Monday, February 29, 2016

On Eccles and QE in the 1930s

So last weekend I was at the Eastern Economic Association meetings, and I presented with Steve Bannister (on and off contributor to NK) a paper on Quantitative Easing in the 1930s. It's been a while since we looked at this work, which started long ago (4 years at least). One point worth noticing is that while most accounts of Eccles performance at the Fed suggest that he didn't do much (see Meltzer in his A History of the Federal Reserve), we suggest that he was crucial in pushing qualitative easing (the term first used by Buiter here), that is a shift in the composition of the Fed's balance sheet.
The figure shows that when Eccles assumed at the Fed, in 1934, QE, the increase of the balance sheet had already started, but the shift from short term government bills (blue ones) to long term bonds (green) had not. The dark line shows Eccles' policy, which had the objective of keeping long term interest rates at 2.5 percent, in order to allow for fiscal stimulus and sustainable expansion of public debt.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. This "qualitative easing" fits the Tom ferguson and Gerald Friedman story of not wanting to pull short term t bills away from banks or lower the interest rate on them because of the negative impact on bank profits.They skipped that part without direct lending by (seemingly) coordinated sales and purchases of long term treasury debt.