Chemistry Introduction: Humans have always been very curios creatures. The have always wondered about what they are and why they are here. Our limited knowledge of the environment has always urged for new things to be discovered. The desire to understand the world better has made people search for rational answers, for principles and laws. For centuries people have tried to unlock the mysterious world that surrounds them. History: Because myths did not explain thi...
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  • G: Chemical Reactions G: Chemical Reactions Chemical Reactions Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. People have always known that they exist. The Ancient Greeks were the first to speculate on the composition of matter. They thought that it was possible that individual particles made up matter. Later, in the Seventeenth Century, a German chemist named George Ernst Stahl was the first to postulate on chemical reaction. He said that a substance called phlogiston escaped into the air from all substances during combustion. He explain...
  • I: The Great depression I: The Great depression The Great depression The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited as proof that unregulated capitalism is bad, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other interventions, can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression. What caused the Great Depression...
  • S: Chemical Reactions S: Chemical Reactions Chemical Reactions Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. People have always known that they exist. The Ancient Greeks were the firsts to speculate on the composition of matter. They thought that it was possible that individual particles made up matter. Later, in the Seventeenth Century, a German chemist named Georg Ernst Stahl was the first to postulate on chemical reaction, specifically, combustion. He said that a substance called phlogiston escaped into the air from all substances dur...
  • T: Antoine Lavoisier T: Antoine Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (lah vwah ZYAY) was one of the best-known French scientists and was an important government official. His theories of combustion, his development of a way to classify the elements and the first modern textbook of chemistry led to his being known as the father of modern chemistry. He contributed to much of the research in the field of chemistry. He is quoted for saying, Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is tr...
  • O: The Great Depression is probably one of the most m O: The Great Depression is probably one of the most m The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited, as proof that unregulated capitalism is not the best in the world, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other Interventions can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire president and that FDR brought us out of the depression. What caused the Great Depressio...
  • N: Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavo N: Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavo Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (lah vwah ZYAY) was one of the best-known French scientists and was an important government official. His theories of combustion, his development of a way to classify the elements and the first modern textbook of chemistry led to his being known as the father of modern chemistry. He contributed to much of the research in the field of chemistry. He is quoted for saying, Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. Lavoisie...
  •  : Americas Great Depression : Americas Great Depression America's Great Depression America's Great Depression What Caused this Great Depression? The Great Depression is probably one of the most misunderstood events in American history. It is routinely cited, as proof that unregulated capitalism is not the best in the world, and that only a massive welfare state, huge amounts of economic regulation, and other Interventions can save capitalism from itself. Among the many myths surrounding the Great Depression are that Herbert Hoover was a laissez faire...
  • T: Chemical Reactions T: Chemical Reactions Chemical Reactions Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. People have always known that they exist. The Ancient Greeks were the first to speculate on the composition of matter. They thought that it was possible that individual particles made up matter. Later, in the Seventeenth Century, a German chemist named George Ernst Stahl was the first to postulate on chemical reaction. He said that a substance called phlogiston escaped into the air from all substances during combustion. He explain...
  • H: Philogiston Theory H: Philogiston Theory Philogiston Theory Phlogiston Theory According to the phlogiston theory, propounded in the 17th century, every combustible substance consisted of a hypothetical principle of fire known as phlogiston, which was liberated through burning, and a residue. The word phlogiston was first used early in the 18th century by the German chemist Georg Ernst Stahl. Stahl declared that the rusting of iron was also a form of burning in which phlogiston was freed and the metal reduced to an ash or calx. The theo...
  • E: about oxygen E: about oxygen about oxygen Oxygen is a Group 16 element. Oxygen is the third most abundant element found in the sun, and it plays a part in the carbon-nitrogen cycle, one process responsible for stellar energy production. Oxygen in excited states is responsible for the bright red and yellow-green colours of the aurora. The atmosphere of Mars contains about 0.15% oxygen. About two thirds of the human body, and nine tenths of water, is oxygen. The gas is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. Liquid and solid ox...
  • O: Antoine Lavoisier O: Antoine Lavoisier Antoine Lavoisier By: Anonymous Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (lah vwah ZYAY) was one of the best-known French scientists and was an important government official. His theories of combustion, his development of a way to classify the elements and the first modern textbook of chemistry led to his being known as the father of modern chemistry. He contributed to much of the research in the field of chemistry. He is quoted for saying, Nothing is lost, nothing is created, ev...
  • R: Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavo R: Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavo Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (lah vwah ZYAY) was one of the best-known French scientists and was an important government official. His theories of combustion, his development of a way to classify the elements and the first modern textbook of chemistry led to his being known as the father of modern chemistry. He contributed to much of the research in the field of chemistry. He is quoted for saying, Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. Lavois...
  • Y: Chemical Reaction Y: Chemical Reaction Chemical Reaction Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. People have always known that they exist. The Ancient Greeks were the firsts to speculate on the composition of matter. They thought that it was possible that individual particles made up matter. Later, in the Seventeenth Century, a German chemist named Georg Ernst Stahl was the first to postulate on chemical reaction, specifically, combustion. He said that a substance called phlogiston escaped into the air from all substances duri...
  • Philogiston Theory Philogiston Theory Philogiston Theory Phlogiston Theory According to the phlogiston theory, propounded in the 17th century, every combustible substance consisted of a hypothetical principle of fire known as phlogiston, which was liberated through burning, and a residue. The word phlogiston was first used early in the 18th century by the German chemist Georg Ernst Stahl. Stahl declared that the rusting of iron was also a form of burning in which phlogiston was freed and the metal reduced to an ash or calx. The theo...
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  • Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. Peo Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. Peo Chemical reactions are the heart of chemistry. People have always known that they exist. The Ancient Greeks were the firsts to speculate on the composition of matter. They thought that it was possible that individual particles made up matter. Later, in the Seventeenth Century, a German chemist named Georg Ernst Stahl was the first to postulate on chemical reaction, specifically, combustion. He said that a substance called phlogiston escaped into the air from all substances during combustion. He ...