Corporate Profitability and Economic Policy During Argentina’s Great Depression, 1929–1934

Abstract: An analysis of corporate profitability leads to a reevaluation of economic policy during Argentina’s Great Depression. While the overall profit rate collapsed, some sectors were more affected than others: Commerce, insurance, and agriculture were worst hit, followed by transportation, industry, and finally banking, which was a beneficiary of economic policy, especially the decision not to default on or renegotiate the external public debt. Had a different economic policy been pursued, it is likely that the international crisis would not have affected Argentina so severely. Most importantly, it would have been possible to devalue the peso further, which would have benefitted both agriculture and industry. Moreover, interest rates would have been lower, and continued government borrowing would not have crowded out investment in the private sector. An analysis of corporate profitability thus leads to a less positive view of economic policy during Argentina’s Great Depression than is often found in the existing literature.