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Was the Federal Reserve Fettered? Devaluation Expectations in the 1932 Monetary Expansion

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  • Chang-Tai Hsieh
  • Christina D. Romer

Abstract

A key question about the Great Depression is whether expansionary monetary policy in the United States would have led to a loss of confidence in the U. S. commitment to the gold standard. This paper uses the $1 billion expansionary open market operation undertaken in the spring of 1932 as a crucial case study of the link between monetary expansion and expectations of devaluation. Data on forward exchange rates are used to measure expectations of devaluation during this episode. We find little evidence that the large monetary expansion led investors to believe that the United States would devalue. The financial press and the records of the Federal Reserve also show little evidence of expectations of devaluation or fear of a speculative attack. We find that a flawed model of the effects of monetary policy and conflict among the twelve Federal Reserve banks, rather than concern about the gold standard, led the Federal Reserve to suspend the expansionary policy in the summer of 1932.

Suggested Citation

  • Chang-Tai Hsieh & Christina D. Romer, 2001. "Was the Federal Reserve Fettered? Devaluation Expectations in the 1932 Monetary Expansion," NBER Working Papers 8113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8113
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bordo, Michael D. & Choudhri, Ehsan U. & Schwartz, Anna J., 2002. "Was Expansionary Monetary Policy Feasible during the Great Contraction? An Examination of the Gold Standard Constraint," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-28, January.
    2. Krugman, Paul, 1979. "A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 11(3), pages 311-325, August.
    3. Rose, Andrew K. & Svensson, Lars E. O., 1994. "European exchange rate credibility before the fall," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 1185-1216, June.
    4. Romer, Christina D., 1992. "What Ended the Great Depression?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 757-784, December.
    5. Bernanke, Ben S, 1995. "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(1), pages 1-28, February.
    6. Peter Temin, 1991. "Lessons from the Great Depression," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262700441, January.
    7. Wheelock, David C, 1990. "Member Bank Borrowing and the Fed's Contractionary Monetary Policy during the Great Depression," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 22(4), pages 409-426, November.
    8. Flood, Robert P. & Garber, Peter M., 1984. "Collapsing exchange-rate regimes : Some linear examples," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1-2), pages 1-13, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Postel-Vinay, Natacha, 2011. "From a “normal recession” to the “Great Depression”: finding the turning point in Chicago bank portfolios, 1923-1933," Economic History Working Papers 35518, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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