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The mistake of 1931: A general equilibrium analysis

  • Eggertsson, Gauti B.
  • Pugsley, Benjamin

This paper studies a dynamic general equilibrium model with sticky prices and rational expectations in an environment of low interest rates and deflationary pressures. We show that small changes in the public’s beliefs about the future inflation target of the government can lead to large swings in both inflation and output. This effect is much larger at low interest rates than under regular circumstances. This highlights the importance of effective communication policy at zero interest rates. We argue that confusing communications by the US Federal Reserve, the President of the United States, and key administration officials about future price objectives were responsible for the sharp recession in the US in 1937-38, one of the sharpest recessions in US economic history. Poor communication policy is the mistake of 1937. Before committing the mistake of 1937 the US policy makers faced economic conditions that are similar in some respect to those confronted by Japanese policy makers in the first half of 2006.

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Paper provided by Center for Financial Studies (CFS) in its series CFS Working Paper Series with number 2007/06.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200706
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  1. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  2. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
  3. Adam, Klaus & Billi, Roberto M., 2004. "Optimal monetary policy under commitment with a zero bound on nominal interest rates," CFS Working Paper Series 2004/13, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  4. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
  5. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1.
  6. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Working Papers 2966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226519999 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Lawrence J. Christiano & Roberto Motto, 2004. "The Great Depression and the Friedman-Schwartz Hypothesis," Computing in Economics and Finance 2004 169, Society for Computational Economics.
  9. Anton Nakov, 2008. "Optimal and Simple Monetary Policy Rules with Zero Floor on the Nominal Interest Rate," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 4(2), pages 73-127, June.
  10. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Policy Options in a Liquidity Trap," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 76-79, May.
  11. Lawrence Summers, 1991. "Panel discussion: price stability ; How should long-term monetary policy be determined?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 625-631.
  12. Cecchetti, Stephen G, 1992. "Prices during the Great Depression: Was the Deflation of 1930-1932 Really Unanticipated?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 141-56, March.
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