Credible Commitment and Exchange Rate Stability: Canada's Interwar Experience

Michael D. Bordo, Angela Redish

NBER Working Paper No. 2431 (Also Reprint No. r1481)
Issued in November 1987
NBER Program(s):Monetary Economics

In January 1929 the Canadian government suspended gold exports and began a floating exchange rate regime that endured until the onset of World War 11. In sharp contrast with the experience of other countries which left the gold standard, deflation and declining economic activity continued in Canada until 1933. This paper examines the determinants of the Canadian exchange rate in the 1930's and provides an answer to the question of why the Canadian dollar did not depreciate in the early 1930's despite Canada's de facto departure from the Gold Standard. We develop the answer in two stages. First, we show that the government made a clear commitment to maintain a contractionary monetary policy. It did so because it believed: that monetary expansion would increase the value of external obligations without reducing the value of domestic obligations; and that even if all contractual obligations were met, Canada would lose her reputation as a responsible debtor. Second, we argue that the government's commitment was viewed by the public as credible. The credible commitment dominated market agent's expectations of the evolution of the exchange rate.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2431

Published: Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 357-380, (May 1990). citation courtesy of

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