NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Recovery of 1933

Margaret M. Jacobson, Eric M. Leeper, Bruce Preston

NBER Working Paper No. 25629
Issued in March 2019
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth

When Roosevelt abandoned the gold standard in April 1933, he converted what had been effectively real government debt into nominal government debt to open the door to unbacked fiscal expansion. We argue that he followed a state-contingent fiscal rule that ran nominal-debt-financed primary deficits until the price level rose and economic activity recovered. Theory suggests that government spending multipliers can be substantially larger when fiscal expansions are unbacked than when they are tax-backed. VAR estimates find that primary deficits made quantitatively important contributions to raising both the price level and real GNP from 1933 through 1937. The evidence does not support the conventional monetary explanation that gold revaluation and gold inflows, which were permitted to raise the monetary base, drove the recovery independently of fiscal actions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25629

 
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