Paul Volcker: 1927-2019

From Conversable Economist:

“Paul Volcker, who was chair of the Federal Reserve from August 1979 to August 1987.has died. He is generally credited, or in some cases blamed, for the set of monetary policies which both ended the inflationary period of the 1970s but also brought on the very deep double-dip recessions of 1980 and 1981-2. The New York Times obituary is here.

For an overview of those times and how Volcker perceived the choices he was facing, a useful starting point is “An Interview with Paul Volcker,” conducted by Martin Feldstein, which appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Here’s a flavor:

It made a profound impression on me, if nobody else, that Arthur Burns titled his valedictory speech “The Anguish of Central Banking” (Burns 1979). That was a long lament about how, in the economic and political setting of the times, the Federal Reserve, and by extension presumably any central bank, could not exercise enough eserve, and by extension presumably any central bank, could not exercise enough restraint to keep inflation under control. It was a pretty sad story. If you were going to follow that line, you were going to give up, I  guess. I didn’t think you could give up.  If I was in that job, that was the challenge as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. You inherit a certain challenge …

The favorite word at the time, which was very popular within the Federal Reserve, but I think popular in the academic community generally, was “gradualism.” I don’t quite remember them saying, “Don’t bring it down at all.”But instead, it was “Take it easy. It will be a job of, I don’t know, years, decades, whatever, and you can do it without hurting the economy.” I never thought that was realistic. The inflationary process itself brought so many dislocations, and stresses and strains that you were going to have a recession sooner or later.”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 11:04 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists


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