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Political Constraints on Monetary Policy During the U.S. Great Inflation

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  • Weise, Charles L.

Abstract

This paper argues that the Federal Reserve’s failure to control inflation during the 1970s was due to constraints imposed by the political environment. Members of the Fed understood that a serious attempt to tackle inflation would be unpopular with the public and would generate opposition from Congress and the Executive branch. The result was a commitment to the policy of gradualism, under which the Fed would attempt to reduce inflation with mild policies that would not trigger an outright recession, and premature abandonment of anti-inflation policies at the first sign of recession. Alternative explanations, in particular misperceptions of the natural rate of unemployment and misunderstandings of the nature of inflation, do not provide a complete explanation for Fed policy at key turning points during the Great Inflation. Evidence for this explanation of Fed behavior is found in Minutes and Transcripts of FOMC meetings and speeches of Fed chairmen. Empirical analysis verifies that references to the political environment at FOMC meetings are correlated with the stance of monetary policy during this period.

Suggested Citation

  • Weise, Charles L., 2009. "Political Constraints on Monetary Policy During the U.S. Great Inflation," MPRA Paper 18700, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:18700
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/18700/1/MPRA_paper_18700.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 2000. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and Some Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(1), pages 147-180.
    2. Orphanides, Athanasios & Williams, John C., 2005. "The decline of activist stabilization policy: Natural rate misperceptions, learning, and expectations," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 1927-1950, November.
    3. Christina D. Romer & David Romer, 2002. "The evolution of economic understanding and postwar stabilization policy," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 11-78.
    4. Alfred Broaddus & Marvin Goodfriend, 1984. "Base drift and the longer run growth of M1 : experience from a decade of monetary targeting," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Nov, pages 3-14.
    5. Hetzel,Robert L., 2008. "The Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521881326, March.
    6. Thomas Mayer, 1999. "Monetary Policy and the Great Inflation in the United States," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 1601, April.
    7. Froyen, Richard T. & Havrilesky, Thomas & Waud, Roger N., 1997. "The Asymmetric Effects of Political Pressures on U.S. Monetary Policy," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 471-493, July.
    8. Athanasios Orphanides, 2002. "Monetary-Policy Rules and the Great Inflation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 115-120, May.
    9. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "Historical monetary policy analysis and the Taylor rule," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 983-1022, July.
    10. Charles L. Weise, 2008. "Private Sector Influences on Monetary Policy in the United States," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(2-3), pages 449-462, March.
    11. Allan H. Meltzer, 2005. "Origins of the Great Inflation," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 145-176.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Great Inflation; Federal Reserve; monetary policy;

    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
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook

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