Steve Horwitz is giving his lecture on the Great Depression and how to explain it. He argues (and for me demonstrates) that the GD was essentially a monetary phenomenon. Right now he's giving a really clear explanation of what money is, the functions it serves and what we mean by 'demand' for money. The key point, which noneconomists find hard to grasp is that demand for money is not the same as demand for income but a desire to hold real (but unused) purchasing power.
Steve goes on in his talk to explain how the great depression is a consequence of monetary disorder. Essentially the 1920s are an inflation, disguised by productivity increases as the big innovations of the 1880-1900 period worked their way through the economy. So demand for meoney was low. But in the 1930s, after a catastrophic reduction in money supply by the Fed there was a higher demand for money than there was supply. Hence the GD.
I'm interested in two aspects of the students response. Firstly, will anyone spot or argue that we are currently in a situation very similar to the 1920s? Mervyn King (government of the Bank of England) recently pointed out that UK broad money supply is rising at an annualised rate of 13% plus. There hasn't been a rise in prices (other than for government services) because of globalisation, particularly cheaper manufacturing from China and services from India. The excess supply of money has fed through into rising prices for real assets, hence a whole series of property booms.
Secondly, how will they respond to his iconoclastic take on the history of the GD? In my experience the mythical history of the depression, as a systemic crisis of capitalism that was resolved by FDR and the New Deal has acquired the status of obvious truth. I don't think this is due to historians or academics and their teaching. In fact the economic historians are ever more sceptical of the Schlesinger view of the history of the 1920s and 1930s. The problem is that the GD had a huge impact on the lives of millions of people and as a result the initial explanation (the conventional wisdom as Steve calls it) has become part of the 'folk memory'. Trying to shift popular memory is much more difficult than shifting academic debate. For one thing it doesn't get done by scholarly work itself. Rather you need popular history, which is entertaining and makes the scholarly work accessible . For some reason historians have only recently started to produce works of this kind.