Tag Archives: Depression

Monetary Alchemy, Fiscal Science

          The year 2013 marks the 100th anniversaries of two separate major institutional innovations in American economic policy:  the Constitutional Amendment enacting the federal income tax, ratified on February 3, 1913, and the law establishing the Federal Reserve, passed in December 1913.  
           It took some time before the two new institutions became associated with the explicit concepts of fiscal policy and monetary policy, respectively.   It wasn’t until after the experience of the 1930s that they came to be viewed as potential instruments for managing the macro-economy.  John Maynard Keynes, of course, pointed out the advantages of expansionary fiscal policy in circumstances like the Great Depression.   Milton Friedman blamed the Depression on the Fed for allowing the money supply to fall.    [Tools of fiscal policy used by governments, in addition to tax rates and tax deductions, are spending and transfers.  Tools of monetary policy used by central banks include interest rates, quantities of money and credit, and instruments such as reserve requirements and foreign exchange intervention used in various (non-US) countries.]

read more

“Why Did Economists Get it So Wrong?” — Eight who got parts of it right


The Queen of England during the summer asked economists why no one had predicted the credit crunch and recession.   Paul Krugman points out that, inasmuch as economists can almost never predict the timing of recessions (and don’t claim to be able to), the real questions are worse.  The real questions are, rather how macroeconomists (most) could have gotten it so wrong as to believe that:
(i) a severe recession was not even looming ahead as a potential danger, and
(ii) a breakdown of many of the world’s most liquid financial markets, in New York and London, was impossible to imagine.

read more

A New Depression? The Lessons of the 1930s

          We often hear the question “isn’t this economic crisis becoming as bad as the Great Depression?” Economists can offer a variety of reassurances, but each of them is quite circumscribed:
Continue reading