The World’s Most Famous Case of Deflation (Part 1 of 2)
The Great Depression was the most severe economic depression ever experienced by the Western world.
It was during this troubled time that the world’s most famous case of deflation also happened. The resulting aftermath was so bad that economic policy since has been chiefly designed to prevent deflation at all costs.
Setting the Stage
The transition from wartime to peacetime created a bumpy economic road after World War I.
Growth has hard to come by in the first years after the war, and by 1920-21 the economy fell into a brief deflationary depression. Prices dropped -18%, and unemployment jumped up to 11.7% in 1921.
However, the troubles wouldn’t last. During the “Roaring Twenties”, economic growth picked up as the new technologies like the automobile, household appliances, and other mass-produced products led to a vibrant consumer culture and growth in the economy.
More than half of the automobiles in the nation were sold on credit by the end of the 1920s. Consumer debt more than doubled during the decade.
While GDP growth during this period was extremely strong, the Roaring Twenties also had a dark side. Income inequality during this era was the highest in American history. By 1929, the income of the top 1% had increased by 75%. Income for the rest of people (99%) increased by only 9%.
The Roaring Twenties ended with a bang. On Black Thursday (Oct 24, 1929), the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 11% at the open in very heavy volume, precipitating the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s.
The Cause of the Great Depression
Economists continue to debate to this day on the cause of the Great Depression. Here’s perspectives from three different economic schools:
John Maynard Keynes saw the causes of the Great Depression hinge upon a lack of aggregate demand. This later became the subject of his most influential work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, which was published in 1936.
Keynes argued that the solution was to stimulate the economy through some combination of two approaches:
1. A reduction in interest rates (monetary policy), and
2. Government investment in infrastructure (fiscal policy).
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes
Monetarists such as Milton Friedman viewed the cause of the Great Depression as a fall in the money supply.
Friedman and Schwartz argue that people wanted to hold more money than the Federal Reserve was supplying. As a result, people hoarded money by consuming less. This caused a contraction in employment and production since prices were not flexible enough to immediately fall.
“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.” ― Milton Friedman
Austrian economists argue that the Great Depression was the inevitable outcome of the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve during the 1920s.
In their opinion, the central bank’s policy was an “easy credit policy” which led to an unsustainable credit-driven boom.
“Any increase in the relative size of government in the economy, therefore, shifts the societal consumption-investment ratio in favor of consumption, and prolongs the depression.” – Murray Rothbard
The Great Depression and Deflation
Between 1929 and 1932, worldwide GDP fell by an estimated 15%.
Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices plunged. International trade fell by more than 50%. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25% and in some countries rose as high as 33%.
These statistics were only the tip of the iceberg. Learn about the full effects, the stories, and the recovery from the Great Depression in Part 2.
About the Money Project
The Money Project aims to use intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money, and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
The U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades. Here are the numbers behind America’s gun manufacturing sector.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.
From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.
While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. Let’s dig into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.
Gun Manufacturing in the United States
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.
America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.
Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:
|Year||Pistols||Rifles||Revolvers||Shotguns||Misc. Firearms||Total Firearms|
Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.
In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.
Who is Producing America’s Firearms?
There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.
Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:
|Rank||Firearm Manufacturer||Guns Produced (2016-2020)||Share of total|
|1||Smith & Wesson Corp||8,218,199||17.2%|
|2||Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc||8,166,448||17.1%|
|3||Sig Sauer Inc||3,660,629||7.7%|
|5||0 F Mossberg & Sons Inc||2,223,241||4.7%|
|6||Taurus International Manufacturing||1,996,121||4.2%|
|7||WM C Anderson Inc||1,816,625||3.8%|
|9||Henry RAC Holding Corp||1,378,544||2.9%|
|10||JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises||1,258,969||2.6%|
One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NYSE: RGR), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NASDAQ: SWBI)
Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:
- 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
- 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)
*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)
The Geography of Gun Manufacturing
Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.
Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:
|State||Licenses (2000)||Licenses (2020)||Population||Licenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)|
These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.
Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.
If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.
Made in America: Goods Exports by State
The U.S. exported $1.8 trillion worth of goods in 2021. This infographic looks at where that trade activity took place across the nation.
Made in America: Goods Exports by State
After China, the U.S. is the next largest exporter of goods in the world, shipping out $1.8 trillion worth of goods in 2021—an increase of 23% over the previous year.
Of course, that massive number doesn’t tell the whole story. The U.S. economy is multifaceted, with varying levels of trade activity taking place all across the nation.
Using the latest data on international trade from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, we’ve visualized the value of America’s goods exports by state.
Top 10 Exporter States
Here are the top 10 American states that exported the highest dollar value worth of goods during 2021. Combined, these export-leading states represent 59.4% of the nation’s total exports.
|Rank||State||Total Exports Value||% share|
|#3||New York||$84.9 billion||4.8%|
|#10||New Jersey||$49.5 billion||2.8%|
|Top 10 States||$1.04 trillion||59.4%|
Texas has been the top exporting state in the U.S. for an incredible 20 years in a row.
Last year, Texas exported $375 billion worth of goods, which is more than California ($175 billion), New York ($85 billion), and Louisiana ($77 billion) combined. The state’s largest manufacturing export category is petroleum and coal products, but it’s also important to mention that Texas led the nation in tech exports for the ninth straight year.
California was the second highest exporter of goods in 2021 with a total value of $175 billion, an increase of 12% from the previous year. The state’s main export by value was computer and electronic product manufacturing, representing 17.8% of the total U.S. exports of that industry. California was also second among all states in exports of machinery manufacturing, accounting for 13.9% of the U.S. total.
What Type of Goods are Exported?
Here is a breakdown of the biggest U.S. export categories by value in 2021.
|Rank||Product Group||Annual Export Value (2021)||Share of Total Exports|
|1||Mineral fuels including oil||$239.8 billion||13.7%|
|2||Machinery including computers||$209.3 billion||11.9%|
|3||Electrical machinery, equipment||$185.4 billion||10.6%|
|5||Optical, technical, medical apparatus||$91.7 billion||5.2%|
|6||Aircraft, spacecraft||$89.1 billion||5.1%|
|7||Gems, precious metals||$82.3 billion||4.7%|
|9||Plastics, plastic articles||$74.3 billion||4.2%|
|10||Organic chemicals||$42.9 billion||2.4%|
These top 10 export categories alone represent almost 70% of America’s total exports.
The biggest grower among this list is mineral fuels, up by 59% from last year. Pharmaceuticals saw the second biggest one-year increase (45%).
Top 10 U.S. Exports by Country of Destination
So who is buying “Made in America” products?
Unsurprisingly, neighboring countries Canada (17.5%) and Mexico (15.8%) are the two biggest buyers of American goods. Together, they purchase one-third of American exports.
|Rank||Destination Country||Share of U.S. Goods Exports|
|5||🇰🇷 South Korea||3.7%|
|7||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3.5%|
Three Asian countries round out the top five list: China (8.6%), Japan (4.3%), and South Korea (3.7%). Together, the top five countries account for around half of all goods exports.
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