It is getting interesting to see how many news articles are comparing the present financial and economic crisis to the Great Depression. It would seem that few of the prominent financial experts quoted have any idea what they are really talking about, they may know finance (but if they do, why are we having a crisis?) but they apparently flunked history. Here are a few comparisons to put things in a historical perspective:
(See http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/depression/about.htm from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
In 1929 and the years following, stock prices declined to 20% of their pre-1929 value.
In 2008, stock prices, as measured by the Dow Jones Average of Industrial Stocks, has declined about 32% during the entire year, not to just 20% of the value.
By 1933, 11,000 of the 25,000 U.S. banks had failed.
Since 2000, according to the FDIC, there have been 46 bank failures. See http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/banklist.html FDIC
By 1932, unemployment had risen to between 25% and 30% of the work force.
In 2008, the unemployment figure has risen to 6.5% See http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
By 1932 the total value of world trade had fallen by more than half as country after country took measures against the importation of foreign goods.
In 2008, trade with China, for example has actually risen during the year.
Although we need to be concerned about the current economic and financial situation, let's not get carried away and ignore history. Things can definitely get worse.