The Panic of 1819:

A Missed Opportunity to Address Climate Change, Human Rights, and Better Market Regulation

Looking back on the Panic of 1819 from roughly 200 years in the future, one can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if the government had heeded its early warnings.

Observers at the time warned of the disastrous consequences of deforestation and soil exhaustion, the human and economic toll of slavery, and the dangers of an unregulated financial sector.

Instead of using this early opportunity to avert disaster, America mostly stayed the course. Here’s what we could have learned from the Panic of 1819.

What Was the Panic of 1819?

Between November 1818 and June 1919, prices plummeted by 51%. Unemployment skyrocketed. The burgeoning banking system, was poised for collapse.

The downfall was so disastrous, so widespread, that those experiencing it felt that it surely could not be “ordinary” and surely could not happen again for centuries.

Instead, it would happen again in 1837. Then, again in 1857, in 1873, in 1893, in 1907, in 1929, in 1973, in 1980, and in 2008.

This depression had such drastic effects because of a variety of simmering issues came to a boil all at once.

Climate Change, Slavery, and Over-Inflated Banks: The Crises That Led to the Panic of 1819

Demand shrank for agricultural products and America was unable to compensate for the loss with any other industry.

The shrinking demand for America’s agricultural products paired with a lack of alternative sources of revenue and a meager domestic market intensified the effects of the economic downturn.

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