European business cycles and economic policy, 1945-2007
In the first age of rapid economic growth after 1945, fluctuations of western European output and employment were so mild that the very notion of a cycle was transformed or even seemed obsolete. A second period of much slower average economic growth was marked by large and frequent oscillations, associated with the oil shocks and the Great Inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s. The last phase, characterized by smooth and ampie swings in output and inflation, has been dubbed the Great Moderation , reflecting the gradual reduction of inflationary trends. Different reasons have been proposed for these changing patterns but a common factor is that the conduct of economic policy was critical. In this paper we survey the evolution of basic features of cycles in Europe, such as volatility and synchronization; explain why changes in economic policy-making were a fundamental driver of changing patterns; and provide analytical narratives of the responses of national governments and central bankers to cyclical fluctuations. Finally we briefly look at the historical and recent experience of Eastern Europe, assessing the área s reintegration from 1989 after the long economic decoupling from the rest of the continent in 1945.
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