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When the North Last Headed South: Revisiting the 1930s

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Vincent R. Reinhart

Abstract

The U.S recession of 2007 to 2009 is unique in the post-World-War-II experience by the broad company it kept. Activity contracted around the world, with the advanced countries of the North experiencing declines in spending normally the purview of the developing economies of the South. The last time that the economies of the North similarly headed south was the 1930s. This paper examines the role of policy in fostering recovery in that decade. With nominal short-term interest rates already near zero, monetary policy in most countries took the unconventional step of delinking currencies from the gold standard. However, analysis of a sample that includes developing countries shows that this was not as universally effective as often claimed, perhaps because the exit from gold was uncoordinated in time, scale, and scope and, in many countries, failed to bring about a substantial depreciation against the dollar. Fiscal policy was also active in the 1930s—many countries sharply increased government spending—but prone to reversals that may have undermined confidence. Countries that were more consistent in keeping spending high tended to recover more quickly.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Volume (Year): 40 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (Fall) ()
Pages: 251-276

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Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:40:y:2009:i:2009-02:p:251-276

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Keywords: macroeconomics; recession; financial crisis; historical economics;

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References

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  1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 1-74.
  2. Ethan Ilzetzki & Enrique G. Mendoza & Carlos A. Végh Gramont, 2011. "How Big (Small?) are Fiscal Multipliers?," IMF Working Papers 11/52, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Roger E. A. Farmer, 2009. "Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 85(270), pages 357-358, 09.
  4. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2003. "Escaping from a Liquidity Trap and Deflation: The Foolproof Way and Others," NBER Working Papers 10195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2004. "Monetary policy in deflation: the liquidity trap in history and practice," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 101-124, March.
  6. James D. Hamilton, 1988. "Role Of The International Gold Standard In Propagating The Great Depression," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 6(2), pages 67-89, 04.
  7. Reinhart, Carmen & Reinhart, Vincent, 2008. "Is the US too big to fail?," MPRA Paper 12976, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Reinhart, Carmen & Calvo, Guillermo, 2002. "Fear of floating," MPRA Paper 14000, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Romer, Christina D., 1992. "What Ended the Great Depression?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 757-784, December.
  10. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
  11. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  12. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Ben S. Bernanke & Vincent R. Reinhart, 2004. "Conducting Monetary Policy at Very Low Short-Term Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 85-90, May.
  14. Robert J. Barro & José F. Ursúa, 2008. "Macroeconomic Crises since 1870," NBER Working Papers 13940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Meltzer, Allan & Goodhart, C.A.E., 2005. "A History Of The Federal Reserve," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 267-275, April.
  16. Choudhri, Ehsan U & Kochin, Levis A, 1980. "The Exchange Rate and the International Transmission of Business Cycle Disturbances: Some Evidence from the Great Depression," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 565-74, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Vincent Reinhart, 2011. "A Year of Living Dangerously: The Management of the Financial Crisis in 2008," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 71-90, Winter.
  2. Timothy J. Hatton & Mark Thomas, 2012. "Labour Markets in Recession and Recovery: The UK and the USA in the 1920s and 1930s," CEH Discussion Papers 001, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  3. Hatton, Timothy J. & Thomas, Mark, 2010. "Labour Markets in the Interwar Period and Economic Recovery in the UK and the USA," CEPR Discussion Papers 7983, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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