IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/5963.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Was the Great Depression a Watershed for American Monetary Policy?

Author

Listed:
  • Charles W. Calomiris
  • David C. Wheelock

Abstract

The Great Depression changed the institutions governing monetary policy. These changes included the departure from the gold standard, an opening of a a new avenue for monetizing government debt, changes in the structure of the the Federal Reserve System, and new monetary powers of the Treasury. Ideo- logical changes accompanied institutional changes. We examine whether and how thes changes mattered for post-Depression monetary policy. With regard to the period 1935-1941, the tools of Fed policy, but not its goals or tactics, changed. But structural reforms weakened the Federal Reserve relative to the Treasury, and removed a key limit on the monetization of government debt. The increased power of the Treasury to determine the direction of policy, along with the departure from gold and the new ment debt produced a new (albeit small) inflationary bias in monetary policy that lasted until the Treasury-Fed Accord of 1951. The Fed regained some independence with the Accord of 1951. The Fed returned to its traditional pre-Depression) operating methods, and the procyclical bias in these procedures--along with pressures to monetize government debt--explains how the Fed stumbled into an inflationary policy in the 1960s. Depression-era changes--especially the departure from the gold standard in 1933 and the relaxation of an important constraint on deficit monetization in 1932--made this inflationary policy error possible, and contributed to the persistence of inflationary policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles W. Calomiris & David C. Wheelock, 1997. "Was the Great Depression a Watershed for American Monetary Policy?," NBER Working Papers 5963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5963
    Note: DAE ME
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5963.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Wheelock, David C., 1989. "The Strategy and Consistency of Federal Reserve Monetary Policy, 1919–1933," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(02), pages 459-461, June.
    2. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1998. "Expectation Traps and Discretion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 462-492, August.
    3. Anderson, Gary M & Shughart, William F, II & Tollison, Robert D, 1990. "A Public Choice Theory of the Great Contraction: Further Evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 67(3), pages 277-283, December.
    4. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1980. "Methods and Problems in Business Cycle Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 696-715, November.
    5. Karl Brunner & Allan H. Meltzer, 1968. "What Did We Learn from the Monetary Experience of the United States in the Great Depression?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 1(2), pages 334-348, May.
    6. Epstein, Gerald & Ferguson, Thomas, 1984. "Monetary Policy, Loan Liquidation, and Industrial Conflict: The Federal Reserve and the Open Market Operations of 1932," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(04), pages 957-983, December.
    7. Bordo Michael D. & Kydland Finn E., 1995. "The Gold Standard As a Rule: An Essay in Exploration," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 423-464, October.
    8. Gary Anderson & William Shughart & Robert Tollison, 1988. "A public choice theory of the great contraction," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 59(1), pages 3-23, October.
    9. Wheelock,David C., 2004. "The Strategy and Consistency of Federal Reserve Monetary Policy, 1924–1933," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521531399, April.
    10. Schwartz, Anna J, 1997. "From Obscurity to Notoriety: A Biography of the Exchange Stabilization Fund," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(2), pages 135-153, May.
    11. Lauchlin B. Currie, 1980. "Causes of the Recession," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 12(3), pages 316-335, Fall.
    12. Angela Redish, 1993. "Anchors Aweigh: The Transition from Commodity Money to Fiat Money in Western Economies," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(4), pages 777-795, November.
    13. Michael D. Bordo, 1993. "The Bretton Woods International Monetary System: A Historical Overview," NBER Chapters,in: A Retrospective on the Bretton Woods System: Lessons for International Monetary Reform, pages 3-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Caskey, John P, 1985. "Modeling the Formation of Price Expectations: A Bayesian Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 768-776, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Calomiris, Charles W. & Mason, Joseph R. & Wheelock, David C., 2011. "Did Doubling Reserve Requirements Cause the Recession of 1937-1938? A Microeconomic Approach," Working Papers 11-03, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
    2. Klug, Adam & Landon-Lane, John S. & White, Eugene N., 2005. "How could everyone have been so wrong? Forecasting the Great Depression with the railroads," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 27-55, January.
    3. William Poole & Robert H. Rasche & David C. Wheelock, 2012. "The Great Inflation: Did The Shadow Know Better?," NBER Chapters,in: The Great Inflation: The Rebirth of Modern Central Banking, pages 61-107 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Mark A. Carlson & David C. Wheelock, 2012. "The lender of last resort: lessons from the Fed’s first 100 years," Working Papers 2012-056, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    5. Michael D. Bordo & David C. Wheelock, 2006. "When do stock market booms occur? the macroeconomic and policy environments of 20th century booms," Working Papers 2006-051, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    6. Hugh Rockoff, 1999. "How Long Did It Take the United States to Become an Optimal Currency Area?," Departmental Working Papers 199910, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    7. R. W. Hafer, 1999. "Against the tide: Malcolm Bryan and the introduction of monetary aggregate targets," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q1, pages 20-37.
    8. Michael D. Bordo & Michael J. Dueker & David C. Wheelock, 2002. "Aggregate Price Shocks and Financial Instability: A Historical Analysis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(4), pages 521-538, October.
    9. Hugh Rockoff, 2003. "Deflation, Silent Runs, and Bank Holidays, in the Great Contraction," NBER Working Papers 9522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Matias Vernengo, 2006. "A Hands-off Central Banker? Marriner S. Eccles and the Federal Reserve Policy, 1934-1951," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2006_04, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
    11. Kandil, Magda, 2005. "Money, interest, and prices: Some international evidence," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 129-147.
    12. 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.
    13. Michael Bordo, 2000. "Sound Money and Sound Financial Policy," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 18(2), pages 129-155, December.
    14. Charles Calomiris & Joseph R. Mason, 2003. "How to Restructure Failed Banking Systems: Lessons from the U.S. in the 1930's and Japan in the 1990's," NBER Working Papers 9624, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. David C. Wheelock, 2002. "Conducting monetary policy without government debt: the Fed's early years," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 1-14.
    16. Michael D. Bordo & David C. Wheelock, 2007. "Stock market booms and monetary policy in the twentieth century," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 91-122.
    17. Barry Eichengreen, 2002. "Still Fettered After All These Years," NBER Working Papers 9276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5963. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.