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Was Expansionary Monetary Policy Feasible during the Great Contraction? An Examination of the Gold Standard Constraint

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  • Bordo, Michael D.
  • Choudhri, Ehsan U.
  • Schwartz, Anna J.

Abstract

The recent consensus view, that the gold standard was the leading cause of the worldwide Great Depression 1929-33, stems from two propositions: (1) Under the gold standard, deflationary shocks were transmitted between countries and, (2) for most countries, continued adherence to gold prevented monetary authorities from offsetting banking panics and blocked their recoveries. In this paper we contend that the second proposition applies only to small open economies with limited gold reserves. This was not the case for the US, the largest country in the world, holding massive gold reserves. The US was not constrained from using expansionary policy to offset banking panics, deflation, and declining economic activity. Simulations, based on a model of a large open economy, indicate that expansionary open market operations by the Federal Reserve at two critical junctures (October 1930 to February 1931; September 1931 through January 1932) would have been successful in averting the banking panics that occurred, without endangering convertibility. Indeed had expansionary open market purchases been conducted in 1930, the contraction would not have led to the international crises that followed.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 39 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-28

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:39:y:2002:i:1:p:1-28

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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  1. Bordo, Michael D & Eichengreen, Barry, 1997. "Implications of the Great Depression for the Development of the International Monetary System," CEPR Discussion Papers 1680, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M., 1984. "Collapsing exchange-rate regimes : Some linear examples," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 1-13, August.
  3. 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.
  4. Michael D. Bordo & Barry Eichengreen, 1998. "The Rise and Fall of a Barbarous Relic: The Role of Gold in the International Monetary SYstem," NBER Working Papers 6436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ben Bemanke & Harold James, 1991. "The Gold Standard, Deflation, and Financial Crisis in the Great Depression: An International Comparison," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets and Financial Crises, pages 33-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Blanco, Herminio & Garber, Peter M, 1986. "Recurrent Devaluation and Speculative Attacks on the Mexican Peso," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 148-66, February.
  8. Christina D. Romer, 1993. "The Nation in Depression," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 19-39, Spring.
  9. Barry Eichengreen & Peter Temin, 1997. "The Gold Standard and the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 6060, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Ben S. Bernanke, 1994. "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach," NBER Working Papers 4814, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Robert P. Flood & Nancy P. Marion, 1996. "Speculative Attacks: Fundamentals and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies," NBER Working Papers 5789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  1. 'A Century of U.S. Central Banking: Goals, Frameworks, Accountability'
    by Mark Thoma in Economist's View on 2013-07-10 13:48:26
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Cited by:
  1. Selgin, George & Lastrapes, William D. & White, Lawrence H., 2012. "Has the Fed been a failure?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 569-596.
  2. Mark Billings & Forrest Capie, 2011. "Financial crisis, contagion, and the British banking system between the world wars," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(2), pages 193-215.
  3. Bordo, Michael D. & Schwartz, Anna J., 1999. "Under what circumstances, past and present, have international rescues of countries in financial distress been successful?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 683-708, August.
  4. Karras, Georgios & Lee, Jin Man & Stokes, Houston, 2006. "Why are postwar cycles smoother? Impulses or propagation?," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 58(5-6), pages 392-406.
  5. Pierre L. Siklos, 2007. "The FedÕs Reaction to the Stock Market During the Great Depression: Fact or Artefact?," Working Paper Series 33-07, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, revised Jul 2007.
  6. Barry Eichengreen, 2002. "Still Fettered After All These Years," NBER Working Papers 9276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael Bordo & Andrew Filardo, 2005. "Deflation and monetary policy in a historical perspective: remembering the past or being condemned to repeat it?," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 20(44), pages 799-844, October.
  8. Michael D. Bordo, 2005. "Review of A History of the Federal Reserve. Volume 1 (2003) by Allan H. Meltzer," NBER Working Papers 11714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Christina D. Romer, 2001. "Was the Federal Reserve Fettered? Devaluation Expectations in the 1932 Monetary Expansion," NBER Working Papers 8113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Claude Diebolt & Antoine Parent & Jamel Trabelsi, 2011. "Comment la croissance américaine aurait-elle réagi à une politique monétaire expansionniste en 1929 ?. Les enseignements cliométriques d'une simulation svar," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 62(6), pages 1081-1093.
  11. Richhild Moessner & William A. Allen, 2011. "Las crisis bancarias y el sistema monetario internacional en la Gran Depresión y en la actualidad," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 13(25), pages 43-87, July-Dece.
  12. Taylor, Jason E. & Neumann, Todd C., 2013. "The effect of institutional regime change within the new deal on industrial output and labor markets," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 582-598.
  13. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2005. "Great expectations and the end of the depression," Staff Reports 234, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  14. Michael D. Bordo, 2006. "Globalization and imbalances in historical perspective," Policy Discussion Papers, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Jan.
  15. Michael D. Bordo, 2005. "Historical Perspective on Global Imbalances," NBER Working Papers 11383, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Steven Horwitz, 2011. "Unfortunately Unfamiliar with Robert Higgs and Others: A Rejoinder to Gauti Eggertsson on the 1930s," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 8(1), pages 1-12, January.

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