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When the North Last Headed South: Revisiting the 1930s

  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Vincent R. Reinhart

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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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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  1. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Christina D. Romer, 1991. "What Ended the Great Depression?," NBER Working Papers 3829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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  7. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2000. "Fear of Floating," NBER Working Papers 7993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Robert J. Barro & Jose F. Ursua, 2008. "Macroeconomic Crises since 1870," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 255-350.
  10. Ethan Ilzetzki & Enrique G. Mendoza & Carlos A. Végh, 2010. "How Big (Small?) are Fiscal Multipliers?," NBER Working Papers 16479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  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. 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.
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  16. 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.
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