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Does Deliberation Matter in FOMC Monetary Policymaking? The Volcker Revolution of 1979


  • Bailey, Andrew
  • Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl


In monetary policy, decision makers seek to influence the expectations of agents in ways that can avoid making abrupt, dramatic, and unexpected decisions. Yet in October 1979, Chairman Paul Volcker led the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously to shift its course in managing U.S. monetary policy, which in turn eventually brought the era of high inflation to an end. Although some analysts argue that “the presence and influence of one individual†—namely, Volcker—is sufficient to explain the policy shift, this overlooks an important feature of monetary policymaking. FOMC chairmen—however, omnipotent they may appear—do not act alone. They require the agreement of other committee members, and in the 1979 revolution, the decision was unanimous. How, then, did Chairman Volcker manage to bring a previously divided committee to a consensus in October 1979, and moreover, how did he retain the support of the committee throughout the following year in the face of mounting political and economic pressure against the Fed? We use automated content analysis to examine the discourse of the FOMC (with this discourse recorded in the verbatim transcripts of meetings). In applying this methodology, we assess the force of the arguments used by Chairman Volcker and find that deliberation in the FOMC did indeed “matter†both in 1979 and 1980. Specifically, Volcker led his colleagues in coming to understand and apply the idea of credible commitment in U.S. monetary policymaking.

Suggested Citation

  • Bailey, Andrew & Schonhardt-Bailey, Cheryl, 2008. "Does Deliberation Matter in FOMC Monetary Policymaking? The Volcker Revolution of 1979," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(4), pages 404-427.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:polals:v:16:y:2008:i:04:p:404-427_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Hansen & Michael McMahon & Andrea Prat, 2018. "Transparency and Deliberation Within the FOMC: A Computational Linguistics Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(2), pages 801-870.
    2. Stephen Hansen & Michael McMahon, 2016. "Shocking Language: Understanding the Macroeconomic Effects of Central Bank Communication," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Martin, Nona & Storr, Virgil Henry, 2012. "Talk changes things: The implications of McCloskey's Bourgeois Dignity for historical inquiry," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 787-791.
    4. Dodge Cahan & Luisa Doerr & Niklas Potrafke, 2019. "Government ideology and monetary policy in OECD countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 181(3), pages 215-238, December.
    5. T. Philipp Dybowski & Bernd Kempa, 2019. "The ECB’s monetary pillar after the financial crisis," CQE Working Papers 8519, Center for Quantitative Economics (CQE), University of Muenster.
    6. Arnab Bhattacharjee & Sean Holly, 2015. "Influence, Interactions and Heterogeneity: Taking Personalities out of Monetary Policy Decision-making," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 83(2), pages 153-182, March.
    7. Goodhart, Lucy, 2015. "Brave new world? Macro prudential policy and the new political economy of The Federal Reserve," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60952, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Donato Masciandaro & Davide Romelli & Gaia Rubera, 2020. "Tweeting on Monetary Policy and Market Sentiments: The Central Bank Surprise Index," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 20134, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.

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