What impact did the Great Depression have on the way government set policy?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Depression changed the way that government made policy in that it changed the nature of the policies that the government was trying to make.  Before the Great Depression, the government stayed largely out of economic affairs.  With the Great Depression, this generally hands-off attitude disappeared.

Before the Great Depression, most Americans typically believed that the government should not be very involved in economic affairs.  They believed that the government should allow people to fend for themselves.  Any assistance that people needed was to be rendered by private individuals or charities. 

With the Great Depression, this changed.  It became clear to many people that it was not possible for private charity to take care of masses of people who needed help.  It also became clear, at least in many people’s minds, that the economy could not simply be left to take care of itself.  Instead, the government needed to undertake policies that would keep the economy running well.  When Americans’ attitudes changed in this way, government policy-making had to change as well.  The government started to make policy with an eye to taking care of the national economy and of individual citizens in a much more extensive way than it ever had before.