We analyze the Italian economy in the interwar years. In Italy, as in many other countries, the years immmediately after 1929 were characterized by a major slowdown in economic activity as non farm output declined almost 12. We argue that the slowdown cannot be explained solely by productivity shocks and that other factors must have contributed to the depth and duration of the the 1929 crisis. We present a model in which trade restrictions together with wage rigidities produce a slowdown in economic activity that is consistent with the one observed in the data. The model is also consistent with evidence from sectorial disaggregated data. Our model predicts that trade restrictions can account for about 3/4 of the observed slowdown while wage rigidity (monetary shocks) can account for the remaining fourth.
In this paper we make the following three claims. (1), in contradiction with the conventional view according to which the French depression was very different to that observed in the US, we argue that there are more similarities than differences between the French and U.S. experiences and therefore a common explanation should be sought. (2), poor growth in technological opportunities appear neither necessary nor sufficient to account for the French depression. (3), changes in institutional and market regulation appear necessary to account for the overall changes observed over the period. Moreover, we show that the size of these institutional changes may by themselves be enough to quantatively explain the French depression. However, at this time, we have no theory to explain the size or the timing of these changes.