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Federal Reserve Policy and Bretton Woods

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  • Michael D. Bordo
  • Owen F. Humpage

Abstract

During the Bretton Woods era, balance-of-payments developments, gold losses, and exchange-rate concerns had little influence on Federal Reserve monetary policy, even after 1958 when such issues became critical. The Federal Reserve could largely disregard international considerations because the U.S. Treasury instituted a number of stopgap devices—the gold pool, the general agreement to borrow, capital restraints, sterilized foreign-exchange operations—to shore up the dollar and Bretton Woods. These, however, gave Federal Reserve policymakers the latitude to focus on the domestic objectives and shifted responsibility for international developments to the Treasury. Removing the pressure of international considerations from Federal Reserve policy decisions made it easier for the Federal Reserve to pursue the inflationary policies of the late 1960s and 1970s that ultimate destroyed Bretton Woods. In the end, the Treasury’s stopgap devices, which were intended to support Bretton Woods, contributed to its demise.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Bordo & Owen F. Humpage, 2014. "Federal Reserve Policy and Bretton Woods," NBER Working Papers 20656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20656
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226519999 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. John B. Taylor, 1999. "A Historical Analysis of Monetary Policy Rules," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy Rules, pages 319-348, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael D. Bordo & Athanasios Orphanides, 2013. "The Great Inflation: The Rebirth of Modern Central Banking," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord08-1, June.
    4. B. Dianne Pauls, 1990. "U.S. exchange rate policy: Bretton Woods to present," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Nov, pages 891-908.
    5. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2002. "A Rehabilitation of Monetary Policy in the 1950's," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 121-127, May.
    6. Hetzel,Robert L., 2008. "The Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521881326, December.
    7. Mark A. Carlson & David C. Wheelock, 2014. "Navigating constraints: the evolution of Federal Reserve monetary policy, 1935-59," Working Papers 2014-13, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    8. Barry Eichengreen, 2013. "Does the Federal Reserve Care about the Rest of the World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(4), pages 87-104, Fall.
    9. McKinnon, Ronald I, 1993. "The Rules of the Game: International Money in Historical Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-44, March.
    10. Robert L. Hetzel, 1996. "Sterilized foreign exchange intervention: the Fed debate in the 1960's," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Spr, pages 21-46.
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    Cited by:

    1. Owen F. Humpage & Sanchita Mukherjee, 2013. "Even keel and the Great Inflation," Working Papers (Old Series) 1315, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    2. Carlson, Mark & Wheelock, David C., 2018. "Near-money premiums, monetary policy, and the integration of money markets: Lessons from deregulation," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 16-32.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations

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