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Lessons learned? comparing the Federal Reserve's responses to the crises of 1929-1933 and 2007-2009

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  • David C. Wheelock

Abstract

The financial crisis of 2007-09 is widely viewed as the worst financial disruption since the Great Depression of 1929-33. However, the accompanying economic recession was mild compared with the Great Depression, though severe by postwar standards. Aggressive monetary, fiscal, and financial policies are widely credited with limiting the impact of the recent financial crisis on the broader economy. This article compares the Federal Reserve's responses to the financial crises of 1929-33 and 2007-09, focusing on the effects of the Fed's actions on the composition and size of the Fed balance sheet, the monetary base, and broader monetary aggregates. The Great Depression experience showed that central banks should respond aggressively to financial crises to prevent a collapse of the money stock and price level. The modern Fed appears to have learned this lesson; however, some critics argue that, in focusing on the allocation of credit, the Fed was too slow to increase the monetary base. The Fed's response to the financial crisis has raised new questions about the appropriate role of a lender of last resort and the long-run implications of actions that limit financial losses for individual firms and markets.

Suggested Citation

  • David C. Wheelock, 2010. "Lessons learned? comparing the Federal Reserve's responses to the crises of 1929-1933 and 2007-2009," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 89-108.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:2010:i:mar:p:89-108:n:v.92no.2
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    File URL: https://files.stlouisfed.org/files/htdocs/publications/review/10/03/Wheelock.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James B. Bullard & Christopher J. Neely & David C. Wheelock, 2009. "Systemic risk and the financial crisis: a primer," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 403-418.
    2. Daniel L. Thornton, 2009. "Would quantitative easing sooner have tempered the financial crisis and economic recession?," Economic Synopses, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Bordo & David C. Wheelock, 2010. "The promise and performance of the Federal Reserve as lender of last resort 1914-1933," Working Papers 2010-036, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    2. 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.
    3. Lee, Dong Jin & Son, Jong Chil, 2013. "Nonlinearity and structural breaks in monetary policy rules with stock prices," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 1-11.

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